5 hours before: It started out as a wonderful first official day of summer. I slept in deliciously late and went on a run.
3 hours before: I contemplated how to approach my first blog for the writer’s project as I leisurely made breakfast and putzed around the house.
20 minutes before: Running late to meet a friend, I dashed out of the house.
15 minutes before: Realizing I forgot something my friend had requested, I quickly doubled back to grab it.
12 minutes before: Distracted and running even more late, I started towards her neighborhood.
That’s when it happened.
In an intersection, I looked to my left just as I saw a red car dangerously close to mine.
Although it was only 3 seconds of my life, the cliche slow motion out of body experience kicked in, giving me time to think through several distinct thoughts.
Why is that car so close?
I think it’s going to hit me.
It’s hitting me.
Those squealing tires are loud.
Those are my squealing tires.
Holy cow. This is happening to me right now.
Wow, I’m not stopping!
Oh that wasn’t so bad. The curb was pretty low.
Now I’m in a parking lot, facing the opposite direction.
Oh shit, am I going to run into the hardware store?
Nope. It’s done. I stopped. Wow. That just happened.
That was my fault. It was completely my fault. Crap.
10 seconds after: I get out of my car and look to see the sweet old lady I just hit get out of her car, mouth agape. “I just got my car back from the repair shop! I can’t believe it!” I lamely call across the traffic that I’m sorry, as I look at my own car, now caddywompus in the parking lot. The red light I just ran is, indeed, still red.
1 minute after: I am trying to give myself a pep talk internally as my mind catches up to the reality of what just happened. It could’ve been a lot worse. I’m fine, this woman is fine. It seems like, miraculously, our cars are both fine. I feel like an idiot, but this doesn’t have to ruin my day. It was an accident, and it happens. In fact, I’m just amazed that this is my first. I’ve made it through 26 years of life without one, and this was truly a best case scenario, if it had to happen. I’m ok, it’s ok, it’s going to be ok…
2 minutes after: My resolve starts to break down as the sweet black lady comes to console me. “You were just distracted, weren’t you darling? It’s ok to be distracted. It’s gonna be alright. You’re shaking! Oh honey, do you need a hug?”
3 minutes after: The police show up surprisingly fast and the questions start coming. Carole, the 80 year old woman who lives just a mile away tells the officers, “She’ll tell you everything, but she knows it’s her fault.” I do and it was, no other way to slice it. Utterly and completely my fault. I start losing the fight against the shame and embarrassment of it all and it becomes more and more difficult to keep my composure. I try to keep the tears in check as I answer the officer’s questions and attempt to participate in the absurd small talk that everyone else is content to throw out. No I don’t live close to here. I’m a school teacher. Yup, first day of summer break. Oh, really? You have a granddaughter close to my age? How nice. I’m sorry I’m not very talkative, I’m just trying to not cry.
10 minutes after: Carole and I part on very amicable terms. In true midwest form, she apologizes to me. The officers give me my ticket and explain what to do next, as onlookers curiously gawk from their cars. I’m hoping my sunglasses hide most of my tears, but some slip down my cheek unchecked.
3 hours after: Having completed the inevitable sobbing on the car ride home, tearful phone call to the parents (full of consolation and next-step advice), and a 30 minute phone call with insurance (not too painful), I am finally ready to sit down and complete my writing assignment. “To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.”
Well, I certainly don’t have writer’s block today. Earlier in the day, I was thinking about how risky writing a blog can feel. I think that there’s something that is so vulnerable about it. Especially when you are trying to blog every day and as a post of your twenty minutes of free-flowing consciousness. I am much more comfortable with being able to internally process, think through, and edit my thoughts before sharing with anyone else (and truth be told, I probably will be doing that before posting it…) Consistently sharing what is on your mind is not something for the faint of heart. I think that blogging everyday, with this writing challenge is going to reveal the messiness inside. The fact that I don’t have it all together, and in fact make blundering mistakes all the time. That was made abundantly clear to me today, standing in the hardware parking lot, for all the world, or at least Waldo to see. The hard evidence that I screwed up. And I couldn’t hide it. Push the backspace button and try again. My humanity, on display for all to see.
So how will I choose to respond to this?
- Own up and admit to my own brokenness, without buying into the weight of shame that wants to crush me.
- Rather than hide my embarrassment, and attempt to put up a cool front, I can let those around me see the tears and just be in the place that I’m in.
- Embrace my imperfect, messy soul: choosing to courageously move forward– not dwelling in regret or guilt.
Both in the aftermath of my car accident, as well as in this venture of blogging, I want to proceed with brave vulnerability, full of grace, and freedom to let it be messy.