The dreaded expressway.
I was on it again. Since our car accident more than a year ago, I have found that when I leave the house in a car, 9 times out of 10, I need to endure this stretch of roadway. It’s dreadful.
My husband drives as he always does, and I am relegated to my usual position in the passenger seat, not being a driver myself. The usual sensations begin to gather like a summer storm.
My skin is tingling, almost as though it is tightening fractionally around my insides. As our speed increases to match the traffic around us, I rest my hand on the door ledge and feel the sweat gathering on my palm. My solar plexus is tightening, and my stomach has that familiar dread gathering as the cars speed around us, weaving in and out in their usual frantic fashion. It’s business as usual, and here I sit, facing the God of Death.
I am aware of every bump in the road, every change in speed that my husband makes to our journey, and every single car around us. And I have forgotten to breathe again, my diaphragm frozen in place.
When our car hit the cement barrier last year, I lost time. There are a few moments that I cannot account for, and ever since, I have lived with the memory, and the knowledge that had anything been even fractionally different, I might not be alive and whole today. And that fear is ignited every time I get on that damn road.
Being a lover of Game of Thrones, today something new occurs to me as my palms gather sweat and I remember that I have again forgotten to breathe – What do we say to the God of Death?
A big part of what I go through on this road is the fear that I will have to deal with this forever. And realizing that what I am facing is my own fear of death, I smiled and repeated the lesson taught by Syrio Forel to Arya Stark. That what we say to the God of Death is “Not Today.”
I only have to face today. I will face tomorrow when it comes.
And that makes it easier.
One day at a time, that’s how AA does it. That’s recovery. I can’t control the past. It’s already happened. I can’t control the future, it’s not here yet. I can control myself, right now.
Anxiety, at its most basic, is the fear of death. It’s our human survival instinct kicking in, and when it is triggered by trauma, the very real possibility that I could indeed die, it’s terrifyingly real. Even when it’s not triggered by my possible imminent death, the basic principle is the same. Facing the gut-deep fear of my own mortal end.
So, God of Death, every time I face you on that dreaded stretch of concrete, I will say to you, “NOT TODAY.”
And I will see you again next time.
As Arya says, Death has many faces. And I look forward to seeing this one again. Looking forward to it helps me flip the experience from terror to power, from fear to courage, from dread to anticipation. And one trip at a time, I will rewire my brain, heal my trauma, and bench press bravery.
This is what warriors are made of.
Be Brave Warriors,