Yet another reminder to stop

We’ve been forced to slow down this week, as littlest had a stomach bug. She has been remarkably cheerful during it all, and stoic during the gut-churny bits, amazingly so.

Only in stopping do I realise how frazzled we’ve all been. Despite approaching Autumn as a relaxed continuation for Ro (and us all) rather than a mighty leap into home educating, I see I’ve put myself under a lot of pressure to get everything ‘right’. Getting a new drama group going, seeing lots of people each day, going on holidays and weekend trips, acknowledging the worry that she’d actually prefer school (that particular furball deserves some full bloggy consideration of its own, soon).

So we’ve been racing around trying to fit everything in. And my mind’s been going round and round it all, all the damn time, as though Violet Beauregarde’s tagged me in.

This bug has been a blessing. We’ve had to cancel everything and see where the moment took us. Here’s where it took us today. We:

  • watched lots of Octonauts
  • made dens
  • went shopping with the play kitchen stuff

    finger knitted scarf for George Pig
    Dapper, blurry George
  • learned how to finger knit (At least, I did, at Ro’s request. And now George Pig has a scarf)
  • watched Mister Maker and found all the countries he visited on the globe
  • read a lot: Everyday Blessings, the Rainbow Magic fairies, Fox’s Socks, On The Way Home all featured heavily
  • baked fairy cakes for Ro to take to her friends’ house (one of which returned iced and sprinkled for me!)
  • napped

It was far simpler than I always expect – I still assume the time that’s ‘just us’ is when the girls are getting the thin end of the wedge. That they’re missing out on seeing the world, seeing other people. I underestimate how much of their worlds they create, and how much fun they have doing it. And aside from all the stuff we do – there’s that sparkle in both Ro’s and H’s eyes when they know they have your full attention. So simple and worth everything.

And the other part of this slowing down story is being thankful for friends – those that took Ro out the house to play or go to a group, those that brought food round, those that texted to ask how we’re all doing. Noticing and being grateful for the community around us.

Yet another lesson in what unfolds when you don’t over-schedule and choose to keep it simple. I’m learning. Slowly.

How to Get Through a Fear of Driving

I’m squaring up to this now, after 18 years. I’m sick of how it makes me feel about myself. Plus it’s stopping me doing things with the girls – going to the seaside, swimming pool, visiting friends. And a joy of home edding is soaking up all that fun whenever you feel like it.

Disclosure up front: this is a work in progress. There’s a way to go, but I do think I’ve swung to the ‘can drive reluctantly’ bit of the pendulum and away from ‘shit-scared’. (For a brief history of how to nurture a fear so it dictates your life, here’s a fun read). Anyway, I need a bit of accountability in my life. So here are my top road-tested tips for the licenced-terrified:

  1. Get in the car and find your Goldilocks
    I’ve recently read about the Goldilocks Effect re education. It holds that children (people) best learn in circumstances that are ‘just right’ for them, and that these tend to be circumstances that dance on the edge of their comfort zone and matter to them. In my experience, this is spot on. I wasn’t going to deal with my driving thing until I really cared about it. Then there were steps to take that were just right for me – I needed to tune into how hard to push myself: not letting myself off the hook, not inducing instant panic. Seriously, just sitting in the driver’s seat was a big step for me at first. If this is you, I’d say spend some time behind the wheel, turn the engine on, drive up the road if that feels ok. Do what you can to get just beyond what’s comfortable and see that it’s ALL OK.
  2. Do something every week, or more. Don’t stop
    A bit like the bear hunt, there’s no getting round this, there’s only going through it. Your hands may get so slimy you can’t hold onto the wheel, but get on it. Even if it’s driving to the end of your street and back. Keep going. Squelch, squelch, squelch. It gets easier and you will do a happy dance every time the scary things become not-so-scary things.
  3. Find some practice routes (with incentives)
    Over to a friend’s for cake, to the local shopping centre, to an evening class you couldn’t go to otherwise. Pick some and get familiar with driving on routes that you come to know well. You’ll have different mini-challenges each time anyway: the traffic, rain, giving way to an ambulance, watching out for cyclists/drunks/badgers/zombies.
  4. Be gentle with yourself
    You will make mistakes. This is OK. Other people are making mistakes all the time and not beating themselves up about it. You don’t need to either – focus on the 100 things you did right instead. And, I keep trying to remind myself, making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. Having said that, if you’re feeling dangerous, see below…
  5. Book refresher lessons (and don’t be scared to ditch your instructor if they’re rubbish).
    I’d had such a gap in my driving that I didn’t know where the brake was. Time to call in the professionals. The first one was neat, prim, held all the answers and told me she could fix me given a goodly amount of time. We didn’t get on. I fired her. The second one made me feel like I could do anything. She was funny, calm, treated me like any other normal person. She told me she didn’t want to take any more of my money after our second lesson – how’s that for integrity?
  6. Filter out whatever it is you worry everyone’s thinking 
    One of my biggest problems was embarrassment at holding other people up or looking stupid in front of them. I’m hardly a Margaret Thatcher fan, but there’s a fab (probably fictional) quote from ‘The Iron Lady’ when she’s teaching Carol to drive:  “The only thing you should remember is that everyone else is reckless or inept. Usually both.” Point is they don’t have to have power over you, they are no better than you (as people at least, and probably not as drivers either). And if they notice any mistakes you make, it’ll be off their radar by the time the song’s finished.
  7. Learn to relax
    I struggled with this when it comes to driving – I’ve got so much from meditative breathing and mindfulness recently. But one of my biggest difficulties when driving was coping with the masses of stimulation. I wanted to feel pepped up, aware of everything that’s going on, not focussed internally. My familiar techniques didn’t seem right. What’s helped is deeper breathing to keep me out of panic mode along with positive self-talk. Cheesy confession: I say out loud ‘I am a calm, confident, competent driver’ every single time I’m driving. It helps. I also had some reflexology. It was as an intentional act of self-care. A very soothing experience. I did my first solo drive the next day.

I don’t think I’m ever going to call it quits with this fear. I’d hoped I could dedicate summer to it, and bang, done. But that doesn’t seem to be how it goes for driving and me. So rather than be ashamed, I’m (trying to be) grateful for the opportunity to push myself, every day, if I want to. Some people have to climb mountains for that.