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The Hazard Button

This past week, has been extremely stressful. I struggled under the burden of family illnesses, the declining health of beloved pets and a work week that demanded even more of me than normal. Suffice it to say, I was looking forward to this weekend!

Nay! I needed this weekend!

However, because I had to leave Sunday for an out of state meeting on Monday, the knowledge that my weekend would be cut short kept me from truly relaxing. I mean, I did veg out on the couch with popcorn and re-watched Avengers End-game. That was nice. (My nerdy obsession with super hero type action adventure movies are fodder for another meal). But, even as I enjoyed watching Thanos finally get what was coming to him; deep in the back of my mind, flew those nagging gnats of all the loose ends, I really needed to tie up.

So this morning....Sunday...I took my time. I sipped peppermint coffee and procrastinated royally. I took my time packing and getting ready. Juno, my lab, gets incredibly depressed when she sees my suitcase. Therefore, when it was time to leave I had to coax her out of my closet to say goodbye. My cat, Beryn, however only wanted to know who was going to feed him four times a day in my absence. Able to put my departure off no longer, I assured both the dog and the cat that I did not plan on abandoning them forever, and that I would return.

Then I left. Feeling tired and stressed.

Once I hit the interstate, I looked around me and had to admit it. The day was beautiful: Azure skies dotted with cotton ball clouds. You know what I mean. The kind of skies that remind you of summers as a kid, jumping over the sprinkler in the backyard with a cherry Popsicle in your hand.

I put Audible on and passed much of the 4 hour drive helping a Scottish DCI solve a ring of child murders. (I told him who did it....he just wouldn't listen ). Before I knew it, Chattanooga was upon me. With chagrin, I remembered the last Sunday I had driven through Chattanooga: The traffic was horrific. If I got stuck in a stand-still situation like that again, it would likely send me over the edge to madness. (Not that I am dramatic at all!!)

So... I made a change. I turned off the Scottish detective, and put on Classical music, then I punched in different information into my GPS, left the established path and set off on an adventure.

My adventure took me through small towns dotted with wooden houses and mom and pop stores. The Americana of it all made me smile. I wondered if, like in some towns, everyone knew everyone and what their lives were like. I even had an urge to stop and talk to the two ladies sitting on their porch swing. In my mind, they were shelling peas.

With the next turn, the road became steeper and circuitous. To my surprise, I began driving up a mountain. As I gained height, the houses and stores were replaced with NATURE. Seriously Henry David Thoreau kind of nature. With Bach's Cello Suites blaring in surround sound, I mentally and spiritually devoured the green trees, the blue skies, the lakes, rivers, creeks,...the lusciousness of nature encompassing me as I climbed towards heaven.

Once I reached the apex, the view was breathtaking. I wanted to stop and snap a picture, but there was no safe place to pull over. So I just selfishly drank it in myself, sharing with no one. As I drove I felt the entire week's worth of stress leaving my shoulders. My head relaxed and my mind un-clenched.

And then, just as I marveled at the release, the sky darkened. And it began to rain. Slowly at first, the raindrops became torrents. As I gingerly made my way down that mountain, I could barely see. I couldn't pull over. I couldn't stop. So, I just kept going. The descent was agonizing. I reached the bottom and onto straight road, thinking the drive would be easier. But if possible, the thunderous rain came even harder accompanied by cracks of lightening overhead. In my rear view mirror, I could see other cars coming up behind me. I worried that they would run me off the road. So, I reached over and pushed the hazard button, slowing significantly.

As I crawled through the storm, a random thought came to me. What a fantastic idea...the hazard button. By pushing it, lights on either side of my vehicle flashed in synchronicity, signaling to those behind me and beside me that I was struggling. I wouldn't be going as fast as I could ...for a little while. And universally, I was accepted. The cars that could not wait passed me. But many others were going just as slowly as I. They, too had signaled their flashing message. Together we admitted our limitations and accepted each other.

Eventually, the rain slowed and we were all able to return to our normal pace...flashing hazards gone. I reached my destination without further incident. Once I had settled into my hotel room, I began to reflect on the day. In one 4 hour time span my emotions had run the gamut: From Weary to Joyful to Relaxed to Anxious to Calm. Quite a work-out for one day. Yet, the adventure had served a bigger purpose. All those repressed feelings, tamped down by "the necessity of getting it done" had been freed.

And the biggest take-away for me was the wonder of the hazard button.

What if, instead of pushing forward all week, juggling more appointments than there were hours in the day; putting aside important things in lieu of urgent things....What if...I had just pressed the hazard button? In other words, what if I had acknowledged that I was struggling with all the variables in my life and not able to keep as many balls in the air as I normally did?

What would happen? Would everyone click their tongues in disgust? Would they consider me ineffectual? No. I don't think so. Not the team I play on. They would understand and adjust so that I could catch up and get back at the right pace.

You can't be all things to all people if you don't let others be there for you. When you are taking care of clients, families, children, your own life doesn't stop. Sometimes you forget to ask for help in tough times, because YOU ARE THE HELPER. The Challenge this week is acknowledge your humanness and to be kind to yourself. Realize that you, like everyone else, need a little help sometimes. I promise you, there are others in your tribe who will answer the call. Just push the hazard button.

The hazard button. Who knew it could be so simple?

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