Sunday, September 25, 2011


After my husband died, quite a long time ago, I had a dream in which I was driving along an aquaduct..(aqueduct?) like this, from Cooma to Canberra.  It was perilously narrow, but, thankfully, straight for the 100kms or so.....(yes, I hate that incorrect construction:  I should say, "I was thankful that...").
The dream seemed symbolic:  I was alone on a fraught, narrow path to somewhere different.
Canberra,  I had some association with, but why Cooma I have no idea - maybe a suggestion that I didn't feel that I was starting from  home.
After that dream, I developed a phobia of driving over bridges.
Prior to that, I would have been unsympathetic to phobias: now, I had to grip the steering wheel, keep my eyes focussed on the other side, blot out everything else, and hold my breath and wait to reach solid ground.  As I did...(although sometimes I strayed far too near the middle of the bridge, to the deserved hostility of other drivers).
It wasn't the fear of the bridges that was the only problem:  it was the limp, sweating, weakness after I crossed that compounded the issue.
And the fact that it was irrational and illogical was maddening.  I had driven for decades with no issues.
To be honest, there was also an issue with my car.  Many had been recalled because of a computer error:  the company had writen to me, but the local dealers refused to recognise it.  I spent many  $oos on trying to fix the car on its habit of stopping abruptly.  I was a silly air-head woman.  Barbie-headed. And then at last it happened to them when they were returning it to me.  And then they fixed it.
After this, for some years, I challenged the phobia by driving my children here and there.  On the whole, the phobia won the challenge.
From which, I can assure you that getting back on the horse after you have fallen may work for the moment, but it can also suggest that  finding a different method of transport is a more sensible option.
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," is a typical platitudinous lie that they tell children.  What doesn't kill you can make you weaker.  And weaker.


The Elephant's Child said...

You are right. I always preferred 'he who fights and runs away, lives to run another day'.

I have certainly found that facing my own demons time and time again gets harder, not easier and fills me with dread beforehand, and sweaty nausea afterwards.

Frances said...

So true, so true, Elephant's child. Only those who have been there know it.

catdownunder said...

It is even harder if something does go wrong, especially when you are emotionally vulnerable. I sympathise madly as I do not like heights - and it does not have to be particularly high - and that is not getting easier as I get older either.

Frances said...

You are a highly qualified person, Cat, who is also very logical, rational, experienced and intuitive.
And then there is this a black hole, where none of these attributes matter, or can even enter.

Relatively Retiring said...

I have every sympathy. I am fully aware that the one ot two real fears I have are illogical, but I respect them. I'm no longer prepared to put myself through tests of strength.
I'm convinced that some of this is hormonal with older women.

Frances said...

I'm a little puzzled by your response, RR. My hormones - (good lord, I thought I had at last got rid of them) - are surely an integral part of "me"?
Isn't what you are saying a little like saying that my opinions are just a product of my brain chemicals? Which they are, of course, as are everybody else's...making every opinion a little meaningless and futile to offer.

persiflage said...

Is that the Segovia aqueduct? An amazing piece of engineering and construction!
I wonder about enduring the scary parts of driving. When I was young, it was always assumed that the male was the naturally competent and expect driver, and the women drivers did stupid and dangerous things all the time. It was difficult to overcome this notion, which many of us came to believe to be true. I still get twitchy when I do long drives.
I haven't visited for a while, and enjoyed your post on Ann Moyal. Dr P did know her and quite a few of those she mentions in her book (which I just plucked off the shelf for a little browse. I met her, but would not say I knew her.
And yes, I am persevering with it all, and thank you for your support - practical and sensible and kind.It all helps.

Relatively Retiring said...

Sorry Frances, I was late in returning to this. No. I hope I wasn't saying your interpretation. What I was trying to say was that quite often a sort of low-level anxiety seems to creep in with falls in oestrogen levels - or is it that as oestrogen levels fall we have more to be slightly anxious about?
I certainly didn't intent to imply that it renders opinions meaningless, only that it pays to respect our feelings, however they are generated.

Frances said...

In some ways, RR, I am less anxious than I used to be: having been uselessly and overwhelmingly anxious in the past, and it having been shown again and again to be pointless, I can now feel anxiety depleted....

Frances said...

"It was always assumed the male was the naturally competent driver", Persiflage..and he was naturally competent in so much else, was he not?
Jan Morris, in one of her engaging books about changing sex, says that she found that, at that time women were allowed to say silly things. What men said had to be strictly empirical and logical. Women were allowed to bring in foolish concepts like emotion, intuition or alternative world visions, because men could easily pooh-pooh them.
Some of those "foolish concepts" have of course become mainstream.
Thankyou for your kind words.