I remember it with the clarity of constant, low-grade panic. There’s a road in Ireland (hell, ALL the roads in Ireland) that is as wide as a generous garden path. It twists and bends through the countryside like a ribbon of asphalt.
“Oh, how beautiful it is here,” my mother said from the passenger seat.
“It really is,” agreed my sister from the back. “Isn’t it lovely, Pru?”
I had no answer. I spent that entire vacation gripping the steering wheel like grim death, focusing only on the road – because, typically, from around the next tiny little curve would inevitably come a speeding tour bus the size of the Queen Mary, hurtling down the road on the wrong side, bearing down on us along a strip of tarmac that two bicyclists might find cozy were they riding side by side.
The car we’d rented was a standard shift. The foot pedals were in the customary place – left foot to shift, right foot for brake and accelerate – but the gear shift was under my weak left hand, not my dominant right hand. Once I shifted unwittingly from second to fifth (instead of third) in the middle of a crowded intersection; the car lost power at the worst possible moment and I very nearly killed myself, my family, and a whole host of snarling Peugeots.
Being the chauffeur for our Irish vacation quite literally gave me nightmares.
And yet now, when confronted with a task that alarms me, I say to myself that I survived driving in Ireland – I can do anything. And that accomplishment, which is so very massive in my mind, empowers me. I am made stronger in all things because of it.
I happened to be thinking of this yesterday when Barbara and I finished our mile-long trot around Falls Church, VA (the amazing Body Dynamics gym being the beginning and end of that loop).
I’ve been thinking that I’m almost ready to confront Demon Sugar again. Wrest a little control back into my life. Mostly, I’m waiting until my son goes back to college and my days descend once again into the peace of routine (that and I need a few more chances at an ice cream sundae). That’s a pretty big goal for me; saying “No, thanks” when dessert is offered is – well, that’s very challenging.
But I was taking my cool-down walk after the run yesterday, absolutely astonished that I’d made it up The Big Hill. (And really, were you in a car, you might think “that stop light at the top of the hill is red,” but that’s all you’d think – you wouldn’t think “My god, this pleasingly-broad U.S. roadway seems to be surmounting a mountain of Everest-like proportions,” although that’s what I’m thinking when I’m on foot.)
I just hate that hill. I dread it for the entirety of the run. Once I asked Barbara if we could run our loop backwards, so I could run DOWN the big hill at the beginning instead of UP the big hill at the end, and she just got that fiendish “I have a plan” Barbara-grin and said “No way – I LOVE that hill at the end of the run!”
Fine. I put my head down and focus on my feet instead of looking to the top. And I just refuse to stop trotting along. By the time I get to the top, I’m moving by sheer grit. It’s an emotional battle of massive, epic proportions, and yet there is NOT a cheering ticker tape parade at the top. I don’t know why; it really is the TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT or something.
So I was walking at the end of this impossible achievement and considering how astonishing it was that I actually made it to the top of the hill. I thought, in my oxygen-deprived way, “I think I could say ‘no, thanks’ to dessert now.” Those two things – completing the run and confronting my sugar addiction – were definitely closely intertwined…
…and I realized that empowerment is transferrable.
That’s our lesson for today, boys and girls. Say it again. Empowerment is transferrable.
If you drive in Ireland, it can enable you to tackle writing the social media campaign for the Smithsonian Craft Show. If you run up the hill, it can make it possible to bypass the glory that is a sundae at Artie’s. If you DO THE IMPOSSIBLE, you don’t have to spend that power in the same place. You don’t have to drive in Bermuda if you survive Ireland – you don’t have to run up another hill if you survive the Big Hill.
You can spend that empowerment, like coins from the bank, wherever you need it.
OH MY GOD.
We draw strength more from the dreadful things we survive than from an easy day of doing what makes us comfortable. Little victories beget larger victories.
I can say “no” to sugar. I drove in Ireland; I can do anything.
As I was writing this, sitting in my bed in the grey light of pre-dawn (sometimes the urge to write strikes me at odd times), I got a text from the kid. Apparently he left for college before I woke up – perhaps his departure is what woke me. He’s already at the Maryland House, getting gas and coffee on his way to Vermont. So (A) wow, boy – you got out of here early! (B) I’m sad and happy that he’s gone. And (C) Guh. I guess I’m tackling sugar now. Pull it together, Prudence. Time to expend a little empowerment.