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Controlling the Uncontrollable

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The scenario is this: you’ve just boarded a plane for a six-hour flight to business-meeting central and you realize you have no Chap Stick! No big deal, but for some of us chapaholics that is just enough to keep us unsettled until we land and can head to the nearest newsstand and pay $3.99 for Chap Stick Original. Or perhaps you’ve arrived at work and realize you left your watch at home! Sure there are clocks all over but if you’re anything like my husband, not having that time keeper around your wrist will throw you off. This may impact men more so than women, but let a woman forget to put on her wedding ring, or earrings, perfume, or some other such finishing touch and we might well just turn that car around, head home, and risk being a few minutes late because going all day without having it on would drive us that crazy! Or let’s say you are in a hurry and bolt out of the house, get the kids buckled in, hop in your car, and get on the road heading to the first of your long list of things to do, only to realize that you are almost to your destination and you’ve forgotten your cell phone! I know! It’s almost too horrible to think about, isn’t it? All of the sudden, there is a sinking feeling in your stomach as your mind races trying to hatch a plan to reunite you with your beloved cell phone. The point is that all of these little unexpected happenings can serve as inadvertent all-day distractions. 


For me, however, there is something worse. Something that not only instantly induces a barrage of mini panic attacks but will consume me until it is address and rectified. That something comes in the form of any problem with my car. I have become so reliant on it that the thought of an issue with it is really dreadful for me. No, I don’t own a fancy-schmancy luxury vehicle. Mine is an all-too-modest Nissan Altima, which I’ve had for well over five years. In those years I’ve learned her (yes, it’s a “her” though I have not gone so far as to name her) sounds, noises, and temperament. I know if the hum of her engine is off. I know if she’s driving differently. I know every click, whirr, and possible sputter that she’s ever made. And when I hear a noise that is unfamiliar, or when I feel her grinding as I make a right turn, or if she clicks and vibrates when she never did before, I know something’s wrong. Immediately, I feel anxiety wash over me like a tsunami! “Why? It’s just a car,” would be my dad’s response. Well, I realize that, but there are two issues that are going through my mind:


1. I begin to run the week’s schedule in my mind and cancel whatever is cancellable because my car might be out of commission for a few days while getting it fixed, and how will I function without my car?


2. Is that odd sounds she’s making a $70 nothing or a $700 something?


I know as much about cars as I do about global warming, which is a little bit but not enough to identify and fix the problem. Hand a heaping plate of potential car problems to an already high-anxiety mom and that is a surefire recipe for nothing you want a taste of! Thank goodness for husbands, brothers, dads (most of all), and great friends who know people that know people.


So, when I was driving and heard my trusty gal make a sound like steel rubbing against steel—after I finished asking the good Lord “Whyyyyyy?!”—I did what any smart woman does: I talked to my dad. He ran down a list of possible things it could be. I would normally go to my husband, but I am certain I know more about cars than he does with all due respect to him. I cancelled two appointments as I feel that if it isn’t absolutely necessary, why make it worse than it already is by driving it more? Meanwhile, my dad asked me if he could borrow my car just to get an estimate of the problem. He took it to the place where he takes his car because he feels they give him a fair deal. An hour later he tells me it’s my front axel. I immediately pictured myself driving my car with my two little ones in the back and the axel breaking in two as I’m making a right turn. It sounds serious and I feel that all too familiar feeling of my chest tightening and not being able to breathe. Then I hear my dad say, “I told them to go ahead and fix it. It should be ready before five.” Then he walked into his office and that was that. All I could think of was how much I truly appreciate having my dad still. Panic attack gone.


Two hours and $416.02 later, I was reunited with my car. In all of this, I realized that I stress way too much and way too easily. I need to learn to sit back as assess the situation, because with every problem comes a solution. And really what’s the worst thing that could happen? So we leave our watch at home or forget our cell phone or our car is out of commission for a day or so … big deal! Life will go on. I am of the generation that knows what it’s like to use public transportation and knows what it was like before cell phones. (Wow, just saying that makes me sound really old.) We managed just fine then, and I’ll manage just fine now without those things, for a short while anyway. Despite that fact, in all honesty I can’t say that I won’t panic when one of those unexpected things happens. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I will, but now I feel I’ll have better control of the uncontrollable. That is good enough for me, for now.

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