What If’s . . . And Other Scary Things In The Night.

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

I suspect that Tale of Two Cities’ opening line is a pretty apt description of most people’s lives. I certainly is of mine. Drama has always found me like a homing pigeon. and I’m pretty certain that “what if” were among my first words.

They say worry is a relentless scavenger. It’s an insidious little thing that crawls around your mind, feasting on whatever it finds. And it finds plenty. At any given moment, your head is host to a whole variety of negative possibilities that ‘could’ happen. In most areas of our life, we’re uber reasonable. We’re self-aware. We can laugh at ourselves. We’re even pretty cool. But that worry thing keeps real peace of mind on hold.

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” Swedish Proverb

Are some of us just born worriers? Does stress come attached to life experiences? Yes — and yes. I’m an heir to legendary anxiety. My parents were worriers to the max, and an array of possible disasters was always on the menu. Could it be that we, like many people, have autonomic nervous systems that seem always to be higher than the average bear? Studies have shown that some of our brains are more wired for worry than others. Great. We can buy a lot of stuff on Amazon but a new brain? Nada

Experiencing trauma gives constant stressing a step up. Been there, done that. Traumatic experiences reset ‘normal’, and raise thoughts about what could happen to the Olympic level. Once encountering that dark side, we can’t take anything for granted ever again. Going forward, everything has a question mark assigned to it and a panic button ready and waiting.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

I think my first wake-up call came the day I arrived home from school as a high school freshman to an empty house and a ringing phone. The person on the other end offered condolences on my brother’s death – but not the one who’d die a few years later. No, their call was about my other brother who, unbeknownst to me, had been hit by a car and was in very serious condition. My terrified parents had raced, to the hospital with no time for a note, leaving me in a vacuum to wonder what had happened. That brother today is a father and grandfather but on long ago fall day, trauma visited us all.

I’m no stranger to panic attacks. They’ve dogged me for years and anyone who’s had one, knows how it feels to have your body hijacked. All of a sudden, you’re breathless, dizzy and feeling doomed. Your heart is out of control and you think you are, too. But once again, you’re being conned by your brain. Oh, that brain of ours. Continue reading

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An Accident . . . of Fate

MyCarRingI don’t know who she was. I don’t know her name, age or where she was going that sunny Saturday noon. But a few nights ago I was told that she, an unsuspecting passenger in the car that hit mine that Saturday — died. I had wondered, in the days since, if she and the driver, not much older than I, were alright given the force of the crash. The truth did not set me free, if indeed I had needed it. Instead, her death hit hard and I grieved for a woman I never knew, who was merely a bit player in a sad, now deadly scenario.

I should be used to life’s wayward swings, its errant pendulum. How else could I explain the crazy things that happen in mine and everyone’s life? Could there another explanation for why, leaving my husband for just an hour, I came home to find him dead of an embolism? Was it his crazy luck of the draw or mine; God’s ‘plan’ or the universe blinking? Whichever way we toss the cards, we’ll never get to hold a full house for long. Even if we get a straight flush in our grasp, none of us hold on to it forever.

Accidents don’t come with a bell around its neck.

When I envision that fateful day, just 3 weeks ago, I wonder what might have changed the trajectory of each of our fates. Maybe I could have browsed longer for gifts or took another route home. The mom driving the car behind me, could have taken the kids that usually sat in the empty car seats instead of likely leaving them with her husband so she could run some quick errands. And the car barreling toward both of us? What put them on that road, in the wrong lane and speeding without slowing down. Were they going to visit friends, grandchildren, even an early movie? All I know is that something went terribly wrong that noon hour and a woman is dead because of it. The driver? I have to think a spirit is broken, and a heart is heavier than the weight of all three of the cars.

Just one moment can change everything. A momentary lapse in judgment or ability can happen and, in a blink of an eye, something irrevocable happens. That kind of realization can cause a mighty kick in the gut.

Message received. Continue reading