Jody DeFord is a corporate lawyer by day and style blogger at Red’s Shoe Diaries by night. When she’s not working, she can be found planning her next party or working on her golf game, always in statement making shoes. Follow her on Instagram and Pinterest.
To a native Hoosier like me, May has always meant the black and white checkered flags and fast cars of the Indianapolis 500. As a child, I remember well our family’s annual Memorial Day weekend cookouts, where we listened to the iconic race on the radio as we grilled out with family and friends. In those days, I was far more interested in the homemade strawberry ice cream my Dad was making than I was in who was on the pole, who crashed, or who was leading on any given lap.
But that all changed once I got a driver’s license. Somewhat embarrassingly, I rather quickly chalked up a few speeding tickets, and burned out the clutch on my old but beloved 5 speed manual transmission Camaro (I may have also chalked the tires a few times). Friends and family members teased me mercilessly about my lead foot, and often reminded me that I wasn’t driving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Oh, how I loved the idea of that! Suddenly, Indy Car racing was interesting. Mario Andretti was my favorite driver, but I was also fascinated and impressed by trailblazing female drivers like Lyn St. James.
Fast forward a couple of decades (and a couple of additional speeding tickets), and I still find myself fascinated by fast cars and the desire to experience the thrill of racing first-hand. So, a couple of years ago, I signed up for performance driving lessons at a local road course. It was an amazing experience, but the reason I’m sharing the story with you is that it had a completely unexpected mental health benefit – racing a car completely stopped my racing mind!
I was under a lot of stress at the time, both at work and at home. Battling depression and a flare-up of chronic illness, I slept no more than a couple of hours each night, my mind racing with worst-case scenarios and endless to do lists. During the day, too, I found myself dwelling constantly on all that I needed to get done – to the point that all the worrying negatively impacted the time I had to actually accomplish the things I was so worried about. But, when I slid behind the wheel of that car, helmet securely fastened, anti-lock brakes disengaged, and instructor by my side, every other thought in my head disintegrated. When you are driving down a straightaway at 120 mph and quickly approaching a sharp curve, there is no time for distraction, and every ounce of energy is focused on controlling the car and finding your line on the track. I really didn’t anticipate that a laser focus on driving safely while sliding through a turn and maintaining 80 plus mph speeds, every muscle in my body tensed, would be stress-relieving, but that was the end result. After three exhilarating days, I felt…relaxed! You may not think performance driving lessons are your cup of tea, but if you’re having trouble stopping your mind from racing with negative self-talk and worry, you may just find that racing in the literal sense will stop your racing mind!
I plan to continue my driving lessons in the future, but for now I’m content to watch the professionals do their thing. I’ve only missed the Indy 500 once in the last 15 years, and this year I’ll once again be taking in the action from the front row at the end of the first turn. I love all the tradition that accompanies attendance at “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” For me, that includes dressing in traditional black and white. Last year, I wore a flowy, damask print maxi-dress. This year, I might just don the Audrey in white with black polka dots!