Ideal Accident II

I know not a lot of people seem to believe in God given moments of strength anymore. Yet, even while I didn’t expect it, it was certainly made clear to me.

It’s amazing how in all His power He shows Himself in whispers. How clearly we see them after He has been so soft and subtle. How foolish I often feel that He was holding me in His hands and I never knew.

Yet, how many does He hold and they refuse to see.

Since the car accident, I have taken to heart a great deal of thankfulness and humility in a very short amount of time. Mainly because, it has come to my attention, that I did not once have a panic attack during our trip about driving. Even during and after the accident.

This is only a complete miracle. Considering that prior to the accident I had so many concerns about driving such long distances. Yet, in the moment of crisis, I was not panicked to dysfunction, but rather I was able to act in clarity and with sober (albeit shaken) emotions.

Upon this realization I thanked God feverishly over that. Because there is nothing within me that indicates that I should have been able to do so. Even my husband, whom I love and is usually the level headed one, was brought to an unreal place of panic that I had to coach him through after he got off the phone with the police. Even then I was so proud of him for holding it together while he called the cops.

Still, Im certain so little of that was in our own strength. It was clearly a God moment for me, and I continue to be shameless about telling myself and others that it was.

Not only that though. The fact that engineers were created to give us safe cars is a miracle. The fact that police officers put themselves in such a place of danger to help people like us on dangerous interstates is a miracle. The same for tow trucks who maneuver heavy machinery to keep the highways safe for others is a miracle too.

In light of darker times, seeing people help other people can also seem like a miracle.

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Ideal Accident

People always say “It happened so fast,” and you nod in agreement usually because you can, to a degree, understand how an accident can only take a few seconds to happen, but unless you have been in an accident, you really don’t know how quickly “so fast” happens.

Today I learned the hard way.

We hydroplaned on the interstate and ran into the median. I knew the moment I tapped my break to decelerate from my cruise control as I felt my car fishtail that it had been a mistake to even tap the break at all. Neither of us was hurt. Both of us were shook up and knew we were not emotionally fit to drive.

The cop was really friendly. He issued no ticket since he had also been caught in the downpour prior and nearly lost control himself. Low visibility then too. Traffic didn’t slow. It didn’t even slow when we hit the wall, but then again we hit no one and thus no one felt obligated to stop. He kept saying how it was good that we were both buckled and that I did all I did to stay out of the rest of traffic, however ungraceful it felt.

My aunt drove us half way home, my dad met us at a park-n-ride and took us the rest of the way. We loaded, unloaded, and reloaded vehicles. I spent at least an hour on the phone with the insurance agent as we sat in a BK parking lot. In all honesty I told the insurance gal that if I had to have my first accident this was an ideal accident to have happen. It was near family. It was just us. I did all I could to stay in my lane and hit no one else. It could not have gone better as far as accidents were concerned. Still the sinking feeling of watching our own bumper get ripped off and the sparks flying as we scrapped helplessly to a halt against the concrete didn’t make the accident seem so ideal.

I wondered what would have happened if we had left a little later in the morning? If we had went to the in-laws first before we got on the road? Would conditions have been improved? Would it have mattered? Then, to top it all off, I totaled my husbands car and induced quite a panic attack in him. I kept finding myself asking if he was mad at me for breaking his car. He said he was mad that he didn’t have a car, but not mad that I had an accident. It wasn’t my fault. He was just glad we were alive despite his attachment to his little car, which was old and probably was nearing the end of its long life anyway.

A little whiplash had settled into my neck, so I took an epsom salt bath and some Tylenol after I had finished all my phone calls to the family. My husband joined me in the tub a little while later and held me close as I thanked God silently for the safety we were granted in our accident. We stayed there until the water cooled before snuggling our aching bodies in bed together and breathing in unison as the cats cuddled near our feet. We still had my car. We were alive and home. It was enough.

The Vacation That Wasn’t

When one goes on vacation in the area that family lives, one really isn’t on vacation. I have noticed this since becoming an adult, and it was further reinforced when I got married. We come to MI to relax, and we end up leaving way more tired than we came.

Were it my choice, and had I the funds to stay in the area without and family knowing, I would simply not notify anyone that I was around, and take time to myself to recover from the busy hustle and bustle of my own daily life, unfortunately, my husband is not that way. He would rather let everyone know we are around, and then let all others instigate our plans, by making them for us…because as I’ve said before, he is not a master of planning.

While well meaning, my family is not exactly a relaxing group of people to be around. They are intense, opinionated, loud, and not always the wisest. Still, they’re well meaning. They just think everyone should be happy. An opinion I have mentioned in previous posts, that I do not hold. I don’t think life is about being happy. I believe it is about doing the right thing, even when it is not in our nature to do so and can mean personal unhappiness. So I often just smile and tell them that everything is wonderful. Because that is easier than arguing with them about learning to ride the waves of that which we do not enjoy or find happiness in.

Coming to visit the family is very much a chore, but one that is an act of love I try to put efforts into all the same. I want to have a relationship with my family, even if it is a shallow one (because my family struggles with depth) and I want them to know that I am willing and glad to love them to the extent they’ll let me. However, this takes great effort from me, because the emotional toll of giving them my time when it often feels a bit wasteful, is difficult. I’m not good at small talk. I’m not good at talking about myself verbally. I’m not good at being around groups of people for very long amounts of time. So spending time with my family exhausts me. Which makes vacations to visit them, no vacation at all.

My husband, of course, is completely in his element on these occasions, so much of the time he drags me around to the homes of friends and family at his own pace, and often I have to tell him to leave me be for a bit and go visit people without me, simply because I cannot people anymore. Only yesterday I had driven two hours from where we were staying to visit my brother and sister-in-law because we had not yet seen their new house up north. It’s a lovely place, but of course, after having driven two hours back home, my husband wants to go spend time with his own grandmother, by this point I’ve spent a total of 9 hours driving in two days time and seen not only both brother and his wife and my aunts (whom we are staying with), but also my in-laws, a couple friends, and my grand parents. In two days. That’s just too much for me. So I sent him off to visit his grandmother on his own, because I just couldn’t make it happen. I was too exhausted.

This afternoon we have a lunch at my grandparents house. Both my aunts, my in-laws, and us will be there. After that we may go spend time with my sister-in-law to watch movies, or I’ll just send my husband and hope she understands that is have spent far too much time with people to have energy for that sort of thing. I just need to take a long nap or something.

Backyard

“You’re a designer. Sketch how you want it to look.” She said to me over the edge of her Martini while I sipped slowly and dreamily on my own. I knew she was right, but it was also so easy for her to say. She was a master gardener after all. Her yard was much smaller than mine and teaming with life. She also made so much more money than me, which helped considerably and made the blow of a plant failing a little less of a financial let down.

I’m not a very good gardener. I can keep some things alive, like chives and sage and wildflowers and…weeds…lots of weeds. I just have a really busy lifestyle, and it often keeps me from being able to tend to flowers to nurture them into the plants they can be. So even though I enjoy the blooms, and the food some plants can produce, I really struggle to get anything going. Especially if it’s finicky.

My garden has a few things going for it thankfully. Under the shade of my neighbors cedars and at the base of his privacy fence in the back yard I have been fortunate enough to have a few solid perennials. The raspberry and strawberry plants are really happy and keep coming back in droves even with little to no berry yield. Previous owners had planted them so I inherited them along with the purchase of my home, and I have been great full they exists. Plus I enjoy the tiny white flowers that the strawberries grow. They help to break up all the green of the grass in that part of the yard, and the raspberry leaves can make a nice tea.

The other good fortune I have is I have some beautiful tulips, a peony plant, and some columbine (which showed up last summer and again this year) , all of which seem to bloom a little more each year. So thankfully the very small and full-shad part of my garden seems to be bursting with life. I even built one of those in-ground bird baths with some beach stones, old bricks from my parents old chimney, and a porcelain baking dish I never use. Which turned out pretty well I think.

It’s my full-sun area that seems to be my trouble now. I have far too many ideas as to what to do with it and not enough money to make it all happen. The yard is so deep and plain that the blank canvas that is screaming for copious amounts of paint to color it. I’ve gone over every possibility. I’ve considered stone patios and more privacy fencing. I’ve looked on Pinterest for water features and landscaping ideas. I’ve looked at getting a gazebo or three seasons room. We built a fire pit just to help quell my desire for some kind of outdoor living space. We haven’t really put chairs around it, but we haven’t even had a chance to have a fire in it yet.

I’ve terrified my wallet and stimulated my brain into far too many possibilities that I became overwhelmed, shut down, and had to stop looking at all those things altogether. I got the wants badly, and then reality hit that I don’t make enough money to have those kinds of wants.

So, one night while I was home alone and my husband was working late, I finally took my friends advice and sketched out what I wanted in my back garden. I can keep sage alive, and really like the way it smells, plus I cook with it so I figured that could be something I get more of to help things along. I also know my mother will be separating her hostas this summer at some point, and I’ll be getting a few of those, so I sketched out my placement for them. I also really feel like my tulips are doing well, so I thought trying another bulb plant, like Irises, would be a nice touch of color, and honestly, I don’t even care what color they end up. Then I thought some colorful tall grasses would help pretty up the old washed out fence. My parents have some rocks they pulled out of their yard while landscaping last year, and They said I could have them if I wanted them. So sketched those in too. Then I colored the whole thing in gel pen, just to get a little impression of color. Minimal color, but enough that I could live with it.

By the end of my night I had managed a crude sketch of a small and affordable idea for the garden and at least got a little plant list going. Even if it doesn’t happen this summer, I at least have some kind of goal on what to get a little at a time to accomplish the outcome. Which helps get rid of all the frivolous wants…for now.

Panic Attacks and Long Drives

I was never this way before. I didn’t start having panic attacks until I was in college. Ever since then I feel like I’ve had them regularly for a few years. Medications don’t seem to help. In fact they make me lose my appetite with the knot it puts in my stomach. Then the shaky feeling that feels like a low blood sugar. Which as a diabetic can be super distracting when I constantly feel like I’m dying.

Last night was no exception. When I was thinking about having to drive through Milwaukee and Chicago to visit family in Michigan, I had yet another panic attack. When my husband came home from work around 11pm he asked me why I looked like I had been crying and all I could do was express how much I hated driving and how I had a bad emotional reaction to thinking about it. He said nothing of course. What can he say? He hates driving just as much as I do. Still, I wish he would at least try. Mainly because I feel like if he only tried, he’d realize that it is possible. He can do it. Just like I can do it even in my deep dislike of driving and my fear of driving in large cities.

It really isn’t that bad once you do it. That’s what I have to keep telling myself. Most of it is pretty normal interstate driving. Yes there are lots of cars and lane switches. Yes there can be bumper to bumper traffic and all you have to do is breath and keep driving. In the moment of driving I’m too focused on driving to be concerned with anything else, including the fear of driving.

I still have to be careful with all these assumptions. Mainly because just because that is my experience, that doesn’t mean it’ll be his. I just wish I knew how to encourage him.

Confession: Lost Boys and Long Drives

When my vacation time was officially approved, I felt a sense of dread. I enjoy visiting family for the most part, but it’s the freaking driving I cannot stand. Five hours through two large cities. I can’t handle it. Not this week.

Still, I’m doing it.

Unfortunately, my husband does not do long distance driving. Firstly, he isn’t a good driver when he doesn’t know where he is going. Secondly, he tends to fall asleep at the wheel. Thirdly, he is anxious. Very anxious. Which clouds all his rational thinking. So of course, I have to drive. Which is exhausting. He never even offers to drive, it is always assumed that I will.

It’s days like this that I miss pieces of the people I grew up with. People who were good friends and familiars. Mostly, old exes sometimes that I think about who used to take me on drives because it helped me sleep in college. Exes I used to call dear friends now long since unhappy from the breakup and much more distant in spirit than in miles. It’s days like this where I whisper their name to my heart and while I feel no romantic love for them, I still feel for them and some days I miss the friendship even if I don’t miss the romantic relationship. I miss the acts of service they provided gladly towards me to show they valued me. I miss being able to give to them in the manner that showed them I cared. I wish that something, whatever it was, never got ruined the way it did.

How interesting it is that years can go by without a second thought of that person, and then suddenly, all at once, they become some kind of fixture in a pivotal point in your life that you refuse to let go of the memories of? Still, while important, they still hurt. How much more interesting that you start to inspect the flaws of whomever you’re married to and still compare them to people you were once attracted too? What people never tell you about marriage is that you still find yourself attracted to past or even new people in your life. It never stops, and while you’re in a marriage it doesn’t make your ability to become attracted to someone new, or even someone old, comforting, and familiar. Perhaps more familiar than the spouse you have now.

While no one teaches you these things happen, there is still that part of you that is glad that exes are exes. There is still that piece of the puzzle that helps you keep that in check: the hurt. The hurt of the end and whatever betrayal that caused it. While it isn’t the best reason, nor is it the most healthy, I think it’s still a good point to recall and feel over and over again when you need to remember it. While most people in life try to avoid hurt, I find that it’s important to learn from it and recall why it hurt.

I tend to have the perspective that life is not about being happy. What it’s about is doing the right thing, and while doing the right thing can be messy and painful, it makes the right thing no less the right thing. Because I am now married, and have made the choice to be so, I have to do the right thing and not let my mind, heart, and body stray away from loving my husband, so I remind myself that no one else can love me the way my husband does. No one else tucks me in bed after long days of work that exhaust my introverted nature. No one else can make me cry tears of joy. No one else is worth my tears of sorrow. No one else has ever tried so hard to understand. No one else has ever come so close to understanding.

Still, I wish he would drive so I don’t have to.

“Just rest.” He said tucking me in. Assuring me that I did not have to people anymore. Though my mind swirled with too much. Too much from the work day had happened. Too many different projects suddenly became fires. Too many fires became too much crunch time. Too much crunch time became too much for me. Too many people came in and out of my office looking for results from me, and I delivered, but at a cost.

I came home feeling like I was hung over. A common trait that happens when I desperately need to introvert. My husband knew the moment he saw me laying in the middle of the yard on a blanket that I had peopled enough. He ran to DQ, let me eat, and then ushered me inside the house and put me in bed.

“No more peopling today baby.”

Of course he retreated to his man cave to watch a particularly loud war film of some sort, and I laid in bed. Sun pouring through the window, head aching, and noise upon noise pouring out of the basement directly beneath our bedroom.

Did I want to rest? Yes and no. Yes, because I was exhausted. No because I had so much I could be doing. Like digging the hole for the fire pit we were going to build, or sanding and staining the cabinets in the bathroom before my father changed the floor and toilet for us. I could stand to vacuum the whole house and clean the bathroom too. I could go through my closet and see what I could stand to get rid of. I could dig up my garden.

None of it was getting done though. Not until I was able to people again. Or at least after a nap…a nap that probably wouldn’t come.

The Golden Rule

“Do you ever have moments where you feel like your perspective of faith inhibits you from taking care of yourself?”

“I can’t say that I have. Why do you?” He responded groggily and slightly muffled by his pillow as he laid in bed next to me. I had been laying awake for a good long while coming painfully slowly to a personal realization.

“Yes, I do.”

“How so?”

I began explaining it in a jumbled and partially incoherent stream of thought. But the basics of it came down to this: I spent so much of my life focusing on the self sacrifice of my faith, that I had become toxic in it, and often gave up things that were healthy habits for me to continue, because I felt like they were things I could give up in order to practice self sacrifice and take care of other things or because I thought it was selfish of me to take care of myself.

For a real life example, when I got married, my husband and I began contributing to a joint account while also holding on to our own personal bank accounts so that we could build a fund together to pay for joint expenses like insurance and groceries, but still have our own money to make purchases for ourselves without needing to talk it over. Of course, I contribute quite a bit to it so that we can build a better savings, but in doing so I had to give up purchasing vitamins and lotion to take care of common diabetic issues I deal with frequently. I felt like these were things I didn’t need, but rather could do okay without. After having stopped taking my vitamins, I began to see a decline in my health, both emotionally and physically. I stopped taking my St Johns Wort, which I used to help my mood when depression was getting bad. I stopped taking a couple vitamins I used for my blood sugar regulation, and my blood sugars got higher. I stopped taking my vitamin for my kidneys and sure enough….my kidney function went down when I got them checked soon after.

Of course, I spoke to my husband about it when I began to notice the severity of the changes, and I decidedly began taking vitamins again and contributing less to the joint account to do so, but it had been a choice made in my Christian faith to contribute so much to my household financially while also allowing me to practice a form of self sacrifice and self control.

What I hadn’t understood was how backward I had it. Self sacrifice doesn’t mean giving up your health in the name of faith. It was actually the opposite. To “love your neighbor as yourself” there had to be a little love of self in there to fully understand how that works.

The more I think of it, the more I realize I had done this for relationships too. I had practiced giving myself to people by offering them my time, only to have them use me to the point of abuse. I recall a former friend ho was very toxic, controlling, and destructive. Still, I held onto a relationship with this person because I had the perspective that I was to love people no matter what, and that’s what I as asked to do out of love, stick with this person and allow the abuse. Allow the hostilities to constantly come back and hurt my feelings, because that was love and I was being forgiving.

No it isn’t and no I wasn’t.

I understand now that love can be at a distance. I wasn’t being a good loving friend by enabling their toxicity. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that everything they did to me was okay, it just gave me a means of moving on from what they did to harm me and taught me to accept an apology I was never given. I was not obligated to stay friends with them if they were becoming harmful. So I forgave them and never spoke to them again.

The more I think about it the more I’m beginning to realize that much of what I thought was selfish or at some point in my life was told was selfish of me….is actually what my faith asks me to do. It’s to be joyful and have love for myself and to take good care of myself. To invest in the things that help me to be a better person and to keep me healthy so that I can take care of others, is actually just being responsible for what I have been given in life, which is exactly what Christians are called to do.

Where the mistake often gets made is the act of overindulgence. Things that are not absolute necessities to live are what we can self sacrifice and have self control in. We are asked to take care of that which we have chosen to be responsible for or are called to be responsible for. Our responsibilities and priorities to God, ourselves and our family are what ought to be our focus. For me, my health affects a huge part of my life. If I am not doing all I can to remain healthy, I cannot take care of my husband who I promised Before God that I would take care of. If I am not healthy, I cannot take care of my home because I will not have the energy to do so. If I am not healthy, my actions are not going to be in alignment with God’s commands and I will not be in an emotional place to be kind, caring, and loving. My health holds a lot weight in my faith, and by sacrificing my health, I have found that my faith hasn’t been health either.

I can’t believe in all my years of being a follower of Christ that this had never occurred to me, but I realize more and more that so many people of faith have this backwards too. Probably the same people who lead me to this impression of sacrificing health as a means of self sacrifice, were probably told the same thing by another toxic person before them and so on, to the point that it just became a cultural norm.

Well the toxicity of my culture stops here, and it’s time to learn a little more self love.

Dark Offices

It was the day the Board was coming to visit, and of course, as these things go…the power was out. How did we expect any different? Well, we didn’t.

As it turned out the night before had a small thunderstorm with low and mild thunder, but a great deal of lightning. The city workers informed us that the power would be out for a while because lightning had struck and caused a surge which made a ton of problems for us. About an hour in the power came back…then after 15 min, it went out again. The Board member were not amused, and while the rest of us were kinda enjoying it, they were upset about the request for our company to have a generator installed, and grumbled about the finances of it all in the meeting…loudly.

We sat in the dark speaking quietly amongst ourselves about our life experiences. Separating ourselves from the meeting room as much as we could. As the hours went by the conversations took interesting turns, and as the maintenance men came around informing us of the situation, it seemed that our power was going to be off for a good long while.

I was surprised, like my coworkers, that we didn’t have some kind of backup generator or something to keep things running in the office in the first place, until I heard the arguing in the meeting room and realized the corners that were cut to keep operations running, albeit not smoothly. Manufacturing was sent home, since it was a hazard for them to stay out in the plant in the dark. The office was on standby. I was worried about the state of customer service who was also on standby.

What I was more surprised about, as coworkers came and went from our office (which was the only office with a couch), was how much the darkness was breaking down barriers. It was as if the dark became some kind of safe haven for the soul. More was revealed to each other, words were less filtered, and conversations deepened in the dark.

Our first topic of discussion was things people are afraid of as children. Snakes, old fire furnaces, alligators, crocodiles, and parents abandoning you were the results. Next, we spoke of what everyone was doing on 9/11, and discussed emotions and the moment by moment activities. Then of course, paranormal experiences. Because what else would you talk about in the dark?

After a while people started to migrate between offices. I went to accounting and talked for a while before moving on to sales. All the while I chuckled at how each type of conversation was more or less appropriate for the area. Of course we would talk literature in the accounting area/ book keeping, because information is their forte! Of course the sales people would talk current events and local gossip, because trends are their job!

Afterward, I felt so much closer to my team. The walls were broken and the stories flowed out of people so naturally. We were all just people now. Not coworkers, but real people looking for connections and relatable subjects. We were just sitting in the dark trying to make time go by…at least until we knew if we could leave or not.

Alas, the lights came back on and the whole office groaned. Disappointed that work had to commence. The servers were taking forever to reboot, but the intimacy was gone with the darkness. Eventually it would be back to business as usual.

As I spoke to one of the accountants about the notion of darkness allowing us to be more of ourselves, he agreed.

“I like this. We should do this every week. You know, make it a thing. ” He commented.

I concurred.