A few years ago, I developed an intense fear of flying. This really sucked, because I have an intense love of travel, and there are lots of places in the world that I want to visit, and that I don't want to spend my days getting to instead of enjoying while I'm there. In short, flying, for me, is not optional (I will say that two horrifically turbulent trips across the Pacific—one to Hawaii and one to, or more specifically from Thailand, contributed to my fear). Eventually, I came to realize that virtually all my fear of death associated with cancer was transferred to flying. Death is something I have virtually no control over (and I don't want control badly enough to commit suicide—at least right now. Lest you readers worry that I am contemplating suicide, let me assure you, I am not. But if I am ever truly in agony, and my condition is truly terminal, I might consider cutting the end short.). And an airplane flight, likewise, is something I have virtually no control over. What I can control is my decision to board a plane—no flying, no dying from flying. But, I can also control my response to my irrational fears, and fly regardless, and still visit places that I love, and so that is what I chose to do. Over the last few years, as I have worked through my feelings about death, I have stopped being afraid of flying, and not only because of booze (I will occasionally have a Jack and Seven on the plane or before boarding, but only at time-appropriate hours.).
Lately, I've been thinking about my irritation—outright anger, sometimes—at other drivers on the road, and where that's coming from. After all, in general I am not an angry person. I can be angry, and I have a scary voice that I can employ if necessary (or if I want to), but I am, in general, pretty easy-going. I am also a big fan of driving—the mechanical part of driving, that is (and I really miss my stick shift . . . at least until I try to tow the boat for the first time), not the other-people-in-the-way-of-where-I-want-to-go part. But, where is this anger coming from?, I thought. Because it's pretty pointless.
I'm sure I've been a screamer at other people on the road for longer than I've been dealing with cancer, and I think that it used to be simply arrogance. There's an element of that still—I'm pretty sure that if everyone drove like me, then we wouldn't have any problems on the roads—but I think, at least in recent years, there's more to it than simple obnoxiousness (on my part).
This is what I came up with: My anger at the other people on the road happens when they do things that either 1) inconvenience me or 2) do not follow the laws that are clearly set out and that I believe they should follow. The obvious connection here is life in general, and my life specifically. It seems pretty clear that my life has, in fact, been inconvenienced (much as I don't feel it now, mostly) and has, definitely, not followed the "laws" that I thought it should follow (i.e. normal 30-something with kids and career, no cancer, or indeed any other major illness, until I was 70, if then). However, I know there's no point in being angry at that—I've thought about it a lot over the last ten years, and I've concluded that if I want to live my life the best I can, regardless of what it throws at me, then I need to find my happiness where I am, right now, and not yearn for it in some nebulous other life that I may have imagined for myself. And so, all the frustrations and fury that I don't attach to my life—to the cancer, the chemotherapy baldness, the missed trips to weddings, childlessness, the proximity of my mortality—I instead hurl at drivers around me, in my sphere only fleetingly.
From now on when I'm driving, I'm going to work on merely observing and responding in the way that best accommodates me (i.e. simply change lanes, without getting worked up and yelling at the person going 59 in the fast lane), with a minimum of petulance, annoyance, and self-righteousness, as I've been doing with my cancer, and my life.