Life stopped me today.
I felt the pressure on my chest. It was the exact same feeling I had when my Dad’s arm flung to hold me from lunging into the dash from hard braking. Life pushed on me and I felt an overwhelming sense to stop and feel the message. The sensation was urgent. Insistent. A feeling of being fully surrounded. My body alert, electrified and I could hear a sound like a fetal heart monitor thrumming in my ears.
I had other things to write about today. A pile of unfinished work, a list of errands and emails and all the extras life expects me to handle. I had a headache mocking me - convincing me I wouldn’t get any of it done.
Not one bit.
But sometimes life stops you - like it did for me today. I looked out my office window and watched as the trees bent sideways, the dark gray clouds turning into padded walls - suffocating and low. The thunder growls without ending...it just keeps rumbling like a stomach begging to churn. There was a summer storm. Some storms are scarier than others, but something about this one told me to go home. I felt an extraordinary presence. Impossible to describe other than it felt ethereal. I wasn’t afraid of it - I was afraid of its urgency.
Leave now. Drive home. Don’t wait.
I thought I was being sent home because of the impending storm. I thought the presence I was feeling commanded me to check on my daughter. She would be alone since her brother left for work less than ½ hour ago. The AccuWeather alert escalated from a Thunderstorm Warning to Dangerous Thunderstorm - Seek shelter. A quick glance at the Life360 app showed me that my son made it to his job. As I hurried to my car, lightning cast like magic across the darkening sky. The wind tore at my skirt and I struggled to pull the car door shut behind me. Inside, my whole body felt a strong tremor of fear. It shook through me as the thunder rattled the ground. Heavy, pelting rain blurred the windshield even though I had the wipers on the fastest setting.
I thought for a minute that this is ridiculous. It’s a storm. It’ll pass. I can wait it out and then go back inside to work. Summer storms happen all the time. This one is no different. Nearly on cue, the wind subsided. The trees stood tall again and the rain fell into a soft pattering. The sudden stillness was unnerving. I felt electricity rise underneath my skin and finger down my back worse than any horror movie. I shook my shoulders to escape the feeling but it was still there.
Leave now. Drive home. Don’t wait.
I moved my shaking hand onto the gear shift and dropped it into drive. The storm regained its hostility and raged the entire trip home. In less than 6 minutes I was in our subdivision - 2 minutes more, I turned onto our street. As I crested the hill and looked to the left to see our gray and brick house come into view - I knew exactly what was wrong. The garage door was up - empty of cars. A wide mouth open to the world.
WHERE DOES OUR FEAR COME FROM?
Our subdivision has over 500 homes. It’s in a rural setting considering how close we are to the city. Most of the time, the neighborhood is quiet - not sleepy - just a regular buzz of coming and going, turning on streets, stopping at stop signs or waiting for geese to cross the road. It’s a great place and most of the time it’s a friendly community of hand waves and checking on our neighbors. But recently we’ve had a nasty rash of car break-ins. No busted windows because our clever thieves used their talents (and probably a Slim Jim tool) for bad rather than good.
Not only have the recent car break-ins made our homeowners edgy and demanding better security at the front gate, but it’s also generated the fear of worst-case scenarios. Instead of breaking into cars, maybe the perpetrators will move into our houses. What about when we’re away at work - or on vacation? Should we invest in outside cameras? Increase our home security?
I hadn’t been sent home because of the storm. My daughter was alone during a terrifying storm with the garage door up. Didn’t she text me a few minutes ago and say she was getting in the shower? Did my son leave on time for work? Does that mean the garage door has been up for 10 minutes? 20 minutes? A half an hour tops? My heart pounded at jackrabbit speed. I squealed the tires turning up our driveway. Why did he forget to put the door down? Did he lock the interior door? Was he running late?
I shoved the gear shift into park. I unbuckled and jumped out of the car. I took the garage stairs two at a time and barreled through the door and nearly slipped on the kitchen floor.
My daughter walked around the corner with a towel wrapped around her wet hair. Her usual blue eyes, now dark with full black pupils absorbing every bit of surprise and alarm. One of our dogs padded into the room and stood beside her.
“Mama? Are you okay?”
“Are you?" I said out of breath. "Sophie - Are YOU okay?”
She nodded, but her voice cracked when she said. “I’m fine.”
And she was. She was fine.
But this could've gone a completely different way.
UNEXPECTED LIFE LESSONS
Teach your children to be aware of their surroundings and not assume that someone else is looking out for them. Parents can forget. Siblings can forget. Every person on this green earth has so much going on that it’s so easy to be distracted. My children have been raised in a fairly protected feathered nest but it’s our responsibility as parents to teach them that even the safest nests have vulnerabilities. This was a great opportunity to explain that she won’t always be at home. I gave her a chance to imagine her own apartment - a dorm room - a hotel room. She has to be aware of her surroundings and verify ALL BY HERSELF that she is locked safely inside. Especially when she is going to be in the shower or have headphones/earbuds on where she cannot hear.
This was also a fantastic opportunity to discuss with my son the importance of “locking” up the house when he leaves. He must always remember, even if he’s running late. Even if he’s distracted by other thoughts. Even if his sister isn’t inside and the house is empty. Our home cannot be left unattended with the garage door wide open announcing to the world that there are no cars here but please help yourself to everything inside. Mistakes happen. Our son is young. He's only a month into his 16th year. Driving and working and growing into his fresh, almost adult skin is new and overwhelming and comes with a lot of shocking learning experiences.
Trust your gut. I’m glad that my daughter was safe. I’m glad that I felt all my body’s nerves screaming for me to notice them. I don’t know what it protected us from - or if it was a stern warning to prevent something else from happening later. But either way - listen to your instincts, trust the presence telling you what to do. Sometimes it wants you to run. Other times it wants you to hide and be still and quiet. Trust your feels.
DON’T use this as another excuse to be afraid of everything. This was a learning experience for our family and I hope that this story is a great read to help other families discuss a plan. Go over the basics. Remind everyone to be aware of their surroundings.
I love my family and I know you love yours.
Teach your kids to feel their fears and trust their instincts.
But also show them how to lead by using the wisdom of a practiced plan.