Driving back from Bradley Airport in Connecticut was usually uneventful. This time I had dropped my sister off to catch her flight back to Chicago after her Christmas visit. My youngest son, then 3, was sitting in his car seat in the back. It was a cold, snowy, day and the roads were wet. I clenched the steering wheel, white knuckled, since my tires were ridiculously bald. Buying new tires has always been a pet peeve of mine-it is such an unfun, expensive thing to spend money on. I had been warned by my mechanic, my husband, and members of my husband’s family, that my tires were in desperate need of being replaced.
I pulled off to grab a quick bite with my little guy and returned a call to one of my co-workers before getting back on the highway. About 5 miles or so from my exit, I completely lost control of the car. My tires hydroplaned on what I assume was black ice, and my car fishtailed for a split second. From there, we went into a complete spin. I saw faces of oncoming drivers, squeezed my eyes shut, and braced for an impact I was sure would end both of our lives. I believe we spun one and a half times because of the way the car ended up positioned. We were heading sideways into the guardrail. When I realized that miraculously no one had hit us, I frantically pressed the brake and the accelerator. Unfortunately, my car would only coast. It was in some kind of neutral function and nothing seemed to work with the exception of the steering wheel. The car was coming to a very dangerous slow speed with cars flying around us -honking and flashing their lights. A man in a pick up truck next to me rolled down his window with a look of total exasperation and shouted, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Are you OK? Oh my God! Pull Over! Pull Over! Oh my God!”
I felt paralyzed. I started screaming and talking to myself and everything looked and felt blurry. Not sure if things can feel blurry, but that is the best description that comes to mind. We had just escaped certain death by 20 cars hitting us from every direction. It seemed improbable good luck would strike twice, and I was convinced we would now die going 25 mph on the packed highway in the snow with bald tires while I was going into shock-incapable of maneuvering a car.
Somehow, the car began to pick up speed little by little again and came out of the self inflicted neutral mode. An exit was coming up and I had to cross 3 lanes of traffic to get there. It felt like running the gauntlet in slow motion to get across those lanes. I made it across and parked the car at the bottom of the ramp. I cried for what felt like a really long time. I got out of the car and went in the backseat and hugged my son and cried harder. He stared at me, confused by my tears and unfazed by the whole experience (he had been asleep).
I called my husband to come get us. Needless to say, new tires were bought the next day. Unfun and expensive new tires, that I will never miss a beat on buying ever again.
Ringing in the New Year felt surreal last year following this experience. No matter how I dissected that incident, it just didn’t seem possible my son and I should have lived given the circumstances.
For about a week after it happened I just kept wondering if we were spared for a reason. Was there something else we needed to do here on earth before leaving it? My thoughts were heavy with what if’s, why’s, and how’s. But there was something else that wouldn’t leave me-the thought that I was going to have to make some significant changes in 2017.
Given this second chance, it seemed whole-heartedly stupid to allow or partake in anything that brought me down or sapped my happiness. If life is already too short, and you got a second chance at it, you sure as hell aren’t going to muddle through the sludge anymore.
I said to myself that no matter what: I would find a way to leave my miserable job,practice being more present with my family, dance more, write more, call friends more instead of texting them,continue my efforts in training my brain via meditation (still much work to do on this one), stop putting so much energy into fickle people who put in one tenth of the effort, hike more with my kids, give myself a break and realize some things can simply wait until tomorrow.
Now that 2017 is almost behind me, I can look back and say it was a year of much personal growth. Quitting the job did actually happen (thank you dear husband), little to no toxic people are in any of my circles (yay because that means my picker hasn’t been off). The people around me-they are there because they want to be, not because I chase them down and put in all the effort.
2017 was a year of reflection. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, from our inspirations, and from our past, then we are doomed. We are the opposite of self aware. We are eternally stuck. Reflection is ongoing and fluid and each year should always be a year of reflection in my opinion.
It wasn’t a perfect year by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a year of change, reflection, and growth. It was a year that in its final months gave the priceless gift of more time with my children. It was the first year I started actively slowing down and asking myself what kind of self care I engaged in that week. It was the first year of noticing the difference between what’s truly important versus what insignificant BS floods the mind. It was the year my husband showed up like a superhero in a cape and helped me not when it counted, but too many times to count (I’ll always wonder if he has any sense of the magnitude of my gratitude…that weirdly rhymed). And last but certainly not least, it was the year I really started to pay attention.
“Pay Attention To What You are Paying Attention To.” – Howard Rheingold
Hopefully all of you reading this drive safely this New Year’s Eve and New Year. Play a game quickly after reading this and ask yourselves if you were to cease to exist tomorrow, what have you been paying the most attention to? How would you be remembered? Do your friends and family know you love them? Are you doing right by yourself and taking care of yourself in the way you should? Are you putting your happiness on hold in hopes that good fortune will knock on your door one day and rain down upon you? Are you living or existing? Is the effort reciprocated in most, if not all of your friendships? After answering these questions, will you change your perspective going into 2018? Food for thought.
Happy New Year everyone!