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On Conquering Fear

Photography by Tammy Strobel

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

When I was in my late teens and 20s, I drove my car in heavy rain, snow, sleet, hail, and in high winds. I was a member of a few ski teams, and I loved to compete in races. I considered driving safely in bad weather one of my superpowers. When I reached my early 30s, I decided not to ski anymore because of my back, and I also developed a phobia of driving in bad weather. So much for my cool superpower!

After years of being car-free and cycling everywhere, I became skittish and scared of driving in rain, snow, wind, and fog (basically all bad weather). For example, when we lived in Portland, Oregon, we’d occasionally rent cars for long weekend trips. I’d drive if the weather were calm, but if the weather became nasty, I’d ask Logan to drive because I felt anxious.

Now that we have a car again, I’m trying to conquer my fear of driving in bad weather. Fortunately, I’m getting plenty of opportunities to practice because, after years of drought, winter has returned to California.

I don’t commute to my job because I’m self-employed, but I still drive. For instance, last week, Logan had a conference for work in Oroville, CA, and I tagged along. The drive home wasn’t ideal because it was rainy and windy. Despite my fear, I drove from Oroville to Red Bluff in the heavy rain. Then, I chickened out and made Logan drive from Red Bluff to our home in Yreka.

By the time we reached Dunsmuir, it was dark and snowing. I felt so anxious that I had to recline my seat and focus on breathing deeply. Logan is a fantastic driver and I trust him, but I don’t trust other drivers. Huge trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles passed us at high speeds, splattering the window with slush, and that freaked me out. Two hours after we arrived home, the California Highway Patrol closed Highway 5 because of car accidents. I felt grateful that we made it home safely before the highway closed.

One of my aims for 2016 is to conquer my fear of driving in bad weather. I want to feel more at ease and less anxious when I drive. For example, last week I attended an art journaling class in Ashland, OR. I felt nervous about driving to class because it was a rainy and foggy day. After checking the road conditions, I decided to drive to class. It was foggy on top of the Siskiyou Summit, but the drive wasn’t as scary as I’d imagined. When I felt nervous, I took deep breaths and said prayers. I made it to Ashland safely, bought coffee for the house, and enjoyed an amazing art class.

I’m not interested in going four-wheeling in the woods, but I don’t want my fear of driving to keep me from pursuing my interests (especially classes I want to take). Continuing my education and learning fuels my creativity and career. I’m conquering my fear of driving in bad weather one trip at a time.

What fears are you conquering this year? Share your story in the comments section.

With gratitude,

A Simple Year Before you go …

Our year-long online course, A Simple Year is open until January 31, 2016.

If you’d like to register for the class, read about the course and instructors over here. I will guide course participants through the digital and relationships segments of the class, and I’m looking forward to it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Melisa January 19, 2016, 8:41 am

    Thank you Tammy for sharing this. I am also afraid of driving in “bad” weather – so much so that it keeps me from moving to a new part of the country to lead the simpler life that I am seeking. I have always lived in Southern California, so not much opportunity for driving in rain, snow, wind . . .but I really want to live someplace that experiences seasons, fall in particular. I look at your beautiful photos and they capture all the seasons so well . . . they are a great reminder for me to continue to conquer my fears (and there are a lot when it comes to relocating) and go for the simpler life surrounded by the nature I know will make me much happier than the concrete jungle. Thanks again Tammy!

  • Jill January 19, 2016, 9:08 am

    I grew up in the Midwest and drove in all kinds of bad weather. Then I moved to South Carolina 15 years ago and stopped driving in the snow. So I feel your fear. Plus I think it is natural to have more fear when you are older – when you’re 16 you’re invincible but then when you’re older you think about all the bad things that can happen more. I’ve been working on my fear of staying home alone all night when my husband travels for work. It’s not easy for me yet but I’m trying and I can do it now which I couldn’t for the longest time. Baby steps and I’m so proud of myself when I do!

  • debra January 19, 2016, 10:08 am

    I so understand this. I have a fear of driving on expressways and tollways and missing my turnoff and getting lost. It doesn’t help that I have a recurring dream of getting lost– I see my destination but I keep going around in circles and can’t reach it. I’ve had this dream for years, I wonder what it means . Do I want to know?

  • Sarah Shepherd January 19, 2016, 12:50 pm

    Ugh I hate driving on the freeway – exactly like you said, I don’t trust other drivers. We were in a bad rollover car accident last summer so I’m kinda okay with not pushing myself on driving quite yet.

    However, my husband and I are about to relocate from Utah to Washington. I’ve never lived out of Utah, and while I have always loved visiting the PNW I’m just finding myself very scared by this large move. Scared of leaving my family, leaving what is familiar, learning how to get around in a new place, having to make new friends, etc etc etc. In fact I just had a major meltdown about an hour ago. I think ultimately this will be a good thing and we will get to experience so many lovely things (I’m also thrilled about not needing to wear sunglasses everyday!) so I need to just take lots of deep breaths and every time I get scared remember that this is an exciting adventure.

  • NicolaB January 19, 2016, 12:56 pm

    I don’t mind bad weather, but I am scared of driving on duel carriageways, and over flyovers across duel carriageways/motorways. I’d like to conquer it, because I used to be able to drive anywhere. I think a few bad experiences made me nervous- driving home when really tired (though of course I felt OK when I started driving, it crept up on me as I went along). I had a sudden puncture whilst driving along one rainy night on the duel carriageway, which made the car swerve; and another time what turned out to be broken suspension that threw the car into another lane when I braked.
    I am better driving ‘scary’ roads during the day, though I think I am getting worse as I don’t drive much any more, because I worry that I will have a panic attack which would be quite dangerous travelling at 70mph!

    I’m interested to hear how you tackle your fear- I used to try just doing it anyway, but that lead to aforementioned panic and even more fear.
    The fear of driving over some bridges/flyovers is just pure fear of heights, I think, which I have always had. I find that easier to talk/breathe myself through because the scary bit of road is so short.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading about how you get on!

  • Anne-Marie January 19, 2016, 3:23 pm

    Driving in this area can really be challenging. I didn’t have a driver’s license when I lived in Sweden so had to learn how to drive here and when I came (in 1997 there was a lot of snow every winter. At that time I was a student at the college and had to drive to go to classes and somehow I made it through snow, sleet, rain, winds and cold. One of the worst times was when I drove from the college to Lake Shastina in a blizzard. I could only see a few feet ahead of me and followed the side of the road.
    I don’t like driving in bad weather but still do it. Can fully understand your fear of driving in bad weather.
    Haven’t decided yet what fear to overcome this year. Feel that I have worked on many fears in the past few years.

  • Bette January 19, 2016, 7:50 pm

    Some fears are healthy, grounded in fact, and serve to keep us safe. Things like driving over a mountain pass in a snowstorm on icy roads — definitely something to be afraid of, for a reason.

    Some of our fears can be based on a realistic or exaggerated sense of what happened in our past.

    Other times, bad things happen even when we’re careful or unafraid. We can be the victim of a drunk driver, or a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. Our cars can hydroplane or we can skid off an embankment.

    My own secret fear is a fear of flying. No one who knows me realizes this, as I’ve traveled all over the world for the past 20 years, for both work and pleasure. I love to travel — I am just very afraid of flying. The only thing I know to do is to keep forcing myself to get on airplanes to fly to my ultimate destination. I can sit home and be afraid or I can keep forcing myself on to planes. But honestly, the fear never goes away —

    • Christina January 20, 2016, 9:12 pm

      You are quite right. There is a difference between fear and being reasonable. When they close freeways and roads it’s for a reason. It’s not fear but being sometimes just pushing it ,to go out driving in these storms. I live in Northern California too. Up I-80 toward Tahoe. When they say snow, wind , wind gusts etc. best to stay inside if you can. Tammy sometimes it’s not really rhe fear, it’s just being careful.

  • Mishaela January 20, 2016, 6:03 am

    I have a huge fear of driving at all, so this really spoke to me. It’s hard on my busy family when they have to drive me to school everyday because I’m too anxious to do it myself. I haven’t found a lot of support for people like me because so many people drive without a problem. It was so reassuring to read this and know I’m not the only one! I would love some tips on how you get over your fear, as this has really inspired me to start driving more and finally get my license. Thank you!

    • Tammy Strobel January 20, 2016, 6:24 am

      I’m glad my essay was helpful! You aren’t alone. 😉

      Being aware of the weather conditions, listening to my instinct, and breathing deeply helped have so far.

      If you have a chance read the comments below. There are lots of great tips that might help you, too!

      Good luck!!! Xo.

  • JL January 20, 2016, 7:30 am

    Tammy, practice driving in new snow in empty parking lots (the bigger, the better) when schools or businesses are closed. Try braking a bit too hard or turning a bit too sharp to get the tires to skid a little, so you can get the feel of it and practice recovering without over-correcting. Start slowly and make sure you have plenty of room. Practicing this over and over and over in a controlled setting will help you regain your skills, build your confidence, and calm your nerves. Knowing you can handle a skid will take a lot of the fear out of winter driving. The worst time to practice is when you need to get somewhere. Too much anxiety that way. Practice in empty lots, then have Logan drive you home for hot cocoa!

    • Tammy Strobel January 20, 2016, 9:27 am

      JL, thank you for the awesome tip! I didn’t even think of that. When I was in my teens, that’s what my dad had me do. Your comment brought up some fun memories. Hopefully, it will snow again and I can practicing driving in empty lots. Thanks for reading and have a great week! 😉

  • Anna B January 20, 2016, 7:41 am

    My fear concerns planes… I took the plane many times up until I turned 25 and suddenly became the biggest ”fear freak” ever, lol. I was soo sick on my last flight, that the attendant told me to simply stay locked up in the bathroom. All my life, i’ve always dreamt to travel…and now i’m literally paralysed with fear, unable to even think or hear a plane. I even took a ”fear of plane” class and turned out to be the only failor. Everyone conquered their fear, except me. It was really embarassing. So here I am, DREAMING of flying somewhere, ANYWHERE this year… this is my challenge. I’m actually working on a vision board, putting up destinations and planes, to try and convince my brain that it will be ok, and that I CAN DO THIS !

    • Bette January 20, 2016, 3:57 pm

      Anna, I totally identify. Honestly, I’m to the point where I am only traveling to places I can get to by train or boat. Sad, but the paralyzing fear I feel is increasing, not going away!

  • Jan Ramsey Brick January 21, 2016, 5:52 pm

    Hey Tammy,
    Sounds like a pretty healthy fear to me! 🙂

    But I know how you feel. When I was young I would drive for hours on interstates and not think twice about it. As I’ve gotten older, I tend to think of everything bad that could happen. I hate it, so I just keep forcing myself to keep at it.

    Best of luck to you!

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