The road ahead of me disappeared in a sea of black and white, snow flying at my windshield on the darkest night ever, hiding everything beyond the front-end of my car. The only thing that might have made this better would have been if I had stayed behind the car going 20 miles per hour. But I had no idea that when I passed, I’d be out front, the blind leading the blind through this snowstorm that felt like it came out of nowhere.
After I finished admonishing myself for passing the lead car when I had no idea the storm was even going to happen, I settled in, gripped the wheel, and prayed the way to my driveway. It was the most horrifying drive I’ve ever had, and that includes teaching teenagers how to drive. I had to work hard to keep my emotions in check, as well as to keep the car on the road. One by one, we all traveled down the center of the two-lane highway, crawling along.
Here’s the thing: even if we wanted to pull over and wait out the storm, we couldn’t have. It was safer to move forward than to try to find a place to park on the side of the road. Ditches and hills and guardrails were hidden behind the blanket of dark, a void so deep that one simply could not risk the attempt. So we rolled forward, pressing through the night, pushing through wind and freezing snow, onward despite the fear.
My arms ached from squeezing the steering wheel so tightly, my shoulders pulled up to my ears and my breathing shallow and somewhat caught in my throat. I didn’t fully exhale until my car was parked safely in my own driveway, and on the wings of that breath were thank yous for safety. I made it. I was OK.
As I lay in bed a short time later, it hit me that I have been going through life so much like that drive through the storm. Not breathing, shoulders locked into a place unnaturally high, holding on tightly to whatever might steer me in the right direction, leaning forward, sometimes blindly trying to lead when I have no idea where I’m going. Just trying to stay on the road and survive.
This last year has grown me in ways that often catch me by surprise. Sometimes I am alarmed to find myself in the middle of answering my phone when it rings instead of letting it go to voicemail so I can work up the courage to call the person back. Or I talk to a stranger and don’t mentally beat myself up for being awkward. Or I’m at the end of a photo session and I realize I felt confident and didn’t once wonder if they hate me. All internal anxiety and stress issues that maybe no one ever saw before and so they won’t see how I am now, but I know how I am now. I know I can raise my hand in a classroom or hop up on stage to speak to a wedding party.
I know the difference now between real fear and imagined fear.
The terrifying drive home through the snowstorm reminded me that there are real fears in this world and it’s silly to think we can live completely fearless, but I also know that there’s a huge difference between real fear and fear that lies. Cloaked in whispers of deception, fear tries to sit you down, shut you up, and keep you blind. But in the last year I’ve stood up, spoken out, and marched beyond the void more than I ever have in my life. I’ve said yes when I meant it, and no when I needed to. More importantly, I’ve stopped holding on so tightly to the wheel of control and relaxed into just being.
I started 2014 off with the hope of becoming braver by taking a huge leap of faith for me, for myself, and I decided to just believe in who I am and what I can do. And a funny little thing happened — it came true.
Fear has been in the driver’s seat for way too much of my life – that lying kind – and I finally made the decision to refuse to believe in it and instead believe in truth, in me. It’s been a long storm and the journey has often been hard, but I’m glad I kept driving through, even when I couldn’t see the next turn, even when I wasn’t sure if I could stay on the road.
I made it. I’m OK.