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Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2010, at 1:44 PM

By: Lisa Earle McLeod


My daughter is learning how to drive.

But, as it turns out, I'm the one getting a lesson.

I'm learning all kinds of new things, like how to stifle a scream. And that no matter how hard you push your foot into the floor, you can't stop the car from the passenger side because there's no brake buried in the floor mat.

I'm also learning that a sudden intake of breath at every passing car does not inspire confidence in a new driver.

You know, the kind of huge, gasping inhale you might take when you're at the top of a rickety boardwalk roller coaster about to plunge to your death.

The weird thing about this is that my hysterical reaction has absolutely nothing to do with her driving. She's actually quite good.

But just knowing that my child is behind the wheel of an automobile and that other people are going to have the gall to drive right next to her (and sometimes even come at her from the opposite direction!) has my heart in my throat.

It's Niagara Falls all over again.

A few years back, my husband and I took our two daughters - then 14 and 9 - to see the falls. We had visited early in our marriage, and I couldn't wait to show our girls what I considered to be one of the most spectacular sites in the world.

When hubby and I visited, we spent the entire afternoon walking up and down the paths next to the rushing falls. I enjoyed every minute of it, and it lived in my memory as one of the most awe-inspiring things I've seen.

But then I took my children.

From the moment we got within about 15 feet, no make that 50 feet, of the roaring wall o' water falls, my stomach felt like it was in a vice grip.

The foaming, crashing water was no longer beautiful; it was a rushing torrent of death threatening to snatch my babies.

What were these people who planned this park thinking?

A steel railing and concrete? Really? Is that the best they could do?

If they really wanted to make the falls enjoyable, they would enclose the entire thing in plexiglass and only let people watch from 100 yards away.

Millions of people have safely visited Niagara Falls, yet when standing next to it in the presence of my non-climbing, non-toddler, not-leaning-over-the-railing children, I didn't enjoy a minute of it. All I felt was imminent danger.

It's the same thing with the car.

Every time she gets behind the wheel, I feel like some fundamental law of nature is being violated.

What kind of insane society do we live in where people think it's normal for my child to be in charge of a moving vehicle? And what the heck are all these other drivers doing out there? Don't they know my baby is in that old, four-door gold car?

All those other people on the road should just go home right now and stay there so that my daughter can drive five mph and have the entire road to herself everywhere for the rest of her life.

Or better yet, maybe that plexiglass thing isn't too far fetched. Anybody know where I can buy two tons of Lucite?

I'm sure by the time she drives me to the nursing home, this gut-wrenching feeling will have passed. But for now, please be careful people. My heart is rolling down the highway in a gold four-door.

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Angst is in the air: Be careful it's catching
Lisa Earle McLeod
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I can't take any more. The economy is tanking, the election is endless, and now it looks like I might have to sell my blood if I want to keep my kids in mac 'n cheese. Oh, and did I mention that, thanks to falling house prices, I probably owe more on my home than it's actually worth? I want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and have somebody wake me up when my 401(k) bounces back. I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself so jittery about, well everything, that it's all I can do to surf the net. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I should be working more, but I'm so anxious about my finances that I'm actually working less. Alas, such is the world of grown-ups - stress, anxiety, depression. And to think that I wasted much of my childhood wishing I could be in charge of my own life. Why in the heck did I ever think that was a good idea? Give me a few cookies, a blankey and a nice place to lie down and I swear I'll never complain about an early bedtime again. These are tough times indeed. Even if you're still OK, you'd have to be one cold, hard, rich person to stay immune to all the angst in the air. So how do you cope? How do you get through today when you're so worried about tomorrow that you can't see straight? I overheard a news commentator say that people are thinking twice before they go out to eat or buy new clothes. I'm guessing that those are the people who still have jobs. Because the people without jobs aren't spending a nickel on anything except cheap carbs and keeping a roof over their heads. Yet as depressing as our collective and individual situations may be, the last thing we need to do is let our fear get the best of us. If you spend all day quaking and anxious, guess who wins? The fear. Yes, I know FDR had a roof over his head when he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," but he was right. Every moment you waste paralyzed with fear is a moment you could be doing something, or resting up so that you can do something tomorrow. It's been said that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and all the other emotions are derivatives of those. So I'd like to make a suggestion. Let's chose love. Let's decide to love each other and to love ourselves, no matter what happens. And if you're really a Pollyanna, perhaps you'll join me in deciding to love the fact that this crisis is serving as a call for us to become our better selves; a call for us to look within and rid ourselves of consumerism, greed and the need to keep up with the Jones; and a call for us to have more empathy for those who are struggling. Maybe this is a chance for all of us - and I include myself - to decide that we love our country and we love our fellow human beings more than we love our stuff. Yeah, I know it sounds hokey. But you don't change your circumstances until you change the thoughts that created them. Cowering under the covers in fear may feel safer. But in a crisis, the truly powerful response is love. (c) Copyright 2008, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved. Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her books include "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.