Archive for October 10th, 2009

Right up until the day before I planned to leave, I hoped for positive replies from a variety of friends and potential co-pilots for this trip.  While in mind and spirit I was more than willing to drive five thousand miles by myself, my body was less eager, being  neither as sturdy nor resilient as it used to be; so I hoped to enlist a friend who might be up for sharing the driving.  Having a congenial compadre for even a  portion of the trip would be a huge bonus.  Additionally, there was the issue of personal safety, the “woman traveling alone” factor.  This last factor has consumed more than its share of my bandwidth lately, and I am inclined to wonder why.  I am a seasoned world traveler, who has logged plenty of hours traipsing solo around tranquil countrysides and seething, seedy metropolises, both at home and abroad.  So why, at this age and this time, so concerned about my personal safety?

As the good Doktor would do, let’s start with my mother.  My mom is not a typical Jewish mother, nor has she ever been the worrier type.  As she’s often said “I was the daughter of a Worrier, I married a Worrier, and I’m the mother of a Worrier (yours truly); why compete when there are so many professionals around?”  So when Mom expresses her worry, one takes notice.  And she expressed worry.  This would not be the first time she thought I was going off on some madcap plan; but she seemed much more nervous than usual.  On reminding her of my intact survival of numerous past adventures, she replied “I know, I know; don’t remind me!”  So I suppose I could ask her “what’s up with that, Mom?”  She used to be a tough New Yorker.  Maybe it’s just that she’s older, and the cracks in her worriless façade are giving way.  Or maybe she is starting to turn into her mother (dear god, no!).  All I know for sure is, her concern definitely bored its way under my skin.

But I can’t just blame Mom.  My uncle also expressed similar concern, as did a few others – primarily relatives, and almost exclusively those of the parental generation.  So perhaps it’s a generational view.  Interestingly, when I’ve discussed these concerns with a number of other people (primarily of  the generations behind my parents’), I’ve gotten several strong responses in the vein of “What’s with all this fear-based thinking?  You’re smart, you know how to be careful.  You’ll be fine.  What’s with all this fear?”  They have a point.  What is with all this fear?

Now fear and I are companions of old.  In the last year or so, I came to realize that I’ve spent the entire last 30+ years in a state of near-chronic fear.  It’s always been a spectrum, ranging from sometimes just a vague anxiety to at other times abject terror.  But I had lived like this to greater or lesser degrees since the day my father died when I was ten years old.  And so I have set about the work of unraveling this fear, gradually peeling it away layer by layer, hoping to eventually free my soul from such appalling shackles.  It’s not been easy.  And it seems my body is holding onto the fear-state even as my mind, heart, and spirit have begun to loosen their fetters.  I suspect that having lived in such fear that I at times inhabited my life from a state of profound dissociation, rendered it a bit of a reflex, which can be set off with but a whispered suggestion.  And maybe Mom et al were saying nothing they’d never said before, but something about my current emotional state made those concerns register in a deeper way.  Perhaps feelings of vulnerability around my health, and the sense of a life held in abeyance, have rendered great waves out of vibrations that would have caused only ripples another time.

The good news is, on the flipside of the fear-state, I also have been known on occasion to have a rather strong will.  And in this case, when in the end all my prospects for co-pilots fell through, I gulped down my fear and in my best hell-bent and determined way, sallied forth on my own.  We all know the upsides of solo road-tripping:  listening to only the music you want, whenever you want; singing along at the top of your lungs un-self-consciously; stopping for pee breaks every two hours if you have to; hogging all the space inside the car, stuff strewn about any which way.  In general, the high-speed, rolling version of living single on the weekend.  What’s not to love about that?  And so, with little fanfare, I drove off at three o’clock in the afternoon, preferring the anxiety of an extra night alone in a hotel room heaven-knows-where, to the anxiety of sitting safely at home, bags packed, car loaded, waiting for morning light to launch.  But it sure would’ve been nice to share that stupendous, crimson Virginia sunset with a buddy.

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