What Keeps Me Awake Now

Sunday, my dad invited us over for homemade pizza. “Aw yiss,” I answered with much enthusiasm. It’d been ages since he’d made pizza. I got the details from my brother and set my phone down.
Suddenly, I thought about what he’d said. “Pizza at dad’s.” “At dad’s.” Oh my God, I’d have to drive to dad’s. I started to panic. Okay, well, I could just take this back way and weave through the neighborhood so I avoid the street where I was hit. Then I could just park and walk to his place. But which way should I take? I don’t even want to take Center. I’ll take the interstate to I. No. I’ll take Center, but I’ll turn off on 132nd or something; maybe I can find the neighborhood that way. Then I’ll park and walk.
Wait. Maybe Conor can just pick me up. Then he can drive me. No. That’s stupid. Why don’t I just drive to his place and then he can drive me.
No sooner had I had that thought, Conor texted me: “Just drive over here and I’ll drive us to dad’s!”
Tears of relief hit me as I texted him back that I was literally just thinking the same thing. Panic attack averted.

I closed my eyes as he turned onto 120th Street. I know Mary was trying to talk to me, but I heard nothing. I didn’t open my eyes until we stopped in dad’s driveway.

Tonight, it started snowing. As soon as I saw a tweet about it, I jumped up and rushed to the deck. I was overjoyed – I love snow. It’s beautiful and calming and quieting and ’tis the season. I stood out on the deck for a moment and let it land in my hair. It was bliss.
As soon as I had sat back down and wrapped up in a blanket, I realized, with horror, that I would have to drive in it come morning for my orthopod appointment.
Now. I have never been fearful of driving in the snow. Or rain. Or wind. Or whatever inclement weather we get in Nebraska. (Okay, not hail). The only reason I’ve ever complained about driving in it is because it seems like everyone else in Omaha forgot how to operate a motored vehicle at the most inopportune moment. Just slow the fuck down and be aware of some things and it’s just like driving any other day: don’t be an asshole.
However, I now have to drive in weather with people I already don’t trust.

I want to call and change my appointment. Can it wait until another day? Not the first day of snow. I’ve been rear-ended on dry pavement. I’ve been hit head-on on dry pavement. Now there’s snow. People can’t have remembered their snow tires already; it’s so early. People aren’t ready for this; they’ve forgotten how to drive in it. Please don’t make me go. I need to go. I know I need to go. I’m still in pain and I need to go. Can’t it just wait until another day?
What if I can’t do it? I couldn’t even get out of bed to write this post – I started thinking about what I have to do in a few hours and I became crippled. What if I can’t do it? I can’t even sleep tonight, worrying about it. I have to do it another day. That’s all there is to it. I can’t. I just can’t.

Jesus. This isn’t me. I’m not like this. I wasn’t like this. The only thing worse than the anxiety is the anger.

I’ll have to drive in the snow eventually, I know. I can’t let this fear take over my life. But what was once a source of childish delight for me is now just another trigger. Just another thing that keeps me awake now.

Richard, My Darling

Richard, My Darling

After all the fruitless searches (thanks, Peter Gabriel), the frustration with MINI of Alexandria in Virginia (thanks, ‘salesman,’ for calling me back jerking me around and completely blowing me off), and the otherwise mentally-crippling anxiety (thanks, driver-at-fault), I found and bought the perfect MINI Cooper.

In the end, it was the first one I’d bookmarked. Of course.

I came across this blue beauty at MINI of Loveland in Colorado and really liked the look of it… minus the non-black wheels and the lack of sunroof and lack of heated seats. It was almost 100% what I wanted, but I wasn’t going to the whole settling predicament.

I had also found a nigh-perfect one in Virginia that ended up being sold right out from under me as I was speaking to the salesman about transport prices. The funniest thing was when someone from their customer relations department called me:
Guy: “I was wondering if you’d like to come out today or tomorrow to test drive something.”
Me: “Um, I’m in Omaha, Nebraska, so… no?”
Guy: “Oh, okay, (blah blah) Is there a time later this week you’d like to come out and take a look at our inventory?”
Me: “…. No. As I’m in OMAHA, NEBRASKA and I will not be booking a flight to Virginia, where you are, to test drive a vehicle I’ve been driving for the past four years.”
Guy: “Oh, okay, I totally get that. (Me thinking: Do you?) What can we do to earn your business?”
Me: “Well, you would have had my business already, but your salesman sold the car I wanted right out from under me, so I’ll be finding a MINI elsewhere.”
Guy: “Okay, well, please let us know if we can (blah blah blah).”

Yeah, no. I also got two calls from an English salesman (I see your strategy, MINI of Alexandria) assuring me that they’re looking all over for a MINI for me and they’re checking the auction list because they have the biggest used inventory in the country la-di-dah. Well, *checks watch* I wonder how long that list is, because, uh, I still haven’t heard back. Stay tuned to see if they ever find me a car!

Anyway. After all that garbage, I went back to the one in Colorado. The day I found it, I sent an email through their website asking some details and got a call from a salesman within the hour. It was late, even; it was like, past 6pm. Dave Parent of MINI of Loveland called me during an ice cream social they were having – yeah, the dealership was having an ice cream social – to tell me about the car and ask me some questions, etc. After that call, I already had an emotional attachment to this place and this car. I kept the tab up on my browser for days.

We talked again, and I told him the only thing kind of holding me up is the fact that it doesn’t have black wheels; by the time I spend the money buying black wheels, it’ll be way over my budget. He goes, “Why don’t I see if another MINI on the lot can swap wheels with it.” I was like, dude, if you can do that, it’ll be my MINI.

So a couple days later, he calls me back and tells me he wasn’t able to swap wheels without it significantly changing the sticker price, which I understood. This was after the MINI of Alexandria ridiculousness and I’d about had it. I told him the only other thing I wanted on that car was a luggage rack. He said, “I’ll put it on myself.”

Within ten minutes or so, I’d told him to do that and have it on by the next evening because I’ll drive down to get it myself. I could have had it transported for about $500, but where’s the adventure in that? Plus, I’m too damn impatient.

The next day (see, impatient), dad and I rented a car and set out for Colorado. This was the first time I’d been behind the wheel of a car since my accident (so, about forty-one days at this point), and I looked like this:
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The drive there went smoothly. There was quite a bit of anxiety to overcome, but luckily it was all interstate. The trees were changing colors and the weather was gorgeous. It was the perfect day for this journey. Then we encountered 5 o’clock traffic upon entering Greeley, which I hated. I was totally exhausted by the time we made it to Loveland.

But, boy, did MINI of Loveland totally rejuvenate me. That place is like a toy store to me. There are so many fun things and beautiful MINIs. The people are all great and enthusiastic. No one could believe I walked away from my accident and even asked to use the photos to show at meetings and to customers. Apparently, I’ve already helped sell a couple cars to people who worry about the small size of the MINI being unsafe. That makes me feel good.

I really wanted to cry right there at the sales desk. I’d just accomplished such a daunting task and overcome so many fears. I knew I was heading toward my freedom. I was heading toward the key to putting this awful experience and time behind me. It was going to be worth it. And my salesman and finance gal couldn’t have made the process any easier once I got there. They stayed past close and helped us into the MINI and directed us to an awesome BBQ place just down the road.

The next day, dad and I got up and had breakfast at the hotel. We were going to pop over to Estes Park to see the hotel from The Shining, but it was so foggy. Instead, we hit the road and took a detour through Wyoming, up to Alliance, Nebraska. I had never been in Wyoming and I had never been as far northwest in Nebraska. The drive through Scotts Bluff actually took my breath away – I couldn’t believe the land formations and valleys and trees. Who knew we had such a diverse landscape! In Alliance, we ate at a cute little diner off of Main Street and then popped over to see Carhenge.

Yes, like Stonehenge.
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I’d never seen it, so it was amazing. Dad and I spent some time geeking out, and then continued on home. Of course, with such a detour, we ended up with part of our drive past sunset. I hadn’t driven in the dark since the accident. Then we encountered some emergency closure of I-80 and had to squeeze into a caravan of semi trucks with trailers on a two-lane highway through a bunch of small towns. We were stop-and-go, and I was constantly worried the truck behind me wouldn’t stop in time, and at one point on the two-lane highway I randomly noticed how close opposite traffic was (I missed the median and four-lane interstate). There were a few times where my heart may have stopped.

We made it home safely and upon backing into my garage, I broke down. I did, not the car. I sat in my car and had a little weep. I stroked the steering wheel and tenderly caressed the dashboard and ran my fingertips over the MINI wings emblem. No joke. I didn’t know when I’d be back in a MINI Cooper. Let alone one so perfect for me. I didn’t know when I’d be driving again. I didn’t know how I’d do driving again. I made myself drive to Loveland, not only for the fun of it, but as a test. One I had no other option but to pass. And no matter how the drive there went, I had to turn around and drive right back. I was so proud of myself. I’d done it. And now I had him. My MINI. My darling. My Richard. Yes, that’s his name: Richard.

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It’s been a couple weeks now that I’ve had him. I’ve got my C. Friis rally sticker on the back driver’s-side window, I’ve got the grille badges on: a black, white, and grey Union Jack and then the Sir Alec quote, “I don’t want bloody women driving my car.” Those were the two I’d had on my British Chap; the grille, badges, and my license plate disappeared in the accident. He’s taken me to a friend’s wedding and to Target (oh lawdy, how I had missed going to Target) and to Starbucks. He whips ’round the roundabouts and is just a total stunner. I really couldn’t be happier with him.

Alas, I’m still incredibly anxious while driving. I have been doing my best to keep my eyes fixed ahead and not on the rear view window when I’ve come to a stop and I know someone is coming up behind me. Every car coming opposite is going to swerve at the last minute and hit me, I just know it. Honestly, the only way I’ve been able to get around that is to just resign to the fact that if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. And I’ll be hurt again or I could die. And my car will be wrecked again and I’ll have to start all over again.

Everyone says because I’ve been hit twice, statistically it won’t happen again. I almost failed statistics, so I’m not really sure I can grasp that logic. I think, if anything, it’s even more likely to happen again. I feel like a target. The dumb motherfucker who decided drinking and driving was a good idea that night sought me out. and now I feel like a target. Everyone is going to hit me and I don’t trust anyone. That person is going to decide they want that exit and they’re going to side-swipe me at the last minute. That person isn’t going to see me and they’re going to send me into the guard rail. That person is going to drop something and jerk the wheel and hit me head-on.

There was one day, though. One day since I’ve been back from Loveland, I went for a drive. Just to drive. Like I used to. I took Richard to Ponca Hills, my old neighborhood. I took him through the hills and around the bends and past my home that will always be my home. I took him out on I-680 and saw the trees looking like autumn and the sun was shining and I felt like myself again. Just for a moment. I hadn’t felt like me in a long time. I was on my way back.

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I am on my way back.

If You Know What’s Good for You

I find myself anxious about my trip tomorrow. I’m always a bit nervous about any traveling – I usually have difficulty sleeping the night before, etc. 

The last time I attempted international travel, I ended up spending nine hours in UKBA custody and then a night in the detention center.

Ergo: apprehension. 

 

Fuck. To me, the anxiety isn’t even the worst part – it’s the fact that I’m feeling anxiety at all. That adventure struck fear into my heart. And I hate that. I absolutely bloody hate that. I’ve flown somewhere every single year of my life. I’ve flown to Germany and to Mexico and to London (twice before all of that) and now… I have the opportunity to visit a country that I’ve wanted to visit as long as I can remember – even longer than wanting to visit the UK, I reckon. And here I am, about to finally do it… and I’m terrified. 

As if fucking with the UKBA after eight hours on a plane wasn’t annoying enough, I’ll be traveling for over 24 hours total this time. I don’t think my nerves would be able to handle denial. 

I mean, there’s no actual reason I should be turned away: I have never traveled there before and have therefore never had the opportunity to ‘violate any visitor’s agreement,’ I got approved for this electronic thing that gets attached to my passport and it approved me for a three month stay if I so desired, I have a bunch of documents with me (bank statements, my lease, my car title, the hotel reservation in Sydney, my itinerary, Jen’s address, etc) so that I should be prepared for anything… 

And yet…

I’ll be so. far. away. from home. if something were to happen. So far. 

I know the fear is pointless. I do. I have a feeling I’ll get over there and they’ll be like, ‘g’day, lit-le Sheila – have a good trip!’ and that’ll be it. And all this worrying and preparation will have been for naught. But after being, apparently, “ill-prepared” once, I’m sure as hell not doing that again.

Oh yeah, the worst part. It is. It’s the worst part. That I feel like this at all. That I was made to feel like this. That I should be so nervous about doing something I’ve done since the womb. Just like my car accident has made me overly cautious and paranoid about people noticing that I’ve signaled a turn or slowed down to a stop, that fucking trip has made me trepidatious about stepping foot outside of the US. 

I wish I could drive there. I’d rather drive there and have control of my transportation and surroundings and way out. That’s why I drove to Nashville. Stupid, I know, it’s within the continental US. I just- I needed control. I needed control of the situation, of my situation, and of my arrival and departure.

 

This will be good for me. This trip. In more than one way. Mostly, it will be the first step in getting over this idiotic, frustrating fear. I’ll be so proud of myself for going. Even when it would be so much easier to stay home. 

But it wouldn’t; not really. 

I’d hate myself for missing out on seeing my friends again and, for the love of God, I’m going to get a photo with Benedict fucking Cumberbatch. I’m going to see the Sydney Opera House. I’m going to box kangaroos. 

I have to refer back to Jen’s infinite wisdom – saying this trip will cheer me up in more ways than I know. Even when I didn’t know I needed cheering up. I need something. And this trip is that something.

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