Sunday, October 24, 2010

Don't look down....

I'm gonna let you in on a little neurosis of mine...
well if you've been in a car with me for any length of time...then you already know what I'm talking about...especially if I was driving through a hilly stretch of road.
I have a fear of losing control.
ha ha.
No joke you say....
But this fear translates itself in SO many debilitating ways.
The one that has reared it's head in my life concerns my fear of speed and steep windy roads.

Going back to my childhood, I've never liked to go fast.  From the time I tried my hand at anything on wheels (a bike, roller skates, etc) I DID NOT enjoy the feel of going too quickly....I only wanted to know how to slow down.  Where is the brake?  How do I snowplow?  On skates I wore out the stopper in the front.  I did NOT like to feel out of control. It's a safety mechanism in all of us, but mine seemed to be on hyperdrive!

The other day I was driving with a friend to a field trip that involved  a HUGE hilly stretch.  We laughed as my grip tightened on the wheel and I asked her to turn up the hair blowing on my face.  I can't help that my palms get sweaty on that road.  It's just automatic.  And the entire time I try to talk myself down internally....."Get a grip"....."Loosen up"......."Shake it off"
Usually I can pray my way through it or concentrate on a song to make the time fly by....but this time everything seemed amplified as I was talking with my friend.  Don't get me wrong, this is usually all in my head.  On a bad day, if you were outside observing you might see me slow down and go all "Granny's driving" on you.  But for the most part this is an internal monologue that I just happened to bring my friend into.

The greatest thing was that instead of humoring me, she decided to talk me through it, and we actually got down to the heart of the problem.  She asked me, "What is it about these long curves that frightens you?"
"I just feel out of control, unless I slow down to like 40 miles an hour........I feel like the centrifugal force swings me out too far and I'm afraid of overcorrecting."  (No joke, these are my thoughts)
And the best part was she completely understood. 

Being an avid dirt bike rider she went on to explain how it's easy to feel out of control if you look at the road just in front of you.  "You need to look way ahead of you, keeping your eyes focused on your destination.  Your immediate path will remain in your peripheral, but you won't faulter on the little curves."  I tried to shift my focus and, what do you know?  It worked.  She said, "It's the funniest thing.  If I see a huge rock in the road when I'm on my bike, the worst thing I can do is concentrate on NOT hitting that rock.  If I don't focus on the bump in the road then I automatically go around it.  It's like your brain knows its there, and will compensate for that.  But if you stare at it, then you're trying to figure out how to handle it.  Our minds are much more powerful than we give them credit."

Since then I've had a MUCH easier time going down LONG stretches of hilly roads.  It feels like I've overcome a HUGE mental roadblock.  And the more I ruminated on this newfound skill, the more I've applied it to other parts of my life.

It's so easy to trip up on the rocks in the road if I keep staring at my feet.   But if I extend my gaze upwards, I take my trust off my own understanding and things fall in line naturally.  Does this mean I'll never trip and fall?  Nah, but in the absence of my fears the road is much smoother. Taking fear out of the equation levels the playing field a bit. 
I just have to let go and stop looking down.

What immediate situation do you need to stop concentrating on today?
Just look up.  Stop worrying about HOW you'll get there, and focus on the end game.  You will never have control over how the road bends, but you CAN control how you respond to the curves.

Just don't look down.

1 comment:

Gina said...

I hate winding roads too! Love the perspective you were able to gain in this and share--I felt God coming right through your post--keep your eyes ahead of you and upward and all will be allright! :-) Also made me remember the Fraiser episode where Niles tries to learn to ride a bike and keeps hitting the mail box b/c he's so focused on not hitting it--hilarious, yet oh so true! :-)