This week I finally faced down the big bad monster.
A few months ago I wrote this post about my experience getting my first ever ticket for anything. Two days after my 50th birthday, riding a wave of good self-esteem, it was as if I’d gotten into a headlong collision with a tractor trailer. Really.
I know it sounds very over dramatic, and compared to everything in my life that HAS or COULD go wrong, getting a ticket should not have been a big deal. But it was. A HUGE deal. Not the ticket in and of itself, but the experience of it, which I described in the earlier post.
I had some decisions to make. I was so tempted to just pay it and move on with my life. That would’ve been the easiest thing to do even though it would have meant points on my license and the possibility of my insurance premium rising. Finances are tight, and my sense of guilt at being “bad” and getting “caught” led me to want to throw myself on the mercy of the court. But – even more than that, I was so shaken by my encounter with the officer, I felt like I needed to face him again and not feel so weak or afraid. My hands and body literally shook as I signed the form that declared my plea “not guilty.” And then I waited to hear about my court date.
Overall I’ve been doing ok processing the experience, although I must say that I have had waves of anxiety about it at times. It’s been a kind of free-floating anxiety because I didn’t know when it would be resolved, so I was living with this question mark over my head and on my shoulders. It’s been taking up a lot of space in my thoughts and worries. Fighting off the bad girl feelings. I have had moments thinking about it that I have felt very weak and vulnerable – two feelings I despise. When you grow up in an abusive/alcoholic home the two things you do NOT want to feel are weak and vulnerable. You want to disappear from view, or be a strong superhero.
Well, a few weeks ago I got a letter from the court telling me my appearance would be on May 4th – so I had weeks to psych myself up for it. I was tempted once more to just drop it, and go with whatever the court decided, saving myself from having to face the police officer who wouldn’t even look me in the eye when he handed me the ticket. (Really, he never made direct eye contact with me. If he were in a line-up I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out.) Also, because of the authority issues I described when I got the ticket, he had become larger than life. I didn’t want to face him. But I knew it was important. I needed to face the monster.
It was much different than I expected. I’ve never been to court before except when I was picked for jury duty and when I divorced my first husband. As I drove to the courthouse my heart was racing and I had to do a lot of positive self-talk. “It will be alright. You’ll be fine.” I repeated Jesus’ words from a few weeks ago in worship reading: “Peace be with you.” “Peace.” I continued this as I walked through the town hall and courthouse and went through the metal detector and was directed by the court’s officer to the corner of the courtroom where THE officer was standing. There he was, the monster that wreaked havoc with my mental stability and self-esteem. THERE HE WAS.
As I walked over to the officer – as I went to face the man who became a bully to me – I felt a wave of panic, and had to do a lot more self-talk to present myself in a respectful but strong manner. This was the reality… He didn’t look as tall as I remembered (which is logical since in my only other encounter with him I was sitting down and he was standing up). He still didn’t look at me straight on, more like a side-glance, but his features didn’t seem as harsh (perhaps because I was seeing him in a fully lighted room and not outside in the dark). He actually looked kind of SHY. He also had a bit of a slouch to his shoulders. Even with his uniform he didn’t seem threatening at all. It was all a quite pleasant let-down.
He quickly asked me what he gave me the ticket for, I told him, and he responded with a lesser charge, which would NOT include points on my license. And I quickly agreed. After this I had time to sit and watch those ahead of me go before the judge, so I knew how to respond when it was my turn to walk up to the podium. The sitting and waiting my turn was the longest part. My brief conversation with the officer and my time before the judge? Maybe five minutes.
When I walked out of the court my legs were shaky and I felt like I could’ve cried – FROM RELIEF. All the build-up of five months was now gone. I felt tired and spent. I went home, took off my dressy court clothes, put my pajamas back on, and went to bed for a much needed nap.
I faced the monster – who really wasn’t a monster at all. And I never would have known that if I ran away from the situation and taken the easy way out. I’m glad I did it. I just wish I didn’t need to. I wish I didn’t have such issues with vulnerability and authority and power and control and anxiety. But I do. I’m working on them though – and facing a monster is a big step. A big deal.