You've got the manly men, veering in and out with pointless precision and driving down your friendly neighborhood street like it's a tollway. You've got youngins with permits trying to look cool in their mom's minivan, bumpin to jams on stock speakers and leaning to the right as much as they can. And then you've got the old ladies with round, poofy orbs of hair, barely peeking over their dashboards, drifting around like the road is made of ice and monsters and all the bad things ever created, ever.
I think that last group scares me the most.....I can see a manly man's blackened taillights coming from miles away and the young kids almost always have a parent in their passenger seat. But the oldies? You never know what you're getting with them. It's like a demonic box a chocolates. Will she be a Fast-Breaker? How about a Brake-for-Absolutely-No-Freaking-Reason? An Uber-Slow Poke? The Speedy Starter? The Simultaneous Head/Car Turner, who glances to the right and therefore, steers to the right? God forbid you're following the worst of all - the Combo Oldie. She can whip out a lane drift, fast-break into an imaginary accident, and then take off before you even realize what just happened.
I had the unfortunate pleasure of following one such lady on my way home from work yesterday. She was in front of me on a four-lane, kinda just puttsin' around, speeding up, then slowing down, then speeding up, then slowing to an incredible 15 miles under the speed limit (40mph). We approached an intersection with a left-hand turn lane and I remember screaming THANK THE LORD IN HEAVEN ALMIGHTY REDEEMER as her left turn signal started to flash.
The intersection was crowded with traffic and as soon as I spouted my dramatic praise to Jesus, I knew I had celebrated too soon. The left turn lane was clogged and sure enough, the oldie in front of me began to brake and swerve around like a crazy person. Slowly, slowly, she started to ease over into the left turn lane, slamming on the brakes one minute and easing over an inch or two the next. About 2/3 of her vehicle was still in my lane and I made a break for it. I checked my rear view, glanced back at her rear end, and swerved around her.
What the...? ??? ****thump thump thump**** racing heart and panic
I hit my brakes, looked at the old lady, now on my left side. Her car looked ok, I didn't hit her...what the heck was that noise??......ohhhhhhhh........I stared into my rear view and found a guy in a BMW, screaming what was obviously the f-word.
Man's Beautiful Black Beamer, Bent
I hadn't checked my blind spot and sure enough, I'd swerved right into the driving space of another vehicle.
It was a perfect addition to a perfectly terrible week. Work was insane, my new business needed way more attention than I had to give, and I was exhausted.
I had been on my way to a girlfriend's house to get my hair cut. Thought it might break me out of my funk a little. Was planning on giving her a little extra cash for a new blow dryer from her beauty supply store. My current blow dryer sparks when I fire 'er up. Talk about ampin up the volume.
You know what else blows sparks.....A tire. A tire when it crashes into the curb after trying to avoid a Jen who just couldn't keep her temper and her patience.
Didn't take long for my mental state to dip pretty low on the "Yay Life!" scale.
I remember thinking about Christmas and how I still needed to get presents...and not those "only if you can" presents for your siblings and parents....no, I still need to get presents for my kids. Here I was thinking I could afford a new freakin blow dryer. Pshhhh. Chyea rite Jen, ya jerk. Captain Swerves-A-Lot's hair STAYS crazy, didn't anyone tell you?
I got home two hours later. Plenty of time to drive in my own loathing and really let it seep in.
She was just a little old lady, trying to get around. What if the kids had been in the car? That guy's BMW is going to cost a billion dollars to repair. Guess you're goin' broke, Jen. No Christmas. No blow dryer. No clothes without holes in them. No house. You're done. Toast. Better grab a nice cardboard box and start coloring on some windows.
I felt about 20 pounds heavier when I finally climbed out of my car. I had to walk around to the passenger side to get into the house. I closed my eyes to avoid looking at it and walked into the trash can, jostling the lid open just a little bit and enveloping myself in a cloud of putrid poo smell.
Great. Now I smell like I feel.
I opened the door, walked into the house. Aaron set down the spoon he was using to stir our dinner and came over to me, expertly avoiding the baby, dog, high chair, and three pairs of shoes. He reached out and scooped me up, squeezing me tight, telling me it was ok. I'm ok. It's all O.K.
As we parted my youngest came running over, screaming MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMA over and over. The dog was circling behind me, his whole butt wiggling back and forth. My big girl, quietly waiting for the chaos to calm, looked at me with her very best and most precious, "Poor Mama," face.
Aaron headed back to the stove and said:
We're all ok and that's all that matters.
Yes, I breathed. Yes. We are all ok. Thank God for that. It's ok.
I'd become so wrapped up in the stress of my week I'd forgotten the basics. It's not about a silly car accident, which will be a blip on the memory radar 50 years from now. It's not about Christmas presents, I've always tried to give my kiddos experiences over stuff anyways. It's not about feeling overwhelmed or impatient or caught up.....nope. When push comes to shove and you strip away all that chaos and insanity of everyday running, it really is about love and life and all of the simple things.
It's impossible to live in this heightened state of awareness all the time.....and to do so would diminish the power of reaching rock-bottom epiphanies. I'll continue to stress about the car...but in the moments following Aaron's statement, I felt all that guilt, all that self-loathing, roll off like raindrops on an umbrella. It was a beautiful feeling, regardless of how fleeting it was.
Let yourself get stressed. Heck, you can even let yourself get burned out. If nothing else, it will likely culminate in some sort of mental breakdown and you'll be forced back to the basics...where terrible old lady drivers and bad decisions mean nothing compared to the simple, straightforward, gut-wrenching beauty in front of you.
When you feel your knuckles tighten on the wheel and your fury rise to critical boiling point levels, remember why you are driving. Remember where you are going. Picture each old lady as your grandma and look out for lane-swerving Jens in silver Chevy Malibus. Save the stress-induced, eye-opening breakdowns for dinnertime. Much cheaper that way :)