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?”