Friday, November 20, 2015

Been there, done that. But not on purpose?

Have you been in a situation where you were walking on the road, maneuvering almost, through the potholes and puddles and out of nowhere comes a speeding car that very nonchalantly splashes you down?

Awful right? I have been there many times and trust me you want to take the first big stone you see and throw it at the car hoping to break something, as you spurt out all the cuss words from the darkest pages of your vocabulary while simultaneously wanting to cry loudly.

Yeah... but last week, I was the person driving that speeding car. 

And it wasn’t nonchalant. Or on purpose. I was not in a bad mood or being rude. It happened before I knew it. I was running late to pick my daughter from school. It was a sunny day but there were puddles from the previous night’s rains. And I, in my car, my full air-conditioned, sound-proof, dust-proof, music filled cozy cocoon did not realize it until I was hitting the puddle in high speed, splashing a guy who was getting off his bike and God forgive me, was wearing white. The horror on his face, his hand rising with the intensity of the cuss word that he mouthed and then it hit me hard. No, thankfully not a big stone. But the fact that, in this cycle of life, each of us can become the bad guy, without intending to. 

I slowed, gestured and mouthed and a weak apology but his hurt was deeper and his angry face obviously showed no change, he was wearing white, remember? So I kept driving. I felt awful. I have to accept I was inconsiderate. And it hurt me to realise that. No one wants to be inconsiderate on purpose, I’m sure. 

This also reminds me of another incident that happened a few days ago where a mother and teenage daughter was walking down a road (again filled with puddles). The girl was dressed in her uniform that included a white skirt, white socks and white canvas shoes. This time, I was determined to be considerate. I was behind them and I slowed down without honking so they could just pass through in peace. A huge black car came honking urgently from the opposite side almost startling them. And the girl just felt she HAD to make way for the car and the only way she could was by stepping into the puddle and walking through it. My heart sank. Here is a girl who is all primped up for school and she has just the same right as the person in a big luxury car to reach her destination in a dignified manner. 

Again, maybe the driver in the black car was preoccupied then and realized and regretted it later. Maybe he did not even see the girl getting her shoes wet and so it’s like nothing happened. But for the girl, I'm guessing she had to sit through the whole day in a pair of wet shoes and socks. 

For me, it had me thinking. And again resolving to try and remember to be more considerate.

Many times we find ourselves being the takers in a hard situation and we jump to judgement and reproach and yes sometimes we're fully justified in throwing that stone.But there are also times when the roles reverse and we become the reason for an unpleasant situation. Lets use those situations to become more aware that as humans we err and resolve to be more empathetic.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fighting Fear

Its been a long year since my last post. But I should say its been a blessed year. 2014 is the year I started driving. After 14 years of getting a license. After 14 years of always being afraid.  
And when I say 'afraid', I mean phobia. Intense, severe and persistent. One that consumes you enough to give you nightmares (Yes; like driving into the water and over your loved ones), crush your self esteem, and yet makes you clever enough to avoid any means of having to drive. One that immediately has a direct effect of your body. The stomach starts curling inwards, the head lightens and the limbs grow weak. One that sours the mood and flames the temper. One that cripples. Its funny how a four letter 'FEAR' can have that effect on you.

Trust me when I say that I took a 45 minute ride- 20 minutes on a shuttle service and 25 on a train in suburban Chicago for the entire year and half that I worked there, when I could have been done in 15 minutes by car. I braved the -no shelter, icy winter in multiple pairs of thermals and gloves. I pretended to be a 'green' person very serious about reducing my carbon foot print. Even my new born baby with a ear infection had me calling a taxi when the car was right there in the parking lot.

To get behind the wheel and rely on my own judgement was impossible. I was convinced that the part of my brain required to make decisions was conveniently missing and I would not be able to ever ever ever drive. I looked at family and friends with envy and shame. Everyone I knew seemed to be able to do it. But not me. I was not meant to. I was useless. 

I tried with at least 7 instructors in the different places that I lived, the stories of which was now the main joke at dinner parties. I laughed too, but crumbled on the inside. Each time , I tried, I failed. Two accidents and a totaled car later, I quit and let it take over- shame, guilt, fear, inadequacy.

Inside- My fear grew into a big monster, staring me in the face and daring me to a fight. Daring me to use the constant support I got from my husband and from my in laws. Daring me to get myself up and lean on the positive words that I secretly memorized.

Outside- The world just went on. Manufacturing more cars. And people to drive those cars. It had no place for me.

Now when I look back, I don't know how I found the courage to even give it a last shot. Whose line was it that helped? That sowed the seeds of hope in my heart. I guess I was suffocating so much in my own fear that I had to break free. Somehow. I just had to get break this self-imposed curse.I was tired of my own excuses and my situation. I wanted out. 

I prayed. I tried affirmations. Made a folder for positive quotes. I was ready to try anything until it dawned on me that the only way I was ever going to drive was if I actually tried. And though it sounds so logical and simple now when I type it out, that 'practice makes perfect'; I understood how big a Goliath my fear had become. So big that it clouded my vision and my thoughts. So huge that just looking at it was a strain. I was looking only at my fear and all its ugly shadows. I had to take my eyes off the giant and on to the purpose- 'to be able to move around and get my stuff done'. I had to get behind the wheel, start the ignition and try. 

And I did. Just like that. But it  was NOT easy. I would make at least 4 bathroom trips before having to drive. And I would need a painkiller for the stress induced headache. But I did not allow Mr.Goliath to get in the car. He could please wait in living room while I went to pick my daughter from school. He would not fit in an Hyundai I-10 anyway.

And slowly but 'bumpily', it happened. Each short drive I made,  gave me a pocket of strength and courage to try the next one. I did scrape and scratch the car but I kept at it. It took 3 months for the bathroom trips and headaches to stop. And its been a year now. That's like a full 365 days!! And there is nothing as liberating as knowing you can do it.

Life is too short to live in fear and regret. Gather all the strength you can find and go for it.