Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cars and Fragility

So yesterday was weird. I only got four hours of sleep the night before because of how long it took for me to get home after seeing Indy. I could've slept a bit longer, but I've heard that a full sleep cycle is roughly 4 hours, and while it's optimal to get 2 each night, you can wake up after one and your head will be clearer than if you sleep for say, 5 and a half hours.

That worked out pretty well for me. I was tired, but I actually had a lovely afternoon outside at the park with Miggy and some of his schoolmates on a playdate. It was with two of my favorites of Miggy's friends so it was very pleasant. I talked with their moms at a picnic table while the boys ran around Riverside Park getting bright green grass stains all over their khaki uniform pants. There was a lot of butterfly chasing, which is a totally awesome activity at any age, but really special for kids under age 10.

Meanwhile, the conversation between us adults went from topic to topic, and eventually came upon the issue of the dangers of cars for kids, and also the dangers of driving as adults. One mom had recently seen a car flip over on the road when the driver just lost control. No one was injured, but it was a very unsettling experience. This made me think of a few weeks ago, when i was driving my bosses car to pick up Miguel from school. It was raining heavily. i was driving down a hill and I could see that the light ahead of me was red, but for whatever reason, my brain could not convince my body to hit the brakes. I was not distracted, though i was trying to figure out which wiper speed would be the best to keep the windshield clear. I was focused and I mostly knew i had to stop, but my brain was also registering that the light just up the road from the upcoming intersection was still green, and from the corner of my eye, I could see a white walk signal, so maybe I should just keep going. As my brain tried to reconcile these opposing stop/go signals, the car continue to move forward. Finally I realized I should not have entered the intersection, and hit the brakes, but I was already halfway into the road. And that's when I saw the car coming from the right hand side. I stopped, and that car saw me and swerved out of the way and stopped right before it hit a telephone pole. I couldn't believe how bad that almost was. I immediately put up my hand and looked out the front window to apologize to the other driver. He drove off and I drove off and that was the end of it. Disaster averted.

The reality easily could've been that i was killed or that I killed someone, if things were just off by a few seconds. But the thing is, I don't even think I was being careless. It was just a mistake. My brain picked a really inopportune moment to spazz out. But these things happen. For no real reason other than we are human. And humans make mistakes. As I sat there with those two moms we talked about how there are so many things that are dangers that have nothing to do with people being evil or abusive, or kids being bad or reckless. Sometimes things happen and it's nobody's fault.

Cut to later yesterday evening. I get home, and I'm totally exhausted. Partly from a long work week and partly because of a lack of sleep the night before. I fall asleep on my couch for 8:30pm-1:40am, I wake up still tired. I wash some dishes from dinner and then notice that a repeat of Oprah is on TV. As coincidence would have it, she is talking to families who have lost children through car accidents. One grandmother backed over her little grandson because she didn't know he was behind her car. Her son and daughter-in-law didn't blame her, but she could not forgive herself. They had this psychologist on panel, as well as someone who had lost half her family a long time ago by falling asleep at the wheel, who said it wasn't a matter of her forgiving herself but it was really a matter of accepting herself. She's human and she made a mistake, and it happens all the time. Sometimes we get lucky like when i entered that intersection, and there are no lasting effects. But sometimes people pay a high price and it's not because they are bad people. It's just cause they're human, and that's what can happen. And we liv with it, and learn from it and grow.

The timing of seeing that show at such an odd hour of the night, after having that conversation with the moms earlier in the day, and my own experience in the car from the week prior, was so bizarre and coincidental. I think, in general, I have a hard time accepting the fact that mistakes are a natural part of existing, and that not every action taken is a reflection on a person's self worth. It was a timely reminder of my own fragility, and my need to accept myself for my imperfections and to be more accepting of others as well.

So, in conclusion, take the time to look both ways when crossing the street. And if you're driving this Memorial Day Weekend be safe. Some mistakes are unavoidable, accidents happen, but we can always do ourselves a huge favor by being aware of ourselves and of our surroundings.

No comments: