Losing control

A few weeks ago, I was leaving an appointment and noticed it had started snowing. By the time I merged onto a busy road (“the Deerfoot” for those who know Calgary), the wind was blowing and it had become difficult to see the separation between lanes. Minutes later, a car beside me started to move over – about to sideswipe me. I had two bad options: stay where I was and get hit, or get out of the way and risk skidding. I chose the latter and hoped for the best. Unsurprisingly, I found myself fishtailing across several lanes as I tried to correct, then overcorrected, and then overcorrected again. 

If you’ve been in similar situations, you know how many thoughts can pass through your mind in a short amount of time. I went from, “I think I’m going to get out of this!” to “I should try to relax in case I get hit from behind; relaxed muscles handle whiplash better” to “I’m not getting out of this; I’m definitely going to hit that cement barrier.” Sure enough, I came to a stop only after sliding into the concrete that prevented me from crashing into oncoming traffic.

I pushed the button for my four-way flashers and tried to collect myself. As I checked my mirrors, I saw that several cars had spun around in various directions and were all sliding to a slow stop. One was in the ditch, but still driving and coming back toward the road. It didn’t feel safe to get out of my car, so I waited while watching behind me to see that others appeared to be okay. Eventually, I pulled back onto the road and drove the rest of the way home. The remainder of the trip was about 20 minutes and felt like hours. 

I’ve only told this story twice since it happened, and I’m not entirely sure why I’ve kept it quiet. In small part, I don’t need the extra teasing from my family about my driving. But mostly, I had reached a point where that evening’s events didn’t feel remarkable. As I skidded back and forth across one of Alberta’s busiest roads on a winter night, I also had thoughts like, “yeah, this seems fitting” and “I hope I don’t get hurt because I don’t think my family has the energy to deal with that right now.”  

I’ve used this blog to joke about what the pandemic feels like, and I’ve congratulated all of us on putting up with it while pleading with myself and others to treat each other more kindly. 

But perhaps all those words – and so many others – could be erased and replaced with the scene of me sliding across the road. 

Consider this: from the outset, our collective options were bad. We could get hit, or we could react in a way that might result in other harms. We’ve had to give up our illusions about control; this lesson appears to be one of the most difficult to learn, and we keep over-correcting.

Eventually, we’re turned around, stalled out, and exhausted. We try to look around and survey the damage, but it’s hard to know what we should do in response. And so, we breathe a big sigh and try to right ourselves. We plod forward, even though all we want to do is curl up and cry. 

One hopeful thing from the Deerfoot experience is that I never felt angry about the vehicle that nearly sideswiped me. I’m not sure if the driver even knows what happened in their wake. I do know that whether they were moving out of their lane or whether I was in the wrong spot (or both), we were both just doing our best. 

I have no idea what 2022 will bring, but I can guess that it will be another difficult year. 

I’ll probably continue to be frustrated by the decisions and political antics of governments (like here, here and here from 2021) and the loss of trust those antics have caused among the public. To keep afloat, I’ll probably continue looking for hope in conversations and people that are interested in reducing division, being strategic about the future (here and here), and finding ways to live that feel right rather than normal.

No doubt there will be injustices, and some attempts might be made to correct those wrongs (as we saw here and here), but we’ll continue to have a long way to go. We will continue to lose people we love, but we might get to see others recover. At other times, we’ll just do our best to provide what support we can.

Whatever 2022 brings you, I hope you find the strength to celebrate the high points and move through the lows. I hope you stop using your energy on aspects of life you can’t change, while making space to feel the frustration and grief that can accompany those realities. And –  also importantly – I wish you well as you step bravely into the areas where you need to do something differently. 

A good first step for some of us? Stop procrastinating on the purchase of new snow tires. 

Photo credit for banner image: Global News

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