Please Close Your Eyes!
By Ana Rasgo
Have you ever made a driver so nervous that he asked you to close your eyes? I have. My husband is an accomplished driver. I am learning to be a calm and trusting passenger as I struggle with a controlling nature. When anxious I can annoy my husband with uncontrolled jerks and clenched hand on whatever object will save me from the impending death, I imagine.
The first time he noticed my controlling behavior we were driving through the mountains of Montana. My husband grew up in California where the flow of traffic can reach 90 miles per hour and people still passed you. He knows how to control a car at high speeds.
I grew up in the Midwest where speed limits stayed at 65 on highways. So, zipping through curvy mountain passes and reeling from high-altitude changes was overwhelming. I was dizzy, scared, and adamant he needed to reduce speed. My husband requested I close my eyes.
From my point of view the request was insulting as he needed to brake! Looking back, I can see things from his point of view. He’s adept, but I was causing him anxiety. Not much has changed over the years. I still have issues being the passenger, perhaps more so in Mexico. Last week we took a trip to explore a new village in the mountains. The roads were narrow with an unbanked edge.
My husband decided he was going the wrong direction. Rather than waste time, he turned the truck around along the side of the road. He found a place that looked good to him. I saw the drop off and sloping rocky path below, on a curve with traffic on both sides. I yelped like a struck puppy. The back seat grew quiet where my children had been playing.
My husband assured me it was not a steep incline as he slowed and dropped off the road, too fast for my sanity. I reached for the armrest, clutching for dear life. Morbidly fixed on certain death, I watched the ground below the truck from the passenger window. Seeing a steel stake looming out of the ground only a few inches from our tires, I warned my husband who avoided the danger.
I still don’t know if he saw it before I shrieked a warning, but the command came only seconds later to close my eyes and let him get us on the road, which he did effortlessly.
Why am I so tense on mountain roads? I had the same reaction when visiting Real de Catorce. The road leading to the mountain pass was extremely narrow with a steep drop. Again fixing my eyes on the road below, I watched the passenger tires straddled the edge as other cars passed. The view was excruciating. I would like to say all the hormones in my body caused the panic as I was six weeks postpartum with my first son, but alas nothing has changed, and I have been postpartum from my second son for six years!
How do I battle the tendency to drive my husband nuts with my reactions? If my anxiety is acute, I close my eyes as I don’t want to train my sons to panic too. Nor do I want them to experience my apprehension. Often, I can breathe through the moment, focus on something else, or mouth the serenity prayer. Sometimes a change in traffic or road condition is abrupt and I still panic, as was the case with the steel stake. My husband reminds me to let go and allow him to guide us through the perceived danger.
The act of letting go is teaching me to be a better mother, too. One who knows the difference between protection versus controlling. I can be supportive as my boys learn life lessons and show them how to maneuver through experiences without holding on for dear life. While far from a perfect example, I am choosing to show how to let go of fear and trust in something outside myself.