Finding the courage to choose (while still on holiday).

Continuing on from last week, I found myself thinking about Donna Noble as I sat in my car. As a consequence of her choice to travel with the doctor, she transformed who she was for herself, becoming the most important woman in the whole of creation. She eventually loses it all in order for the Doctor to save her life. Yet her personal journey throughout the season is one reason why she has become a fan favourite with people around the world.

The idea of choice is something I’ve been juggling with over the last few weeks. I’ve played it safe most of my life. Hiding away, pleasing people and getting by. Thinking about Donna’s motivation to travel with the Doctor, (after refusing his initial offer in the Xmas special episode) it was a selfish choice, but one she chose to make to change who she was. Why am I prattling on about this? Well, I’m looking at turning 40 in two weeks and I have been evaluating my life. Would I have the courage to step into a magic blue box and go on adventures in time and space? The TARDIS (the magic blue box) can be a substitute for any opportunity in life. Do I have the courage to apply for that job? Do I have the courage to ask that guy out? Do I have the courage to be generous with myself and others?

Sitting in the Polo with the other driver staring me down pressed me into action. At this point, I was exhausted and feeling rather frightened. How much damage have I caused? I took out my phone and began taking pictures of the cars and seeking witnesses. There were two and neither person had seen anything. The other vehicle, a truck, had a minor scratch. My door was worse for wear. Acting on instinct, I rang Dad. His office was a few minutes away. He picked up and I spoke to him as fluently as I could. Being stressed, my speech was shaky.

“Dad, you won’t believe this but I have been in an accident.” 

“Where are you?” he asked

Using Google maps, I found my exact location. I stood talking to the other car owner and stupidly admitted responsibility. See, me being nice. I hadn’t seen him but whether I was totally to blame was debatable, at least in my head. After a few minutes, I saw Dad’s car. The relief I felt was overwhelming. In that moment, I was so grateful that he was there. Even at forty years old, I felt safe knowing he was there. I don’t have that support in Vancouver. I knew what was coming next and I let Dad do his thing. He knew the other driver to see and introduced himself, explained that I was back on holiday and that the car was fully insured. He looked at the damage and told the guy to go to the body shop Dad uses. He then picked up his phone, called the body shop and arranged to have the damage repaired and paid for there and then. In ten minutes the crisis has been dealt with. I chose to stay quiet and just marvel at who my father was being. We all shook hands and that was that.

When I got home and told my mother and Jenny what had happened they said I was lucky and the damage would be fixed and not to worry. But they were missing something. Dad later over dinner asked me if I was ok. I said “No”. I had gotten a fright and I felt stupid and ashamed and the fact that he asked me that made me realize I was home and I was safe and most of all, I was seen. In an instant, my holiday shifted.

The next day, I was at the body shop having the Polo looked at. The damage was rather minor but the guy  fixing it was someone I didn’t want to see. He was a childhood bully of mine and he made my life hell for a time. I hadn’t seen him in over twenty years. I knew he had worked on the Polo before while I was away in Vancouver. Secretly I felt violated at the idea of him touching my car. I had another choice to make. Do I hold a grudge or face him and get the car repaired so I could sell it? What would Donna do? So, there I was introducing myself as Jim’s son and within thirty minutes, the Polo was fixed. My former bully wouldn’t accept money and I thanked him, authentically thanked him for repairing my car. Silently, I chose to let my resentment of him go too. We weren’t children anymore and he had done me a huge favour. It was time to forgive and move on.

Food is probably the second closest thing to my heart (after cars) and on every trip home I am well fed. Force fed really, and I am only limited by my ability to masticate (sometimes optional) and the size of my belly. This trip home was no different. Thank you Mum for loving me like this.

   

I eventually got my loan, after signing reams of paperwork. It was all processed by the hot ginger behind the counter. I was very happy he had returned. Even if I was a little embarrassed having Dad sign the papers too. Still, I could choose to let that go too. Giving my mother the money for the MINI felt amazing. We had all worked very hard for it over the last few days and I don’t think they can really appreciate what this meant to me. I wanted the MINI for a number of reasons. Ultimately though, I wanted it because I wanted it. In other words, I chose it. Fully, and completely. I still couldn’t drive the car but I could sit in it. I could imagine the drives I will take in it. I could imagine the modifications I will make. Let’s just say I’ve been making myself very familiar with the John Cooper Works back catalogue. Brakes, suspension kits, an engine tuning kit that increases the power of the engine to 210bhp. This will be fun, I tell myself, as I play with the car’s old-school toggle switches on the central console. I sit there for about thirty minutes savouring the future I am creating. I am home. 

This trip home was my first time seeing cousin Leon since his return from Australia and it felt like a real family reunion. I got to sit with him, Dean and Zara in their mother’s home, the house I  had pretty much grown up in. It felt more like home to me than my parents’ house. The smells, the kitchen seats, the smaller, delicate cups for the many cups of tea. The freedom and ease of the conversations. I told them where I was at with everything; about being tired and scared. To my surprise, they said they felt the very same way in their own lives. And coming from them, it really hit home. Does everyone feel this way? Really? At forty, I assumed I should have it all sorted out. This little revelation was echoed when I met up with two friends from secondary school who I hadn’t seen in twenty years and they said the same thing. Being scared, unsure about life, parenthood and money. It presented me with another choice. Do I listen or continue to think I am the only one still out there, lost in the woods as it were?

At forty, I can see that I do have a choice. I don’t believe it is too late, or that we have to find ourselves before life can begin. We don’t even have to be right or nice all the time. Donna Noble certainly wasn’t a nice character in the beginning but it was her choices that transformed her life. The key here is that she knew she wanted more. She chose to step into the magic blue box, she chose to make the journey and she chose to face herself in the process. She lived big and for a brief moment in time, became the most important woman in the whole of creation.

My holiday home was crazy and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I see now it is all about choice and seeing that, something in me has shifted. I still have no idea what I am doing but I can choose for myself and like Donna Nobel, I can become the best version of myself. And even if that is only for the briefest moment, I will know it was real and I can truly say I know who I am.

Learning that at forty is the best gift I can give myself.