As I drove home from Jacksonville, knowing I had exactly the right amount of time to get through downtown traffic, park the car and walk up to the school to pick up our oldest, I was starting to break out into a sweat any time I hit a red light. It’s ok, I thought to myself. It’s going to be 2:45 when I pass through downtown, so the bridge won’t be an issue (since it goes up on the half-hour). As I rounded the corner by the Fort, I caught a glimpse of the bridge. And it was UP.
Panic set in as I realized it was likely stuck in the up position. I called a few moms who I know also pick up as ‘walkers’, meaning you don’t have to wait in the drive up the line, to see if they could hang out with him until I got there. None of them were picking up their kids that day. I frantically called the office to see if they could grab him and keep him in the office until I got there. I knew getting through downtown and ‘all the way around town’ was going to take me a while. Luckily I called just in time, and the office was able to redirect him to car riders to safely wait for me in the cafeteria.
As I repeatedly got behind cars leisurely sightseeing through the square, road rage started to build by the minute. My usual calm and collected self was now acting like a complete crazy person, yelling at people through my closed windows to get out of my way!
Take some deep breaths, I told myself. But the more minutes that passed the more guilt set in that I was not there on time, and my son was probably wondering what was going on.
Almost 30 minutes later, I pulled up to school. It was apparent that several other parents had been in the same situation as me, but as he walked to the car, I could see his mask was wet from tears and his face was still red. I felt horrible.
A few days later I was talking to someone about how we really just don’t know what is going on with others we encounter on a daily basis (as I recalled my crazy road rage from a few days prior and knew some people must have thought I was insanely rude). She told me how she had gone to see a family member once who was in the hospital, not knowing they weren’t going to make it. She found herself shopping in a store for a funeral dress, and realized that no one around knew the heartache she was feeling at that moment. To them, she probably seemed standoffish or even a little short with questions. They didn’t realize that she was on the brink of breaking down in the middle of the store if she didn’t just focus on her task.
It was a reminder, especially this year, that we have all been in a fight or flight mentality for far longer than we are capable of ‘holding it all together’. It was my reminder to be sure we offer kindness, give a smile to someone who seems ‘rude’, and to know that we have no idea what someone is going through emotionally or even physically at that moment, day or year.
As 2020 closes and a new year is upon us, I know we will be excited to say ‘see ya later’ to what this year has been. But it’s also a reminder that we truly don’t know what the new year or even tomorrow will bring. If you’re feeling exhausted, stressed, or overwhelmed, talk to someone — your partner, a friend, a professional. Know that none of us were or could have been prepared for what 2020 would be. As my friend Shayla so eloquently put it, “2020 was a year of battles. Silent battles we fought within ourselves and battles we fought out loud with each other. But here’s the thing… battles make warriors.” And you, my friend, are a warrior. Don’t ever forget that.