Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Wee Bit Scared

Here is a truth: I am deeply uncomfortable, terrified even, of doing new things.  And I'm not talking here about skydiving or drag racing -- activities that reasonable humans should reasonably fear.  I'm referring to the way my palms sweat and my heart races before I try a new class at the YMCA where I've been a member for six years; the way I consider canceling on friends at the last minute because we're meeting at a place I've never been before; the way I panic and want to crawl out of my skin as I walk into a room full of people I don't know.

My personal response to this has been a strange two-step jig, the steps of which alternate between spending a LOT of time on the safety of my own couch and throwing myself headlong into all the scary.

When Greg and I decided to move to New York City, I was petrified.  And exhilarated.  Mostly petrified.  I was convinced NYC was the final frontier: if I could live here, I could do anything.  Having grown up in a Midwestern suburb, I was certain that if I could learn to navigate the subway, the taxis, the unattainable fashion and coolness, and all the rude New Yorkers, I could conquer anything thereafter.  We drove into the city on July 11, 2005.  Heading south on the FDR Drive, the skyscrapers loomed over us in all their glory and haughty indifference.  I was terrified.  Where would we park?  I mean, where would we park?  Wow, there's NYC, close enough to lean out the car window and touch, but where would we park?  Sheer panic.

Needless to say, we found parking.  And then spent the next six sweaty weeks of summer learning the rhythm of the city, and the following eight years making meaning of its cadence and lyricism.  And though I cannot claim to be a true New Yorker (I think the title is bestowed only after a decade?), I love this city every day, want to drink it in and merge myself into its very concrete fabric.

And yet, I am still scared of all the new things.  Because you know what?  There is no final frontier, for any of us, I think.  The past three years of my life have taught me this -- getting older does not mean that it all gets magically easier or suddenly makes sense; life laughs (at us or with us is debatable), a perpetual surprise around the corner.  I amuse Greg with my attempts to thwart these surprises; I generate endless "if-then" scenarios, hoping to lessen the new and unexpected, and thus the fear.  Sometimes this works, sometimes it does not.

I hate driving.  I cannot predict the road, the other drivers, the sun blinding me in the late afternoon.  I have a recurring dream that I am in a car being driven by no one, that I cannot get to the steering wheel, that the car is loose and on the run.  I get that dreams are symbolic and this dream could be interpreted as having larger symbolic meanings, and blah blah blah.  It's the car, people.  It freaks me out.

But I keep driving, and trying some of the other scary things, too.  And not all of them work out, really.  Not infrequently I just end up in a ball sobbing, sorry to say.  (Do your ears water when you cry?  Because mine do.)  Sometimes scary just keeps being scary, and it bites you in the ass a little.  Regroup on the couch.  And then back at it again.  What else is there to do but to try again?  One can't stay on the couch forever, right?

Last night, my banjo and I went to my first official banjo lesson.  Panic, panic.  But the evening was lovely.  The trees were lush from rain, the breeze drifted by, toying with my long summertime skirt.  And as I crossed over the highway on a footpath, I felt my internal scale tip away from terror and toward something like joy.  This new thing might just be okay.

Turns out the lessons were rescheduled for next week, unbeknownst to me.  Banjo and I trekked back home, back to face the scary again next week, together.