I noticed it yesterday when I was out and about shopping: People with palatable tension, pushing carts a bit faster; annoyed faces; drivers with less patience; and a sense that I was in certain people’s way as I went about my business.
It’s the holiday season – a time when everyone seems pissed off, in a hurry, and intolerant.
Everyone’s rushing around trying to prepare the perfect holiday experience. People with too much on their calendars. Working, taking care of the kids, and daily life are overwhelming enough without having to clean, cook, buy, and prepare for the holidays. Holidays that must be perfect.
In our quest to get it all done before the relatives or guests arrive, we rush. We’re distracted. And at times we’re unhappy and rude to each other.
Another Horrific Accident
Today I was once again at the scene of a tragic accident. Only this time I was feet away when it happened instead of passing by soon afterward.
I was the first car in the left turn lane at an intersection waiting on the light to change. The area is under construction, complete with cones and signage and workers and an overpass that put it all in the shadows.
I was shaken out of my thoughts when I heard a sound that had the sick reverberation of something unplanned, explosive, and very wrong happening. An out-of-control sound – metal being crunched in a way it wasn’t meant to be and the quick squeal of tires. I was immediately confused. What the hell?
I looked in my rearview mirror to see a white SUV careening towards me. Its left front side was bashed in. My body tensed as I tried to have the presence of mind to step on the gas slightly to inch forward. I felt like I was watching a huge tidal wave moving towards me in slow motion and I had to act quickly, but it could never be quick enough. Then the SUV stopped about 20 feet behind me.
Trying to grasp the situation and what I should do, I got halfway out of the car to see if the driver needed my help. I dialed 911 but just heard ringing. I hung up and saw the driver of the SUV get out. She was talking animatedly on her cell phone, waving her hands in the air. Her car had been hit by another car, which had lost control and driven (and partially rolled) down an embankment.
That’s when I saw a crumpled figure on the ground, wearing a neon yellow construction vest.
Other construction workers were walking towards the scene now, and I could tell by their curious faces that they didn’t know one of their own had been hit yet. I later found out the car that rolled down the embankment hit two workers, and both died.
I called 911 again and was told the accident had been reported. I struggled with what to do, but realized there was nothing I could do but get out of the way. Traffic all around the area had come to a standstill as the accident blocked lanes and people sat in their cars confused. Several people were kneeling around the person who’d been hit. At the next cycle of the light I drove away.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that my lip was bleeding. I must have bitten it at some point.
It took a long time to stop shaking… I questioned whether I should’ve left the scene, but I loathe people who stand around gawking and I thought I’d just be in the way. I hadn’t seen anything that would really help, but I did still question my judgment.
Grim Reminders to be Grateful
I’ve happened upon several accidents in the last year, each leaving an impact on me: A cyclist lying motionless on a breathtaking country road before help has arrived, presumably hit by a car. Two other instances of cyclists down. And a car accident in which a beautiful German Shepard lay motionless in the grass next to crumpled cars, a blue bandanna around its neck.
The families of those involved in accidents must be called. It could be you or me.
These experiences made me slow down for awhile, driving more defensively and feeling more gratitude for the family and life that I have. But within a few weeks I return to feeling hurried when I’m out and about, somehow forgetting how fragile life really is.
A Commitment to be Present
There’s a particularly dangerous feeling in the air around this time of year. It threatens our health, our families, and our lives. It threatens everyone around us.
We need to slow down, all of us, and chill out. There’s a lot at stake. Each time you leave the house this holiday season, take a deep breath, smile, be present in your moment. Focus on what you’re doing right now and be aware of everything around you. Savor the moment instead of dismissing it and thinking of what you need to get accomplished.
If you’re in an accident and you’re living in the moment, you’ve done everything you can. Some things are simply out of our control.
I’m making a commitment to live consciously this holiday season, to be present in this very moment. It will all get done, and if it doesn’t, everyone and everything will still be ok. Let’s all make it through safely, and feel proud of our behavior in the process. See you out in the world.