Driving Miss Daisy. Driving. Driving me crazy.
I said before that this recovery is all about milestones. It’s also about waking up. To things going on around me. To the incredible capacity of the brain.
In the early days of this journey, “I want my brain back” was the refrain playing over and over in my mind. Hit song. Partly dead serious. Partly not believing there could be anything wrong with me.
Then little moments reminded me, or instructed me for the first time, about how much is going on.
Like the drive Marika and I took to pick up her sisters from camp.
On the U.S. side of the border, Marika not only had to move from one lane to the other, but also had to, for the first time in her life, navigate the umpteen cars merging into the traffic on the highway from the umpteen, short Michigan on-ramps.
“They’re merging. It’s their problem,” said Marika, trusting none of them.
“You have to move to the other lane, speed up, or slow down,” I instructed, hating the role of instructor. “The other driver has nowhere to go.” (If you really want to bend your brain, consider the physics of highway on-ramp entry!)
Who knew that the concept of driving could go back to personal philosophies? That my repeating “be ready for anything” could come back to bite? Had I gone too far in teaching fear? Will she be able to share the road of life?
At one point, I took over to give Marika a break. Forty minutes was good. We stopped for gas and food; I said I could go on. And then about 15 minutes later it was too much. I felt ready to drop into a deep sleep.
(This is what I refer to as “hitting a wall” and it can occur in all kinds of situations. The trick to concussion recovery is pacing, planning and symptom management. You need to be doing, but you need to be doing not too much. It’s part art, part science.)
I knew that driving was up there on the Parkwood Pacing Points system, but I hadn’t considered why. (PPP is an activity diet, much like Weight Watchers; you’re limited to a certain number of points per day. Go over, and you risk bringing on symptoms.) Duh. You’re navigating the road. You’re planning what to do next. There’s so much going on.
After a quick stop at Potterville (the town that calls itself a city), it was Marika’s turn to navigate the on-ramp.
As she entered the ramp, she saw that her way was obstructed by a truck, workers and orange pylons. Marika made her way to the left. In the rearview mirror, she caught sight of a Mack truck. Then she had to merge into the traffic on the highway. Then, speed up, girl, you’re on the freeway!
Managing life was all there in that short series of incidents.
For me it was another moment of understanding. No wonder I had put off driving until week 10. No wonder it takes so much out of us.
As a result of all of this, my youngest daughter has had unprecedented opportunities to try out her learner’s permit. Especially when I was doing no driving whatsoever. (Uber came in handy, but that gets expensive quickly.) Even now driving’s still an energy zapper.
Want to get away for Thanksgiving, Dārija? You’re going to have to navigate Friday afternoon bumper-to-bumper traffic up Victoria Park. The fridge is empty? You drive; I’ll wait in the car.
Even now, at week 22, I still have limits. Longer solo trips are out of the question. And I’m happiest as co-pilot (not instructor), preferably on non-400 highways, which aren’t off limits to Dārija’s G1 licence.
I also understand why the phrase “Driving Miss Daisy. Driving. Driving me crazy” claimed its place in the first line of this essay. Like Miss Daisy, I’m not the independent driver that I used to be (yet). And to be honest, that sometimes drives me a little crazy.
[End note: I can’t remember how I stumbled upon the beautiful brain images embedded in this story. Thanks go to augenblick for identifying the origins of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz ad campaign.]