I’m scared right now, terrified in fact. I’ve opened a can of worms in hopes of instigating a positive change and now it’s out of my control. I don’t know how it’s going to end and the possibility that things could get worse is absolutely petrifying. What the fuck did I do? Why can’t I leave well enough alone?
It snowed yesterday, the first snowfall of the season and it really was a doozy. I had gotten the night off work to go celebrate a friend’s birthday with another friend who lives out of state and some of their mutual friends. They reserved a hotel room and had a super fun night on the town planned. I was super geeked to be included in these plans and have some time with a friend I rarely see.
The snow started around 5am, a couple inches had accumulated by the time I was leaving work at nine. Around four in the afternoon I was in the arduous process of waking up a little earlier than my body wanted to. I looked out and saw that there was quite a bit of snow. After contacting my friends I learned they had gotten slightly less. I knew I was going to have to be cautious and take it slow on my normally forty minute drive to the city. About and hour later I stepped outside to start my car and maybe shovel my back steps, turns out there was way more snow than I had realized. Like, a foot more. I was wearing dressy boots that came just to the tops of my knee caps, standing int he snow only the top couple inches of those boots was visible. My neighbor who was out fiddling with his snow blower (sadly, it was not working) offered me his snow shovel. He looked at the way I was dressed and asked if I was planning to go out for the evening.Yup, that’s the plan. He cautioned me against it saying that the roads were pretty bad, that the freeways were barely moving when they had been out earlier….and that was when there was less snow. He commented,”It better be pretty important to be heading out in this weather.” I could hear the genuine concern in his voice, he wasn’t wrong. I stood there in the knee deep snow debating if the good time I hoped to have was worth it. Importance is a term of relativity but was I putting myself in unnecessary danger?
I have chronic bad judgement and a very strong stubborn streak. I like to call it determination, that’s being kind. Bullheaded stupidity might be more apt. So, of course, I decided a little snow was not going to stop me from following through with my plans. Not today, Michigan winter. Not today. After more than an hour of shoveling (in fancy boots and a short dress no less), I was questioning my judgement. However, I had come this far I figured I should probably make it worth while and keep going (I totally ignored the economic concept of sunk cost here.)
Around seven o’clock I was finally ready to hit the roads. They really were bad; I probably should have heeded the numerous warnings issued and stayed home or at very least just gone to work instead. I slid around on the slick roads twice, hitting the curb pretty hard but thankfully no other cars. I kept telling myself I’d be safe once I made it to the freeway. Although I knew that was not the case it helped. Having that very short term goal of getting to “safety” calmed me. Once I did get to the freeway, though, I faced a snow covered entrance ramp and traffic moving at forty mile per hour…max. Numerous cars were in the ditch. My idea of the freeway being a safe point was clearly flawed. But that’s the way it is with safety, isn’t it? We think we’re safe; we take precautions so we feel safe. We’ve done something and that makes it seem like the situation is under our control when in reality there are so many factors at play every day in every situation that we never truly are safe. And when you start to think about that it’s truly scary. There is a lot to be afraid of whether it be sliding to a cold, snowy death or losing your kids in court.
Once you open that door you let possibility in, both the good and the bad. But you have to. What’s life without possibility? You can’t filter the good from the bad; picking and choosing is just not an option. Ever.It’s Pandora’s Box day in and day out. So we create these illusions and tell ourselves we’re safe and usually it works. That feeling of safety and security allows us to ignore the bad that is lurking everywhere and carry on with life. It’s a good thing but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it makes us do stupid things like go out in very bad weather for a the sake of a good time. It enables us to make poor choices. Other times that illusion of safety limits us. It keeps us in our zone of comfort and perceived safety, preventing us from reaching out and connecting with someone who might need it. I had a long time to think about this as I crawled along the freeway praying to calm my nerves and fortify my own personal illusion of safety.
It’s natural to seek familiarity and shy away from the unknown, that’s pure survival instinct right there. It’s why I can’t walk up to a stranger and talk to them. It’s why we hesitate to actually have a conversation with the homeless person standing at the stop light holding their sign. Just hurry up and give them a couple bucks or a granola bar if you have either, look away and pretend to be busy in your car if you don’t. It’s why our nation is all up in arms about allowing Syrian refugees into America. They are not “us”, they look different, they are different. They represent the unknown and that doesn’t mesh with our illusion of safety. Forget that they are people being kicked around and having a real shit time who would most likely prefer not to have to forage out a whole new life in a place far from home. Forget that this country was founded as a place for the weary and downtrodden to find rest. Just focus on controlling whatever aspects of the unknown you can to increase your safety. Who really knows if that’s real or only perceived.
My point here is not that we should allow displaced refugees into America. Maybe we should, maybe we shouldn’t. That’s a bigger puzzle than I can solve, a multifaceted issue that has no “right” answer. I guess my point is that while it’s good to take precautions (don’t stop locking your door at night or anything) to protect ourselves and especially those whose safety and well being is entrusted to our care, it’s also important to take a step back and see how the idea that we’re safe, this feeling of safety, is effecting the way we live. Is it empowering unneeded recklessness or limiting the level of kindness and compassion we live out on a day to day basis? It’s just something to think about.