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Some days I awaken obsessing about all I can’t do, recounting my innumerable failures to learn to do even the seemingly simple activities everyone else engages in without even thinking about them. For these, I remain the eternal rookie. No amount of repetition ever yielded mastery of these, and, truth told, I hardly hold out for any noticeable improvement now, having apparently already forfeited any possibility for improvement, radical or even small.

I consider myself a decent driver, but I should admit that I’ve not yet learned how to drive on freeways, beltways, turnpikes, or thruways. These are white-knuckle immersions for me, exhausting and terrifying. I suppose my experience stems from never having learned to pass on the right or change lanes without signaling, sprinkled with a deep aversion to driving fifteen miles per hour over the posted speed limit while riding the bumper of the car directly in front of me. I see the masters sanguinely engage in these apparently death-defying stunts, and feel bushwhacked every time. From on-ramp to off-ramp, I experience endless alarming surprises, as cars appear just where I never expected they would; without warning, without apparent strategy, other than to pass everything currently ahead of them; as if they were engaged in some kind of competition.

I freely admit that my primary ethic behind the wheel probably seems indistinguishable from any old lady’s. I try to drive just under the posted speed limit, never passing on the right, and always signaling my intentions; even waiting until I can see the vehicle I pass in my rear view mirror before moving right, back into the slow lane again. I, gulp, even insist upon making space for anyone signaling an intention to enter the lane I’m driving in, even if that puts them in front of me. These seem like great sins and worse, convincing evidence that I just do not know how to drive on those limited access, high-speed parking lots. Heck, I haven’t even figured out how to text and drive at the same time.

Consequently, I try to avoid them. I prefer lonely two lane blacktop, and have been known to drive hundreds of miles out of my way to avoid the eponymous thruways, which, near as I could ever tell, shorten life through sheer terror more than they ever save in driving time. I finish a day of freeway driving exhausted, shaken, swearing to myself that I will just not do that again, though I will, then do. Some places I cannot get to without just holding my breath and hoping, praying, for the best while immersing myself in what certainly feels like the worst life offers. Breathing might help, but I cannot take deep breaths while biting my tongue, clenching every sphincter, and sweating through my shoes.

I know, it’s me.

I could, should I spend the balance of this day and more, list a hundred similar activities of modern daily living for which mastery has escaped me, but even I suspect this might not be the highest and best use of my time. My early morning, before the neighborhood awakens, when it’s just me letting the cats out, seems like the appropriate time for this obsession. I know there’s no bottom to this well, and even dropping stones down there yields no distant splash of insight, only a shadowy despondency, as if I might not really belong in this world; as if I never did belong here.

I’ll wade through a rumination instead, then get on with the two or three activities I might still hold some promise of one day mastering. I can almost manage a decent shave most mornings, and that skill seems improved over time. I fetch the paper like nobody’s business, and some days, find the keyboard and the brain connectable in the same time frame. I need not ever master those activities I never seemed able to master, and fussing over them won’t help.

The great gift of greater age might be the satisfaction accompanying finally accepting that I will never reliably predict which way to turn that screw or how everyone else manages to seal Ziplock baggies. It’s well past Christmas now. I’ve opened the gifts I received and might appreciate what I have rather than worry over long about all I never will receive. An ounce of acceptance might just be more useful than a pound of any cure.

©2015 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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