September 1, 2016
Katonah, New York
[photo by: Elizabeth Flock]
In 1998 I had a breakdown and ended up in the hospital. Though it was a frightening time, a part of me knew even as it was happening that I needed help. That my personal crisis was no longer personal; it was bigger than me. Agreeing to get help was one of the best decisions I ever made — I have not regretted it, not even for a second.
Having said that, being in the hospital following a breakdown of any kind is a harrowing experience. Three days after checking in I scraped myself out of bed and tuned my brain into the frequency of the ‘present.’ Which is to say I left my room and took a look around. I began exploring the hospital grounds as an excuse to be outdoors and sure enough, getting out into fresh air helped me shake some shit out of my head to make room for what I was learning at the hospital. One rainy day I followed the long, winding driveway leading to the administration building, walking on the pavement because the ground was so soggy. I was turning back from the entrance to head back to my room when I saw this familiar sign and instantly, right there on the hospital driveway, I KNEW MY LIFE WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE. I’m not kidding, I did. Because this sign, warning of speed bumps lying in wait, suddenly appeared before me as metaphor.
Signs for speed bumps are sprinkled throughout our world — namely in highly residential neighborhoods and near schools — reminding us to slow down. To take care. Reminding us that we need to pay attention to the road we’re on. Problem is, it’s up to us to pay attention to them — and if you’re like me, sometimes you don’t. So you’re driving along maybe fiddling with the radio (guilty!) or checking directions (guilty again!) — for whatever reason you miss the “speed bumps ahead” sign and POW! what would have been a small bump had you been prepared turns into a jarring near-accident that makes your heart beat adrenaline into your veins so fast you need to pull over to re-group.
Then there are the times you do see the warning so you take proper precautions (i.e. slowing down) and it almost feels like you’re floating over the hump in the road, comparatively of course.
In life we run into countless obstacles lying in the road ahead of us. Divorces, unemployment, death of a loved one, illness — the hurdles awaiting us are as plentiful as they are varied. But usually we have been forewarned. Usually the universe provides signposts — a spouse is vocal about unhappiness in marriage, sometimes for years, and yet their partner is shocked when presented with divorce papers; a stomach is roiling in stress but the Pepto-Bismal you’ve taken for months has stopped working. Turns out the acid-reflux you ignored for so long became a hernia that requires surgery; the person you’re dating has severe road rage you try to overlook but over the course of time the rage leaves the road and enters the relationship.
All of the above are examples of us ignoring the signs alerting us to future danger. They are examples of how, in life, we sometimes bang so hard into the speed bump we were already told would be in our path it threatens to undo us altogether. So the next time you see a sign for SPEED BUMPS AHEAD, check not only the speed at which you’re traveling but maybe give thought to the metaphorical obstacle course you’re on in life. Slow down long enough to take in the world around you and how you are moving through it. You just might end up saying, like I do, “a simple road sign turned my whole outlook around.”