Robert O'Brien

The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Costal breathing in Cork

The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Costal breathing in Cork

After a week with Sparky the all-electric Kona, I found myself jumping between two of my father’s cars. One was a ‘classic’ E38 7-series (silver car)  that I hadn’t driven in years and the other was a much more contemporary F13 6-series (blue car). It was a fascinating experience in terms of comparing twenty-five years of luxury car development from BMW. The 7-series is built like a tank, everything from the heavy doors to the slightly hesitant steering. I got comments about the car being lovely everywhere I went. Seriously, from buying milk at the local petrol station to the gym, men would stop me and start up conversations about the car. The only terrifying thing about driving it was the economy. I swear you could literally see the fuel gauge moving towards empty in everyday traffic. If you think fuel prices are high in Canada, they are even higher in Ireland.

The 6-series was a surprise to me. I have very little experience of driving ‘modern’ BMWs. Technically, it is a generation behind the latest models but it still benefits from a lot of modern technology such as parking sensors, different driving modes and has a twin turbo 3-litre diesel engine, which is more efficient than I would have ever imagined. I had forgotten that BMW’s middle name is ‘Motor’ and this B57 engine really is a gem of a unit. On a full tank the car had a displayed range of close to 1,000 km! But where the 7-series felt heavy this car was immediate in its steering and responses. The Gran Coupe shape is also achingly elegant and in my opinion BMW’s best design in recent years. I felt like king driving both cars around Dublin. This was one of the high points to my trip home.

Another high point was an opportunity to drive to Cork (in the 6-series due to its economy) and attend my first McGuire Programme course in fifteen years. For anyone who doesn’t know, I stutter and the McGuire Programme is a course for people who stutter instructed by people who stutter. I attended my first course in February 2003 and I go into a lot of depth about that experience in my book. I learnt a new technique of breathing and speaking. Basically to breathe from my costal diaphragm, like singers and performers do. It sounds a little strange and takes time to learn, but I know from experience it works. It helped to reduce a lot of my fear when it came to talking. More to the point, doing this first course introduced me to other people who stutter. I had always thought I was the only one. Looking back now, those people became another family to me because they understood me in a very particular and personal way. So, to be able to go back after all this time was very much like coming home again. An old friend had put in a good word for me and I was given the opportunity to make a ten-minute presentation to the room towards the end of the first day of this three-day course.

I set off in the 6-series to Clonmel to crash with my sister and spend the night in her house before setting off to Cork early the next morning. The 6-series was an exemplary cruising companion thanks to that big engine. I arrived in Cork at midday and found parking before heading to the venue. McGuire programme courses are normally run in large hotel rooms, with chairs in rows and people wear belts on their chests to help them learn the costal breathing technique. I was briefly greeted by the regional director and course instructor before I sat down. Immediately I felt like I had been transported back in time. The sound and rhythm of my breathing. The pressure of the belt on my chest. The slightly awkward situation of having to maintain eye contact with a fellow participant sitting directly opposite me. As the hours passed, I listened to the instructor and repeated the various lists that I had thought long forgotten. It was just like riding a bike, it was muscle memory and I couldn’t have been happier.

That is rather ironic because after attending my first course in 2003, I became obsessed with my technique and the McGuire programme in general. I attended all the weekly support meetings and even became a coach to help with their speech. It was through this programme that I had the courage to get a diploma in TV presentation and joined Toastmasters (a well-known public speaking organization). But over time, that relationship began to sour. I slowly began to feel trapped by the technique. I assumed I had outgrown the programme and by the time I moved to Vancouver to train as an actor, I was even secretly holding on to some resentmnet. That is a difficult admission for me to make. Rest assured, my hubris was beaten out of me after I failed to make it as an actor because I simply couldn’t compete on that level. It took me years to accept that there is a place in my life to be someone living with a stutter and not be controlled by it or constantly try to 'fix' it. That is what I ended up shared in my presentation. It went very well. I had prepared and practiced it and I had the freedom to use my technique without restraint. Despite never acting professionally, the skills I learnt helped me to become an effective public speaker. Things did not work out how I imaged, but it wasn't a waste of time or effort.

I didn’t get back to the car until 11 pm. I could only stay a day as I was due to give a podcast in Dublin the next morning. I was physically and emotionally exhausted but driving the 6-series back to Clonmel was effortless. After a good night’s sleep, I left early in the morning and got to really enjoy the car. With the radio playing, the air conditioning blowing and the car cruising, I felt totally free and at ease in my own skin. Just like I had all those years ago in February 2003.

Next Month: Back to Vancouver

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Blog
“An Evening With” – Stuttering Awareness and Mental Well-being Ireland

“An Evening With” – Stuttering Awareness and Mental Well-being Ireland

I am excited and honoured to be invited to take part in Stuttering Awareness and Mental Well-being Ireland’s ongoing “An Evening With” series. I will have the opportunity to share my insights about stuttering with two other authors who wrote their own memoirs on the same topic. See the event summary below along with information to attend.

Tomorrow the 20th of July at 7.00.pm we continue our platform of verbal opportunity as we present “An Evening With” Mr Robert O Brien, Mr Darren Benham, Mr Michael O Shea, and our host for the evening Ms Mary Moorehead. The evening will be unique, we will be in the company of four people with verbal differences they all “Stutter” Three of them are authors of books on their own lives and experiences of Stuttering, three different reasons, three different perspectives, three different experiences of putting pen to paper and publish. Mary, our host for the evening is now an accomplished presenter, interviewer and supporter of the Stuttering Community, Robert is the author of “One More Drive” Darren is the author of “Stammer” Michael is the author of “Why I Called My Sister Harry” This is a unique opportunity to connect and learn as they share what they did, why they did it, what they learned along the way, why they are willing to share their generous time and experiences with us.

NOTE: Due to Covid-19, Darren Benham is unable to attend tonight and another author, Mary Wood will be in attendance. 

The Zoom Details are Meeting I.D. 704 682 8814. Passcode: Fpzd2f. More information on all the author’s books is readily available on many social media platforms.”People Who Sutter, Helping And Supporting Each Other, About As Good As It Gets”

Posted by Robert O'Brien in News
The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Sparky: The other vehicle

The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Sparky: The other vehicle

At the beginning of June, I was concerned about Dorrit. For the last six months, I knew I was going to be travelling home to Dublin for four weeks. I am sure the car would be safe enough outside my Vancouver abode, but a month is a long time. Thankfully, my friend Rory (from the Ikea blog episode) stepped up and offered me a parking space in his apartment complex. I was relieved and felt like a pet owner knowing his/her best friend was safe.

As my departure date grew closer, I was excited thinking about being home and seeing family and friends for the first time in nearly three years. I was also expecting to be able to drive my car back home, a late-build R53 MINI Cooper S. Like Dorrit, the MINI is a small car but unlike Dorrit, it is a sporty, hard-riding hatch with a supercharged 1.6 litre engine. This makes the MINI very fast, but also very thirsty. If Dorrit is like the nice girl you can bring home to your mother, the MINI is the wild pole dancer who you know is going to break your heart and bank account without any remorse.

You can imagine my surprise and disappointment when I flew into Dublin to discovered the MINI was in a dealership in Cork being serviced. There was a cornucopia of vehicles in my parent’s house ranging from a pick-up truck to a sleek F-13 6-series for me to borrow over my vacation. All these cars belonged to various family members and it was ultimately my brother-in-law’s all-electric Hyundai Kona that I found myself driving almost exclusively. Full disclosure here, I have never been too excited about electric cars. They have always struck me as one trick ponies. The instant acceleration and torque is addicting but after the thrill wears off, you are left with what I see as an efficient mobility device. Was this white Hyundai which I called “Sparky” for the obvious reasons going to convince me otherwise?

Coming home is never easy or stress free and this longer trip was a working holiday. I was planning an official Irish launch for my book along with joining a gym and getting an Irish SIM card to save on international roaming charges. I was given the keys to Sparky along with a quick tutorial on the gearing and after a few minutes of acclimatization, I was bonding with this car. Like Dorrit, it was designed to be effortless. Unlike Dorrit, it had a lot of new technology I had never used. Simple things like using Apple Car Play and reversing cameras to brake regeneration and fast charging. In the city, this type of vehicle makes sense. There is instant torque and acceleration and a cool sci-fi like whoosh as the car is in motion. I will admit to loving that. It was so easy and inoffensive, I was totally relaxed and cool (as Sparky has full climate control too) at the end of the day with all my errands completed I could understand the appeal of this type of car.

The next day highlighted some of the limitations. I was drafted into driving to Clonmel to collect my sister’s two dogs and bring them up to Dublin for a christening. This was a two-hour journey. Electric cars are wonderful in the city where they can regenerate battery charge but much weaker on motorways cruising at higher speeds for extended periods of time. Sparky was ready to go having been left charging overnight. I was given very strict instructions on dealing with both the car and dogs. Sparky would need to be fully charged again before I made the return trip to Dublin at the only rapid charger in Clonmel. Finding this charger was like a treasure hunt, even with Google Maps and I was unsure if it would even be available. Luckily when I arrived in the town and found the charger, it was free. I quickly plugged the car in and went to find a café, as even with the rapid charger I was looking at a two-hour wait.

Once the car and I were fully recharged I collected the two dogs and treated them like precious cargo on the return trip. The car made it back to Dublin with 50% charge or approximately 250 km range remaining. I didn’t have time to do anything other than throw the dogs in the house and leave them at the mercy of my mother and young niece and nephew before travelling into Dublin city centre for an important meeting. It was the last place I wanted to go, especially at around 3pm when traffic is beginning to get heavy. I was nervous about the range not knowing Sparky all that well and there would be nowhere to charge the car. Like in Vancouver, I placed my life into the hands of Google Maps as it had more up-to-date knowledge of Dublin’s roads. I turned off the air conditioning and set the battery to fully regeneration and drove off as gently as possible. I arrived at the hotel for my meeting with 45% range left and afterwards I drove home to be presented with 40% remaining range. I plugged Sparky in for the night and by the morning the battery was back to 100% (425 km range).

What have I learnt? Well, I can totally see the appeal of electric vehicles, especially in the city. If you are only travelling to the shops, gym and running errands, they are wonderful and so easy to drive. You need a proper home charging system though, and be more strategic in your planning of longer trips. It all costs money too and apart from the rather soulless nature of these cars, I do have a concern about longevity and resale value. We are all essentially beta testing battery technology and I remain to be convinced about these cars as safe long-term purchases. If anything, I think hybrid cars are the best compromise right now. Having both an internal combustion engine and electric motor gives you the best of both worlds and a degree of flexibility that poor Sparky can’t match. Yet.

 

Next Month: Costal breathing in Cork

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Blog
Transcending Stuttering Podcast: The Mighty Mindset

Transcending Stuttering Podcast: The Mighty Mindset

I had the pleasure of being invited onto the Transcending Stuttering Podcast hosted by Uri Schneider. We covered a lot of material ranging from stuttering, coming out, suicide and mental health. You can listen to the full conversation by using the link below:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/76-mighty-mindset-with-robert-obrien/id1541080029?i=1000567822986&fbclid=IwAR0RwkHIH9TrPpizdnjfTQi3nWjMnqGFJbhDndd_-9iLCwTl7ccFBeLb9OA

 

 

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Media
Irish Book Launch: July 10th 2022

Irish Book Launch: July 10th 2022

Coming home to Ireland after years of lockdown was thrilling and rather emotional for me. It has been a long time coming, as has the launch of Just One More Drive: The true story of a stuttering homosexual and his race car in Ireland.

July the 10th will be the 'official' launch and the venue is the Eden House in Rathfarnham. This will be a family friendly event and run from 3-6pm. Finger food will be served and there will be a raffle to win a ride in a helicopter. That sounds rather random, but believe me, it brings my story full circle.

All are welcome, and if you have already bought a copy of my book, feel free to come along and I will happily sign it.

You can check out the promotional video below and I hope to see you on July 10th.

Posted by Robert O'Brien in News
The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Midnight Pizza and the MRI

The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Midnight Pizza and the MRI

Mere weeks after getting Dorrit back on the road, she was due for her first service under my ownership. It was ‘only’ a regularly scheduled oil service. Still, that did not put me at ease. It is like going to the shop for some milk and coming home with a car full of groceries or worse, going to the doctor for a regular check up and coming home with cancer. I knew the car was in good condition, but how would I know if it had a cracked cylinder head or some other catastrophically expensive repair bill.

I booked the car into my local garage and waited for the mechanic to call. Thankfully the car was in good shape, needing only oil and new wipers. I asked them to re-align the headlights as the car had been effectively cross-eyed since the right headlight unit was replaced after the accident damage. I was told the battery was weak and would need changing at some point and I left the car on its winter tires rather than buying summer tires. I will change to all-season tires when the time comes. The final bill came to an affordable $200. Having the car has been a great freedom as I have stated many times in this blog before, but I wasn’t driving every day and I did wonder if it was all worth it.

Over the same week, I was due to attend two day-long Zoom conferences. One was a mental health conference on the Friday and the second was a global 24-hour stuttering conference on Saturday, which I was presenting at. The stuttering conference didn’t finish until 11:25pm (PST) and I had been sitting looking at a screen for two days straight. It was late and I was starving. I hadn’t gone shopping and as a rule, I do not order food as I know it will become a bad habit. My stomach was not agreeing with me growling away. I was still hyper after the conferences and knew I probably wouldn’t just drop off to sleep. I looked at my key rack and saw Dorrit’s key. F**k it I thought to myself. I can work it off in the gym tomorrow. I jumped into the car, drove to the closest pizza takeaway and was back home with food and a cup of tea in my hand within fifteen minutes and before the clock struck midnight. The freedom and ease in that moment was more than worth the $200 oil service.

Having a car also means people may need you to collect them from time to time. Such a request came from my friend Amy who was getting an MRI in Vancouver General Hospital. She was told to get someone to collect her as she was having a medical procedure and would be in no condition to get herself home, even by taxi or Uber. Now Amy and I have a funny friendship. Like other people I have written about (Nina, Rob and Darla) Amy is yet another Landmark friend. I met her on the first day of the Landmark Forum, our first course. We were two clueless eejits sitting beside each other and we decided to go to lunch together. We had an hour and a half for lunch but we got confused and thought we were late after only 45 minutes. I was in panic mode sprinting away from Amy. I didn’t want to get into trouble or look bad getting back to the course late. Amy just laughed and walked slowly behind me. I got back to the Landmark centre sweating and panting when I realized the room was empty and we still had 45 minutes left for lunch. Amy arrived five minutes after me cool and calm still laughing at me for leaving her behind! That incident was to define our friendship and I know there is a lesson in there somewhere for me to learn. I’ll be honest, it annoys the crap out of me. Where I am high strung and dramatic, she seems to be calm and takes things in her stride.

The MRI proved this point. If I was getting a routine scan for arthritis, I would be catastrophizing cancer and an imminent painful death. Not Amy. When I went to pick her up at 9:30pm, I was expecting her to be drugged off her face, but she was pretty steady. They had only given her a mild sedative and she was more than happy to get into Dorrit and be driven away. I joked with her that she was risking her life as it was a pissing rain and pitch black outside. I had worked out possible routes home before collecting her, but I still relied on Google Maps. I was more than grateful for the new wipers and headlight alignment as I could see the road ahead. It was now 10pm so the roads were not crazy busy as we drove further into downtown Vancouver. I was surprised when I got Amy to her door within only fifteen minutes! She was home safe and it felt great to be able to get her there quickly and dry. I got myself home in less than ten minutes too. I couldn’t believe how quickly the whole journey had taken. I had done it all within an hour. Walking and talking public transport would have taken at least twice as long and we would have been soaked.

I have gotten so used to not driving here in Canada that this time saving came as a revelation too me. I’m sure I felt the same way back in Dublin when I was let loose on the roads in my first car, a bright orange classic Mini City. I used to feel embarrassed driving that car as I looked like a young Mr. Bean! I was in a hurry to graduate to a bigger more adult vehicle and I would measure my self-worth against that car. A rather dangerous and short sighted way of thinking as there is always someone with a better car. I don’t feel that way now and in many ways Dorrit is the perfect car for me. She is a typical ‘granny’ car and could pass as an abandoned vehicle when dirty. None of that matters and the fact that I no longer feel the need to compete with every car I see brings a lot of freedom and ease. Which allows me to travel quickly around Vancouver and help my friends. That is certainly worth a $200 oil service.

 

Next Month: Sparky: The Other Vehicle.

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Blog
I’ll be presenting at StutterFEST this Saturday (May 7th 2022)

I’ll be presenting at StutterFEST this Saturday (May 7th 2022)

I am very honoured and excited to be presenting at StutterFEST this Saturday!

Starting from 6:20pm PST, I will be joined by Dan Dumsha and Wendy Duke as we demonstrate how to bring improv skills to people who stutter through the "Laughter Lab" and then from 6:40pm PST, I will look at the idea of cultivating a "Mighty Mindset" around stuttering and how shifting how we think is an access to true freedom.

This is a global, day-long event and is run by the World Stuttering Network. For more information on this organization and the event itself, check out their website at World Stuttering Network

Posted by Robert O'Brien in News
The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Darla, the Big Gun

The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Darla, the Big Gun

NOTE: This blog entry is a direct continuation from last month's 'Dead Stop Dorrit'

When I think of the term 'big gun' the image of the USS DEFIANT (NX-74205) comes to mind. As any geek worth his or her salt knows, the Defiant is a starship featured on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from the third season onwards and it is the Federations first dedicated warship. It is small with a crew of fifty, a massively over-powered warp engine and shield grid with a pair of pulse phasers strapped to either side of the hull. My cousin Dean and I as teenage boys nearly lost our minds the first time we saw it fire those weapons in anger. (See the image below). In short, you mess with this ship, at best you get hurt, at worst, you die. When I referred to my friend Darla as a big gun, I do envisage her as being Defiant-like in the sense that she works in car insurance and is VERY good at what she does. So good in fact, that I felt slightly bad for poor Ethan as he was going to be her first target!

Like most of my social circle I met Darla a few years back on the Landmark Team Management and Leadership Program. We spent two years going through the training together and because she lives outside of British Columbia she had the good fortune to stay on my couch whenever she needed a place to crash. We bonded over long chats and cups of tea and I have told her that there must be some Irish blood in her as we share a similar (dirty) sense of humour. Even after the training finished, we have kept in touch having a weekly call together. When she heard about Dorrit’s woes she asked me why I had not reached out to her. Part of me didn’t think to ask her as she lives in another province and another part of me thought it would be easier to stay quiet and smile. As I discovered in last month's blog, it wasn’t. It was eating me up and so I told her the whole story. She listened patiently to the convoluted events and said finally that the car should have been assessed regardless of what Ethan said. She asked for his number and told me that I had to have her assigned to my claim so she could deal with it directly. The wheels were in motion.

Dorrit, for her part, was repaired and the unpainted bonnet looked ok. In direct sunlight, you could see it was unpainted but the car was road legal again. I went for a short drive and noticed a stone chip in the windshield. After less than a week of being repaired, I couldn’t believe it. Was this car cursed? From my own insurance research, I knew that stone chips were covered on my policy as long as they could be sealed. Without telling Darla I jumped into action, afraid that the stone chip would become a crack that would definitely mean getting a new windshield and ANOTHER insurance claim. I booked the appointment to have the chip sealed first thing that Saturday morning and after dealing with Ethan, I was going into this situation with my own phasers and shields fully powered up. I was not going to be taken for a fool again. The guy at the shop looked at the chip and said it probably wouldn’t seal. I insisted he at least try. I was standing around for about fifty minutes before Dorrit appeared again with the stone chip sealed. There was a mark but one I could live with. The paperwork was processed and I drove home feeling very proud of myself.

Darla did talk to Ethan and she described it as a battle. He was apparently trying to tell her how to do her job! This was all done over the phone and I wondered how it would have been had they met face-to-face! I felt better hearing that though as it wasn’t necessarily just a case of me being naïve and foolish. Ethan could play me as an inexperienced punter, but not Darla. As Ethan never processed Dorrit’s assessment there was very little paperwork to deal with. Darla told me to upload all the photos and receipts I had to the online claims website. She was going to talk to ICBC on my behalf and felt confident that I would get some money back. A week passed and I got an email from an insurance representative stating that ICBC would reimburse me. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t pay to paint the bonnet as that would mean dismantling the whole front end again and they only pay for such repairs once. Darla and myself mused at the idea of going after Ethan to paint the bonnet but it would be rather more difficult. Ultimately, I was no longer out of pocket and could live with the end result.

Money aside, I had taken action and asked for help. In the grand scheme of things that was a more important result. Even after everything, I still notice that I am hesitant to ask for help so I am a work in progress. The biggest win for me was being able to phone my father and sister and tell them that my neighbour paid. That was worth more than anything else. I could stand tall and not feel like I had been weak or stupid in the eyes of my family.

Naturally, I thanked Darla and sent her flowers for all she had done. She claims it was nothing but having someone on my side who is knowledgeable in this area saved me so much time, money and stress. In this story, she really was my 'big gun' and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Darla, Thank you.

Next Month: Midnight Pizza and the MRI.

USS Defiant Image sourced from Memory Beta (non-canon Star Trek Wiki): https://memory-beta.fandom.com/wiki/Pulse_phaser

 

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Blog
The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Dead Stop Dorrit

The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Dead Stop Dorrit

A few months ago, I was asked to write a piece on bullying to mark Pink Shirt Day. I did not focus on the bullying itself, rather the effects it had on me growing up. I learnt to be a very timid person who always tried to be nice to everyone (even the bullies), at the expense of my own well-being. I would like to think that I had outgrown that behaviour so it came as a shock to discover otherwise when I found Dorrit damaged outside my house as I was leaving for work. Approaching the car, I saw a huge dent in the bonnet and a cracked headlight. It is illegal to drive a car with a broken headlight in Ireland, regardless if it still works or not. I assumed Canada had a similar law. This was the very thing I had worried about when I decided to take the car from Nina and my old bullied victim persona was immediately there to taunt me.

“I told you so” he said. “I told you that if you took on having a car, this was bound to happen. Bad things ALWAYS do”.

That evening I returned to find a note on the Dorrit’s windshield. It was from the guilty party, who turned out to be my neighbour’s mother. She took full responsibility for the damage and had already contacted ICBC (Canadian Insurance). Both Rory and Nina told me to phone ICBC as well to ensure the claim was correctly made and being processed. I was told to take the car to an approved car bodyshop to have the damage assessed. Provided the damage did not exceed the market value of the car, it would be repaired. Everything seemed to be going well and that made me more nervous. As my bullied victim persona knew, things are never easy and I should always expect the worst.

What if they don’t fix the car! You know it is worth around $1,000 dollars and I KNOW there is a lot of damage.”

I had forgotten how normal this kind of inner dialogue was for me growing up. The sheer terror of everyday life. Would I stutter and be targeted today? Would the bullies be lurking around the school corridors waiting to pounce? Were my friends around to protect me? This behaviour kept me meek and unassuming for years, but the payoff was I thought it was keeping me safe from a dangerous world.

I found a bodyshop literally five minutes from my home, phoned them and made an appointment yet I couldn’t shake the fear of the damage being more than the car was worth. I was working myself into a panic over the whole situation. Arriving at the shop, I was greeted by Ethan (not his real name). He came outside with his camera and other equipment. He took a few photos and casually inspected the damage. He said given the damage and the value of the car that it wouldn’t be repaired and that there was no point in submitting a claim.

“See. I told you. Loser.” laughed the bullied victim persona voice in my head.

Ethan was younger than me. I’d say about ten years younger and he was an attractive man. I was already feeling intimidated. He was also the expert and I assumed he could accurately assess damage on visual inspection alone. Yet, something in my gut didn’t feel right. I wanted to push and have the car assessed regardless. That would make the most sense. But, like the bullied boy I used to be, I defaulted to my learnt defense. I was nice about it and didn’t push Ethan on this. Rather, I asked what other options did I have.

He said that the car would be scrapped and I could get the cash value or he could repair it off the books and I could go after my neighbour to pay. Having a car was a great freedom and I felt somewhat obliged to keep it. What would I blog about if Dorrit was gone? That is how I justified my decision to myself and I went ahead with the work, which would cost around $700 with an unpainted bonnet (painting cost an additional $650). I didn’t want to inconvenience Ethan further and he assured me the bonnet would look ok as the car is black.

I wanted to be considerate of my neighbour as well and confront her with the lowest bill possible. She turned out to be an older woman with a small pension. She told me a sad story about being poor and said she could only offer me $150 in cash as a contribution. Legally, she was under no obligation to pay anything. Like with Ethan, I wanted to push harder as I suspected she was lying and taking me for a fool. It was easier for me to play the victim as it was a role that felt familiar, rather than the ‘bad guy’ who would have been more assertive and $700 dollars richer! I was disappointed in myself because deep down I knew the truth. I was too scared to push back, just like when I was younger.

I made everything even worse by telling my sister about it on a Skype call and she looked at me dumbfounded. She told me that if my neighbour damaged the car then she should pay, regardless of it being under the table or her financial situation. Then my father heard about it and he called me telling me the very same thing. He had the exact same look on his face and he was getting angry. He asked me how she was paying to have her own car fixed? He then asked why I hadn’t pushed to have the car assessed. I had no response that I wanted to share with him. It was the look on his face that stuck with me after the call though. I couldn’t figure out what it was or what it meant. When I picked up Dorrit and paid the balance of the bill, Ethan asked when I was getting the cash from my neighbour. True to form, I was totally honest and told him she wasn’t paying. As my answer sunk in, he looked at me with THAT very same look on his face. He told me that my neighbour caused the damage and she should pay. He wanted her number and said he would call her. I wasn’t going to let him do that and I took my key and left.

I arrived home angry and upset. With a cup of tea in hand, I tried to break it all down as logically as I could. Firstly, I could see that I had caused this whole mess by tying myself in knots attempting to be nice to everyone around me. Additionally, if my sister, father and Ethan (who had no reason to care) all had the same reaction then my reasoning and behavior must be flawed in some way. I assumed that they were not angry at me, rather I speculated that they were confused. They were probably asking themselves why I was willing to pay and not stand up assertively for myself, especially when I was not at fault. It was illogical, but then our responses to trauma usually are. I could see that my learnt behavior was ingrained and that I would naturally fall back into it in moments of crisis.

Rather than chastise myself, I finished my cup of tea and sat in silence for a while. Being able to see that and be with it was the win for me. This wasn’t about the money or the car. This was about me, specifically who I was in the past and who I got to choose to be now.  I had nothing to lose and I decided to take action and call in my big gun. Her name is Darla.

Next Month: Darla: The Big Gun.

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Blog