A busy day. The internet appears to be behaving again finally, though how long it will last is anyone’s guess… and that means I can attempt to catch up. Of course, a thumb that isn’t screaming at me to get off the keyboard would help. I really hadn’t realised how many fingers I use to type with these days or just how fast that now goes… we’re not talking professional standards here, mind you, but it is a huge improvement from the old two fingered tap, though no doubt my typing teacher from decades ago would still shake her head in despair, both at the speed and my inability to type without looking at what I am doing… and let’s not mention the typos…
Stuff does that, though, doesn’t it? Creeps up on you… You struggle to do things laboriously, knowing acutely that you are doing things wrong or badly or just taking way too long to get any kind of results. You start off diffidently, self-consciously… carefully. You may notice the initial progress, because you are concentrating so hard, but from there to competence and confidence is a huge leap and we tend not to see it happening.
I remember learning to drive. There was a first driving lesson as a teenager, then the drunk driver that rearranged my face made me too scared to drive for years. I hated cars. Even as a passenger… as I had been when the accident happened. I cringed if I had to get in one but thankfully, living in the city, I walked pretty much everywhere and if not, I could always take a bus.
Moving here there was little public transport available and it was pricey, so we walked. It is a small town after all, and everything was accessible. If we wanted to go off for the day as a family, we walked too….miles and miles with the boys, teaching them the things of field and hedgerow, history, myth and legend as we went.
Then my partner, already severely hampered by acute arthritis, was diagnosed with cancer. That was the spur that made the difference. He had been unable to drive for some time and the hospital was an hour’s journey away. I learned to drive. Terrified at the wheel… a real white knuckle ride for both me and Derek, my instructor. I recall that very first lesson… most of it sitting in a lane while he explained things, then being made to drive with one hand in my lap to prove I could relax the adamantine grip on the wheel and still retain control of the monster that was the car.
I remember too that first ‘solo flight’ after I had passed my test, pre-planning the route so I wouldn’t have to do anything as terrifying as turning right…
Since then I have clocked up more thousands of miles than I could calculate, driven 1800miles every weekend for one job for a year, zipped in and out of the BBC headquarters in London eight times a day for another, been a white van driver… and loved every minute of it. Nowadays I spend more time in the car some days than I do in bed and I love driving.
But every so often I remember those early days of terror and ineptitude and I can barely trace the path between.
The same subject was raised today by my son regarding his recovery. We remember the major milestones from paralysis to skydive but the small ones creep up and seem to slip under the razor wire of awareness until something calls them specifically to the attention. He had been talking to his younger brother about it… a long time biker who passed his car test yesterday, so of course the same analogy had come up. He didn’t need to say so, there is a particular longsuffering look when these little coincidences happen between the three of us. We just know.
So I was thinking about it all on the way home. It isn’t just the good things that creep up, of course, the less good do so with equal stealth… age, illness, the seemingly unavoidable messy stages of life when all seems a muddle. Some things are inevitable, of course. Others, in retrospect, we can trace back to their beginnings; to a particular sequence of events, even to a single choice or decision.
The awareness of what we do is part and parcel of stopping these downward spirals; nipping them in the bud before they can set seed and spread wider than we can handle… or indeed of encouraging their growth so that they can bloom and fill the gardens of our lives with colour and fragrance.