Got my license back. Yay. I should have felt excited or eager as I went to the DMV. I felt anxious. Intensely anxious. During every step of the process I was braced for it, to see the clerk look at the computer screen and shake her head, to be told regretfully that I had failed to file some form for which the filing date had already expired, or I was missing a necessary slip of paper from the insurance company, or that the law stipulated another 30 day waiting period before my reissued license would actually be valid.
I left with a paper license. There’s a 5 year probationary period because I did a very bad thing and cannot really be trusted. But I’m allowed to drive. As long as I’m very careful and behave myself. I can go anywhere I want without a chaperone. I felt…
Neutral. Blank. It wasn’t real. I guess the damage done over those months couldn’t instantly be undone by a piece of paper.
So after work (I bicycled to the library; other people needed the three cars available to me) I got in the RAV and drove out to Northwood to pick up pizza, to celebrate. Once behind the wheel I felt a small stirring of positive energy. Not much more than a pilot light, but definitely there. I remembered something my sons each said at some point after they had gotten their licenses: “Wow. I could just drop everything and drive to New York if I felt like it. I don’t need anyone’s permission. I could just get in the car and go.”
I’m like they were. A child again, given permission to be an adult, granted the responsibility to make adult decisions. I could take the car and go. I didn’t need anyone’s permission, didn’t need to scrounge a ride or work around somebody else’s schedule. I am allowed to get in the car and drive.
As long as the car is free and I’m not inconveniencing anyone else.
There’s an expression – “Mephobia” – for which the popular definition is “A fear of becoming so awesome that the human race can’t handle it and everyone dies.” But there was a book in a stack I was processing (the boss is weeding the shelves, and anything stale or not circulating well is being discarded). It was one of those self-help books, this one primarily directed towards women in unhealthy relationships. Dr. Karen Blaker’s definition of Me Phobia is the fear of being authentic in a relationship. The deep fear that if you assert yourself, your own needs and feelings, you will incur the displeasure of others and be rejected. Abandoned. You will only be loved if you put aside your own needs and work to satisfy the needs of those around you, especially those you depend on.
Being authentic is difficult, because it sounds so close to selfishness (putting your own needs ahead of the needs of others) and we condemn selfish people and praise selfless ones. But somewhere along the line the “selflessness” becomes unhealthy. You literally lose your self. The self becomes something without value, undeserving, whose needs must always come second. Or not at all, if it means someone else’s needs must be sacrificed.
I can’t recall if I’ve always tended in this direction, or if it’s been a gradual or even recent evolution. I can recall some vivid episodes where trying to assert my own needs over another’s didn’t go very well. Pretty disastrously in fact. In fact, some of those assertions of “me” got pathologized. Or denigrated and vilified. Or just led to failure, and the lesson learned was that I should have kept my mouth shut and done what I was told instead of trying to do what made sense to me.
The remaining controversial bits of me that I haven’t yet buried to “get along” are aspects of my life that I either can’t change, or that I know from experience would be just too difficult and painful to change. The cure would be worse than the disease. So I just live with the disapproval that goes along with my stubbornly insisting on “having it my way.”
Seems I’m still being driven. Even though I’m now supposed to be able to drive myself.