Learning to drive is giving me yet another insight in what it must be like to be a horse, on all sorts of different levels. I feel that I really shouldn't be trying to do it at this moment in time but I must, especially now I've begun, for reasons of self esteem as well as practicality.
David was a big person, in every sense of the word, and it was easy for me to hide behind him with everything except horses and sheep, which I knew more about than he did. To start with, after he died, everything was unreal and strange so getting into the driving seat of a Mini Cooper with someone I didn't know, when I'd spent 28 years being a passenger in a Land Rover, a Discovery or a Bedford horsebox with someone I did, was no stranger than being here without David, which I hardly ever had been before for more than a few hours.
Now I have the beginnings of some normality and it all centres around being here, alone or with friends. If I go out as a passenger in a Land Rover, any Land Rover, with someone I know I feel fine. If I go out as a passenger in the van of my oldest friend I feel fine. If I go out as a passenger with someone I know in a car the world starts to rock a little if I get too far away from home, as though my grip on reality starts to slip. When I go out driving the Mini Cooper with someone I didn't know at all until recently I'm totally lost. I don't feel at home in the car, I don't know what I'm doing, I don't recognise the roads from my new vantage point, I don't know my instructor very well, and I know there will be no David at home to talk to about it when I get back. The world's gone mad and turned upside down and there's nothing familiar to hang onto or draw comfort from. I'm told to relax and breathe but there is no way I can and it's going to take forever before any of this feels familiar enough to cope with.
I get back in the Land Rover here and I just instantly feel reassured and comforted. There are hours and hours of stored up good feelings associated with it and it is totally familiar and home. I don't know yet whether I can make my instructor see things my way but I can see no alternative for me than to have the rest of my lessons and take my test in it. It may be harder to drive mechanically speaking but it's the only vehicle I'll ever want to drive anyway and I understand it. It's a big part of the past and I need it to help me to be able to learn.
It suddenly occurred to me how similar this is to mat work with horses - clicking and treating horses for standing on a mat with a rapid rate of reinforcement so the mat becomes associated with loads of good feelings and good things, and then, if taken away from home with the horse, becomes a place of comfort and reassurance - something solid and substantial that can be relied upon for security - a portable piece of home when everything else is strange and unfamiliar. That's what sitting in the Land Rover is like for me.
I'm not looking forward to telling my instructor because I'm not sure he'll go along with it and, even if he does, I know he won't like it. He's been so sweet to me and gone out of his way to try and boost my confidence and find ways to help me learn, and I hate to feel that I'm making a fuss or being a drama queen. Most other people manage perfectly adequately in a strange car so I feel that I should be able to too, and should just shut up and get on with it, but if I were a horse, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't do that to me, and I'm trying to be kind to myself as well. I love my old Land Rover - David's old Land Rover - and I think it may well be the one he learnt in and passed his test in too.
I need my mat at this moment in time. One day the world will probably stop rocking and seem like a normal, ordinary, comfortable place to be again but that moment's not now.
This is my new blog to continue my journey with my Dales Ponies. It will also be the story of my building a new life for myself, alone now, except for my friends, horses and dogs, since my partner died in March 2009. We had lived and worked together, mostly twenty four hours a day, for nearly 28 years and I have never lived alone before. It is a tribute to my wonderful friends that I am still here, still sane(ish) and ready to re-invent myself. I love them all more than words can ever say and can never thank them enough for all they have done and are still doing. It is also a tribute to Alexandra Kurland and 'The Click That Teaches' that I know how to save myself now. To new beginnings.......