Last week I binge-watched Season 2 of This is Us. Generally, the whole production takes my breath away, but one scene felt so hokey it made me laugh.
The Pearson family was in the car on the way to a Weird Al concert when they got to a bridge. Apparently, Rebecca is afraid of heights and hates this bridge in particular. Jack took her hand as she closed her eyes and started moaning. Jack asks the kids for silence to respect their mom’s irrational fear. Quickly, Kevin starts singing his favorite Weird Al song. Mom says the distraction is helpful, and they all begin to sing, and then they are over the bridge.
I laughed because, at first, Rebecca’s overreaction to her fear seemed just that: over, too big, nonsense. But she drew me back in as I realized how my overreactions must be just as laughable.
I am afraid of heights. My kids find it hilarious to tease me as we wind up or down steep, curvy roads, particularly when I am on the cliff-side of the car. I breathe deeply, close my eyes, and try to block out their sniggers. Mostly I can deal, especially if I am not driving.
The other thing that puts me on edge is driving when I don’t know where I’m going. And if getting to that destination involves windy-curvy roads, or bridges, or big cities, or anything else likely to overwhelm my senses, well, I’m unlikely to drive there by myself. No, please, you drive. Or I don’t go.
I am all in for a good, long road trip. So long as someone else sits behind the wheel.
In the twelve years I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area I’ve only driven in San Francisco once, for my son’s birthday party when we had no alternate-driver options. I had never driven to the airport. Until yesterday.
I thought I’d made arrangements to go with another parent whose kid was also on the trip. Those arrangements fell through.
I had to suck it up. I had to be at the airport with bells on when my kiddo returned from his first trip to Europe. I had to do what, to me, felt like the hard thing. I had to adult.
I left the radio off to better hear the GPS directions. I checked the GPS and gulped when I realized the ample time I’d allotted would be barely enough given traffic. Damn, traffic. Of course, traffic. When is there ever not traffic going to the City? Deep breaths…
I gulped when I realized I should have gotten gas, that even though I had enough to get there and back, having more gas would have made me feel more secure.
I stamped down the clawing anger that welled up in my gut and hushed the nasty voices in my head: why are you so ridiculous? What a wuss, scared of a little driving. Everyone drives. What a silly girl!
I employed positive self-talk: why am I afraid of driving? This is ridiculous, but of course it is, fear is irrational. I am a grown woman. I completed a graduate degree and raised two great kids. I have a GPS and I will make it there just fine.
I prayed: Even though I walk through the darkest valley (or drive across a trafficky, tollway bridge), I will fear no evil (or blaring horn or accident) for you are with me… Hah, Jesus, if only you could literally take the wheel.
I distracted myself from the ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump rhythm of my tires hitting the bridge seams by writing this blog post in my head. I tried to make myself laugh at myself. I thought about playing Randall’s “worst case scenario” game but quickly decided it would make me feel worse and not better. And why tempt fate by putting worst cases out there?
I talked out loud, to myself and to other drivers, when the airport parking directions seemed absurd, and chaos reigned as people pulled to and away from the curb, and I thought I had missed the garage altogether. I paused, considered, tried to enter, then backed out of, several parking spots that might have been possible but felt tight. And then, at last, I let out an enormous sigh when finally I pulled into a spot and cut the ignition.
For Rebecca, there came a day when Jack could not drive her across the bridge and the kids were not in the back seat singing. She had to keep her eyes open and drive. She made it and, of course, so did I. As it turns out, I made it with plenty of time to spare. I forgot my young traveler would have to go through customs.
It reminds me of the time we took him to Disneyland. At five years old, we were so proud of him for being brave enough to go on all the rides. He was our Rollercoaster Rock Star! After each ride he declared, “I didn’t like it, but I did it.”
I didn’t like it, but I did it. But please don’t ask me for a ride to the airport.