Like a kid wishing for a snow day, I was a teacher wishing for a pipedream – just enough severe weather to get us an e-learning day. Maybe some high winds so buses wouldn’t be able to operate. All the weather apps and news reports were warning of high winds, hail, and severe thunderstorms with tornadoes possible.
How bad must it be to wish for severe weather to get a break? I mean I didn’t wish any damage or harm on anyone, but a day off would be welcomed. Wednesday evening I awaited the email that would grant us an e-learning day.
It never came.
Rather, I received this email: Current weather forecasts give us confidence that our normal arrival and dismissal from school should be OK.
Once the disappointment settled in, I discovered gratitude in the midst of letdown: Many of our students are much better off at school when there is severe weather. The superintendent was right.
Thursday morning, in the shadows of the looming storms, I rolled out of bed with the best attitude I could find. I drove in silence out of my neighborhood and conversed with God begging for patience, love, and grace. I prayed for a calm day amid storms. My soul felt well with the world.
Fifteen minutes later red taillights flooded the interstate. Standstill traffic due to a wreck on a rainy morning. The selfish thoughts rolled in like a storm: Of course. I should’ve known. An accident on I-85 is inevitable with a little rain.
Anxiety started spinning in the pit of my stomach. Great. I have a duty before homeroom, and I’ll never make it on time. The one time I didn’t have my students’ tests ready the day before. I’ll be late and not prepared.
Again, I conferred with God, pleading for breath and calm amidst these storms. I prayed for the courage to let go of these self-centered thoughts – I mean, at least I can be grateful for not being a victim of this accident – and what I didn’t have control over. I prayed for positive thinking even though my mind was checking off morning to-do items that wouldn’t get done. I prayed for the people involved in the accident and their families and friends. Eventually, my soul felt well with the world again as I sat inhaling and exhaling in my car on the interstate.
Suddenly, my body jolted forward in rhythm with a crash. Once my body stopped bouncing, my eyes went to the rearview mirror consumed by the grill of a semi-truck. The panic floodgates burst. All I wanted was an e-learning day at home. Not funny, God. Hunched over looking down at my lap I gripped the steering wheel resisting the urge to hit my forehead against it. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I lifted my head enough to see the top of the car’s bumper in front of me. You need to pull off the road. I straightened up to survey the mass of automobiles around me as the sun hid behind the spongy thunderclouds waiting for the right moment to wring themselves out.
From the far right lane where my battered car and spirit sat, I pulled my silver Mazda CX-7 over to the shoulder as the faint sound of emergency vehicles continued to maneuver their way to the actual accident causing the gridlock. I opened my door, all while holding my breath, and prepared myself for the absolute worst.
The semi-truck driver hopped out of the cab shaking his head and apologizing. The breeze carried a skunk smell through my nostrils, and I noticed his bloodshot eyes when he got close enough. My head turned to my car and a sigh of relief followed. Not a dent or even a scratch. I squatted down and looked underneath. No damage. I could feel the calm, breath, and grace I prayed for inching its way through my nervous system.
“The crash scared me worse than anything. I don’t really see any damage,” I say.
“Ma’am it’s up to you if you want to make the call,” the driver said.
I hear the sirens of the emergency vehicle getting closer making me feel guilty for blocking the shoulder.
“I don’t know. I guess it’s ok since there isn’t any damage. I don’t really know,” I mumble.
The driver half squatted as if to convince me he was concerned enough to check for damage. Maybe he hoped his gesture would give me the confirmation I needed to let him off the hook.
In my head, I argued with myself. What’s the right decision? What if I don’t report it and my car breaks down once it starts moving again? What if I report it and the arriving officers realize this man is high? What would happen? I need to look after myself too, but I don’t see any damage.
The driver stood silent staring at me while the sirens grew louder. I felt like a contestant on Jeopardy as the final question countdown played.
“I think it’ll be okay. I don’t even really see a scratch and everything looks okay underneath. I think it’s okay. No need to report it. Be careful.”
The driver’s tense demeanor released as he reached out to shake my hand, “Thank you, ma’am,” he said, “I hope you have a blessed day.” He hurried off to his truck before I could even respond with you too.
I pulled off the shoulder, back to the gridlock, as the sirens approached. My heart thumped as I tried to slow my breathing. I looked at the clock. What an adventure this morning drive has been.
Again, I sat still and breathed in my car as I spoke with God. I expressed gratitude for my car (and me) being undamaged and for the calm, breath, and grace that inched through my nervous system. I begged and pleaded for a refill of calm, breath, grace, and love. With a morning start like this one, I felt I needed a miraculous dose of it all. I noticed my grip tightening around the steering wheel and my jaws clenching. My breath was quick and shallow. Inhale. Exhale. Release. You are okay. Inhale. Exhale. Release. You are okay. I stretched my fingers, opened and closed my mouth, and lifted my head ready for another start over. Finally, the sea of cars started parting and my soul felt well with the world again.
I arrived at work in a strange state of tranquility. I entered my classroom and my students cheered with joy driving me to bow and smile. I threw on CNN 10, a 10-minute educational news show, to allow me a few minutes to prepare the tests that I didn’t prepare ahead of time, and I took some really deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. I was grateful to be in this space – in the space, I wished not to be in just 12 hours earlier.
The day passed by with mostly sunny skies. About a half-hour before school dismissal, a thundercloud swallowed the school and dropped a hail storm with strong winds lasting all of ten minutes. Nothing close in magnitude to Wednesday evening’s weather predictions. The drive home was less than eventful. No sea of red taillights or crashing metal. Just a perfectly cloudless sky and dry pavement.
I scooped the Happy Newspaper out of my mailbox, scooted through the door, and hugged my husband.
“I am excited to read something happy,” I told him.
“What, every text I’ve ever sent you,” he said.
I gazed into his eyes, smiled like a bashful schoolgirl, and threw the Happy Newspaper on the table. I made it home unscathed and greeted by peace and love.
Indeed, a blessed day.