It’s Ok Not to Be OK

I didn’t feel the sense of ease I’d been waiting for until I was one exit away from returning home during today’s driving lesson. It’d been a while since I’d been on the highway and my baseline anxiety level was up before I even got in the car. I questioned my decision to try again when my anxiety crazy for days or weeks. Could this possibly be a good idea to “get back on the horse” or was I setting myself up for failure?

I asked myself, too, why I was bothering to do the lessons if I couldn’t seem to get up the confidence to do even one exit on my own in between lessons.

I have no idea what it is about Bruce that makes me feel like getting on the highway at all. Still there were several moments today on the highway with Bruce as passenger when I thought, I can’t do this, the anxiety is too painful. And still, Bruce as always said I seemed completely calm.

He wants to see me succeed. I know that. I get frustrated with his many suggestions, though, because I’ve already tried them all and to no avail. He wants the answer to be simple, but I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a kid and fear of highway driving for some twenty years. It’s a miracle I’m willing to call to schedule a driving lesson.

Why do I keep doing these lessons? Because I hope (believe?) that one day the highway just won’t seem that scary. Then I’ll naturally go by myself. Ta da!

Another part of me feels obligated to keep trying, but doesn’t believe I’ll ever get over the fear enough to drive highways by myself.

Yet another part of me thinks its worth these trips because it feels so good when I’m done. Like hitting one’s head against the wall.

Really, the biggest relief is that moment or those moments, however few, on the highway when I’m not freaking out. I wait and wait for them, like a dessert that may or may not come after dinner at someone else’s home.

Bruce says a therapist once told him, “It’s ok, not to be ok.” Nothing else during our hour resonated but that did. I thought about how I keep trying to fix myself, fix my anxiety, but what if I said it’s ok not to be ok? To truly be ok with being anxious. That’s a step further into the Buddhist teaching of accepting, as in, “ok, I accept that the anxiety is here.” If I thought it was truly ok to be anxious, all the anxiety about anxiety would have go away, wouldn’t it? And then…well…first things first. I am going to try…no, there is no try. There is do or do not, thank you Yoda. I’m just going to be ok with being not ok.

Just be ok with my heart pounding uncomfortably in my chest for no reason. Be ok that I’m not ok. Be ok as I meditate with heart racing, even as I make the outbreath longer than the inbreat, twice as long, to calm down the nervous system. Though I’m better with this technique, I’m still not calm. That’s another opportunity to be ok with not being ok.

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