Tue, February 20, 2007


It only takes the blink of an eye to realize how vulnerable we are every day.

If you’re anything like me, you try to push those vulnerabilities out of your consciousness so you can get through the day.

Fluffy down jackets steel us from winter’s icy winds. Sunscreen will protect our skin from cancer.

We hope and pray that our vehicles will shield us, to some extent, from being vulnerable to accidents.

And, often, we create a mental fortress to deal with those we encounter who use belligerence as a weapon – those who act aggressively as a way to deflect their own insecurities.

But then something happens to shatter our illusion of safety and makes that fantasy fortress crumble – like the car accident I had last week while I was driving R. home from school.

Rush hour traffic, slick roads from the fresh coat of freezing rain and sleet, and a driver trying to cross four lanes of traffic in a giant SUV are a dangerous combination – especially when the other driver leaps from his car shouting accusations and threats, uncaring as to possible injuries, concerned only for redirecting blame and protecting his Suburban.

I thought we would be OK on the way home because I was being careful – driving slowly, headlights on, vigilant (I thought) for other drivers, protecting my daughter and myself from the things outside the car.

But all the care and watchfulness I thought I was exercising didn’t matter – ultimately, I couldn’t protect us from a car accident or from the vitriolic words of a driver trying to redirect the focus of blame, someone comfortable using aggressive verbal tactics to gain control of a situation and trying to instill fear to gain an upper hand.

Somehow, I managed to maintain a façade of strength in front of my daughter, who was hysterical after being temporarily stuck in the car after the airbags deployed. Once out of the car, the SUV driver knew exactly what barbs to throw to make a mother doubt herself and scare a first-grade girl.

The veil of security I had constructed for myself is now gone. But I know I need to sew a new one to navigate the subsequent offenses that will inevitably cross my path. I have been shaken and my confidence in managing the everyday slights we all face is gone.

I’m not sure how to reconstruct my personal fortress, but I know I have to find a way. The ‘what-ifs’ are already intruding into my thoughts and my dreams and the feeling of being gun shy about daily life isn’t one I’m comfortable with.

I’ve pondered trading in my little red four-door sedan for something larger that might leave me with the aura of armor. But I realize that my perceived safety in the world was just an illusion – the thought that buying a bigger vehicle will protect me and my family is a mere chimera because a larger car or van or SUV would not have prevented the accident or the subsequent injuries or the shockingly hurtful words of others looking for cover.

I’m trying to follow my doctor’s advice and “get back on the horse.” It’s not an easy task to get behind the wheel of life again with my daughter’s words still haunting me, “Mommy, are we going to die?”

But if I don’t, then the bully has won. And I won’t let that happen.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

19 Responses to “Vulnerable”

  1. impromptublogger Says:

    I’m so sorry about your accident. The weather was very treacherous last week and I can see why there was no school during that time. I got stuck in my driveway several times.

    When my dd was 7, she and dh were in a car accident where the car got totaled. Both were fine, but she was very shook up and it took us all a while to recover. For a long time I was supercautious when driving. The first 2-3 weeks are going to be a bit rough, but it’ll get easier.

    Hugs to you all.

  2. Mitch McDad Says:

    Glad you two weren’t hurt…cars are so scarey. I drive hundreds of miles a week and see horrible accidents. Maybe we should all get big old Hummers and wear helmets.

    I just had a death ride home in white-out conditions from the mountains in CO, last week. Still a little gittery and we didn’t get hit.

    Don’t feel bad, it takes time.

  3. cooper Says:

    Oh, I am so sorry. But I am SO GLAD you are OK. I have that place I sometimes go to in the middle of the night – the ‘what if’ place. Ugh. I hate when that happens. It is those times I realize what a delicate balance we all are in and that is scary as hell. I will be thinking about you….

  4. Dawn Says:

    I am so sorry and so angry on your behalf. Thank goodness you’re both physically ok and I hope your other hurts mend quickly!!

  5. Momish Says:

    OMG! I am so sorry about your accident, but more about your boggle in your self faith. Your doctor is right, as tough as it is you just have to trust yourself and get back on the horse. But, really, it sounds like you are being too hard on yourself for allowing this person to bully and rattle you. Don’t be, please. Bullies do that and do it well. If you weren’t frazzled, then that would only mean you understood their twisted motives. Being attacked when your already down would shake up anyone. But, you know what is going on and time will get you right back to yourself.

    I am really glad you are both ok!

  6. scribbit Says:

    I’m so sorry–what a dreadful thing to happen.

    And I’m deeply sorry for the loss of your friend Marjorie, what a sad way to see our city.

  7. Damselfly Says:

    It *is* hard to get back in a car after a crash. And I would have melted to hear a little one ask your daughter’s question. Gulp. In a few days, I hope, that other driver’s attitude will have slipped out of your mind and you’ll feel better.

  8. Andrea Says:

    I’m very glad you’re okay. It is scary. Especially getting in the driver’s seat again, knowing that you couldn’t have prevented what happened even if you’d tried. It’s a reality. I’m just glad you’re all safe.

    And I hope that mouthy driver wasn’t able to take the verbal upper hand with the police who wrote out the accident report.

  9. Paige Says:

    I’m so glad you’re both okay!

  10. Nancy Says:

    Sometimes when I hear stories like yours I think maybe this isn’t the place I want to raise my girls. I’ve seen too much of that behavior myself.

    I am glad you and R are OK, at least physically. I’m not far away if there is anything you need.

  11. PunditMom Says:

    Thanks for all your kind wishes!

  12. Amanda Says:

    It’s tenuous, this feeling safe as a parent, feeling able to protect from harm and fear. I am so sorry that you’ve been hit in this tender area. I find myself becoming more nervous each day (oh the strength of genetic coding) so I don’t have any pearls. I’ll just hope things even out for you.

  13. Shannon Says:

    I’m so sorry you had to experience that. I’m glad you’re okay. Although it must have been an unpleasant experience, I’m sure you set a wonderful example for your daughter in handling the verbal assault of the other driver.

  14. Gunfighter Says:

    Sorry to hear about your accident, PM.

    You want me to hunt that guy down and “talk to him” about his behavior?

  15. Queen of the Mayhem Says:

    Definitely DON’T let the bully win! You know the law well enough to know that, no matter how hard someone tries to manipulate the situation….the facts are the facts. Did you have a witness?

    All you can do is get back to your everyday life…..soon it won’t be so difficult. I hope you are not hurt! Take care!

    What a blessing that you and R. were okay!

    I am sorry to hear the other driver was such a jerk!

  16. Kelley Says:

    I know exactly the kind of person you encountered. I don’t understand that person at all. His behavior was inexcusable and…just deplorable in a way that terrifies me.

    You hit the nail on the head with what you said about insecurity; it’s the common characteristic of all bullies. It’s incomprehensible to me that some people let their insecurity completely erode their sense of compassion. I’m so sorry you encountered someone like him in circumstances that were already traumatic.

    I imagine it’s very difficult to explain scary things like traffic accidents to a first grader, but how do you explain that man’s behavior to a child? It’s hard enough for us to wrap our adult minds around people like that.

  17. Lawyer Mama Says:

    OH my goodness. I’m so glad neither of you was physically hurt. But I understand completely what you mean about losing your psychological fortress. I was in a very bad car accident when I was 3 months pregnant with my second child. The driver who caused the accident also tried to deflect blame, although not in an agressive way. Thankfully, my son was not in the car. I STILL have nightmares about that & I can only imagine that it was even worse for you with Rachel there and having to be strong for her. It will get better. I promise. Just don’t let the bully win.

  18. Anali Says:

    Oh no! I just read this post. I’m so sorry about the accident. That’s just the worst feeling. I hope that you and your daughter are feeling better.

  19. PunditMom Says:

    Thanks so much for everyone’s good wishes and concerns. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things are on the upswing — haven’t had to touch the “heavy meds” yet!

Leave a Reply