I was afraid of driving. The thought of it terrified me. But I finally learned how to drive when I was in my mid thirties. Circumstances at home had changed and it was vital that I signed up with a driving school for lessons. In a way, I was forced into it, and I'm so very glad that it happpened. If I had been allowed to rest on my laurels, content with being chauffered wherever I was going or take public transportation, I would not have stretched and grown - yes, stretched and grown - in a way that surprised even myself.
There was never any need for me to drive before I came to this country. Public transportation and walking were sufficient. I always saw myself as independent, able to come and go as I pleased. And I believe that I was somewhat independent. But this was a different way of life now. And I couldn't always depend on someone else to drive me to wherever I wanted to go.
I conquered my fear of driving, of getting out there in the quiet country roads or the busy streets.
I conquered my fear of merging with traffic on the freeway. There is still some apprehension, I admit, especially with heavy traffic. But I didn't give in to my fears; I didn't hold myself back. I went ahead and did what I had to do.
And I was independent all over again. It was a joy to be able to drive myself wherever I wanted to go. I hadn't realised how much I was missing out on. I was no longer beholden to anyone else. It was a new-found freedom. I loved it.
And I realised, and even appreciated, why so many teenagers looked forward to getting their driver's license. It did make a difference. A huge difference.
"I want to conquer fear."
It was about twenty years ago and I was attending a weekend retreat for the youth which was organised by the Catholic church. And I distinctly remember writing that down in a list of things I wanted to do or hoped to achieve.
A more recent experience was when I was sweeping the driveway. There had been times when I would sweep away the leaves at one end of the driveway that was closest to the house. The other end went out into the street and I was always afraid that a neighbour would walk by. Someone else would think nothing of it. But I felt too self-conscious and didn't want any of our neighbours to see me sweeping our driveway. Was I doing it right? Was I using the right broom for the job? Would I have to wave and say hi? These were the sort of questions that went through my head. Not in so many words but I knew what they were.
If I was closer to the house, I could always pretend not to see them. Some time ago, while I was sweeping towards the end of the driveway - I was almost there - a couple passed by. Almost immediately, my posture changed. I'd hoped they couldn't see it. But I could feel it. I tightened up, feeling self-conscious all of a sudden. Their appearance made me feel inhibited. They waved. I waved. After they walked by, I did an immediate about turn and headed for the house as if I had planned to do that all along. I had done enough sweeping that day.
But I am braver now.
I didn't want to be controlled by my fear anymore. I didn't want to be shackled and bound, imprisoned by a silly fear. And it was silly, of course it was. It was all in my head and it controlled my actions. My body was no longer my own. My body belonged to Fear, Incorporated.
One afternoon, I swept the driveway from top to bottom, even going to the very end where the driveway met the asphalt. No one passed by, not even a car. But I stood out there and cleared away the leaves, sweeping furiously because I wanted to. I knew how to sweep. And I knew how to work. If a neighbour walked by, so be it. But no one did. Not that day, anyway.
It was a good feeling. I was actually proud of myself and told my husband about it later. He understood, adding that it took me quite a number of times before I actually succeeded, for I would sweep the driveway up to a certain point and then head indoors. Never mind that the bottom half of the driveway still had leaves strewn all over it. Of course I minded. But I had given in to the fear each time.
It helped that he could see what I had gone through. He never laughed at me. He never laughed at my weakness, at my silliness. It helped that he didn't think that I was pathetic. Privately, I felt, and probably knew, that I was. It was something that I had been struggling with for a long time. And I know that I still struggle with it in some other shape or form. It hasn't completely left me.
After that experience, I felt a little freer.
I still want to conquer my fears.