Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Freeway Is Ending

I've been thinking a lot lately about fear and perception and how each can alter or exacerbate the other. Like, if I perceive that 7-11 is out of M&Ms, that might make my fear escalate and go apeshit but really there might be a box in the back that hasn't been unloaded yet. Whew. Just typing that made me a little anxious.

Anyway, I was musing about this and other candy-related psychological shit while driving home from Highland Park the other day when I saw the sign above. I see this sign a lot because I go to Highland Park a lot (some of my favorite humans live there plus Cafe De Leche on York has the best chai lattes in Southern California) but it had never sparked any reaction from me before. This time, however, I remembered a similar car ride with my mom.

We were zooming down the freeway when my mom noticed a sign that said, "End Freeway." She clutched my arm so hard it hurt and said, "Kendra...Kendra...the freeway is ending! Don't you see that the freeway is ending?" This made me laugh until I realized she was actually pretty freaked out. I explained to her that it wasn't going to just abruptly end, we weren't going to Thelma and Louise it off a cliff. I told her that it would gently spit us out onto a regular street but I could tell she wasn't convinced and she didn't relax until we were safely stuck in L.A. traffic again.

At that point, I'd lived in Los Angeles for six or seven years. Even before that, I lived in San Marcos and spent a lot of time on the I-35 driving back and forth to Austin. Freeways didn't freak me out. Freeways were as common as making coffee in the morning was to my dad. Freeways were as comfortable to me as a booth at Chili's was to my mom. But, she grew up in small highway-less Texas towns and the only thing that passed for any type of freeway in my hometown -where she still lived- was a small loop that circled the city. People leisurely used it to get from Olive Garden to Walmart on the weekends.

So, just being on the freeway was a strange experience to her and her only experience with freeways "ending" was probably that scene in Speed when the bus has to jump the unfinished freeway or it will explode and everyone will die. Of course she was freaked out. Something super routine to me was crazy to her.

The last few days I've been seeing things through this filter. When something fills me with anxiety, I just tell myself that the freeway isn't really ending. You know what? It's sort-of working. And when it doesn't, I can always just get some M&Ms.