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Having broken my contact lenses a month ago, the replacements finally turned up last Thursday, the same day as the parking permit that allows me to park on my road.

Despite not feeling well I thought I would move my car into the space in front of my home, because I could. I did think that I ought to go for a drive but I really wasn’t ready for it. So when I went to give a friend a lift on Monday it should have been no surprise to discover the battery was flat. I was so pleased to be asked and she had to get a taxi.I was fed up. Why couldn’t it all be simple. As I debated who I would ask for jump leads I thought about how nerve-wracking I found driving and everything that surrounds it. I would have to explain why I needed jump leads. I had a good excuse, in not being able to see. Why did I need a good excuse?

I am learning to drive, or I am driving, having passed my test at 45. That is, dare I say it, old to be learning a new habit. I didn’t expect it to be easy. I felt quite happy driving my instructor’s car. Driving my own, on my own is different. I expected that. I am nervous. I am nervous about lifting up the bonnet and seeing what’s there. I am nervous using a petrol station. I will be nervous about replacing windscreen wipers, that I think need doing. I am nervous about getting the hoover out and cleaning the inside. What will people think? I have absolutely no idea, beyond “Oh look, she’s cleaning the car”. And yet, this all petrifies me.

I didn’t realise the anxiety curve would be this huge. The learning curve I knew would be big but that’s not the issue. It’s being scared. Scared of other people’s reactions and expectations on the road and that I might not move quickly and efficiently. Scared that people will assume that I’m old enough to be a well-practiced experienced driver (and yes I do have P plates). It’s tying me up in knots.

My friend came and started me up this morning and I went for a drive. I looked up a relatively straight forward route. I just wanted to both charge up the battery and remind myself that I could do it. I was doing all right. Some idiot blew their horn because I didn’t move off fast enough and I let it go. But it flustered me. I didn’t slow down properly for the next set of lights and then went through the following close ones on red because I was thinking how I should have slowed down for the last. I lost my cool. Then I got too close to parked cars and my wing mirror touched and the mirror blew into my lap. That flustered me even more but I was at furthest point of my loop so I just carried on. When I got home there was unusually very limited parking and I lost the plot, going back and forth in a spot that was adequate and then finding it difficult to get out so that I could start afresh. I lost my confidence. I was very pleased with myself on about the second occasion I had to park my car that I managed it in a tight spot in a straight in, forwards, then back quick manoeuvre without any problems. I just lost all that confidence.

This isn’t of course about driving. It’s about doing things that are new, that I feel unsure about. I felt exactly the same as I did when walking into the airport to take a holiday a month ago. Listening to my father get very lost in the idea of going to a town he didn’t know made me really think about the extent to which I stay in my comfort zone. More importantly though it makes me think about how hard I need to push myself through all that anxiety to get to where I want to be, whether it’s a simple holiday or on a trip out in the car.

I really just never realised how these new things panic me. I always felt that I kept my shit together and dealt with things, and then relaxed afterwards. I never felt that anxiety was an issue. I travelled abroad with three or four small children from babies upwards and it never bothered me. My perception is that I just did things. Who else was going to do things I needed to do. Now though, I’m doing them for me; holiday, driving, is for me, no one else, and it’s out of choice rather than need. In my fucked up head that just makes it harder.

Therapy tomorrow, after having missed last week due to lurgi. I’m looking forward to it.

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