Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Straight Jacket

Also known as: STRESS.
Did you ever have stress of such magnitude, or of such long duration, that it felt like a straight jacket around your torso, squeezing and squeezing the life and breath out of you? Compressing your heart and sapping your strength? Crushing your spirit and draining all your motivation?

The last few years have been rather rough, granted. But yesterday was just about the limit of what I can bear. Perhaps for parents there is no stress like that which involves one's children.

Philip barely made it home for Christmas in the Jaguar. In fact, he didn't. Adam had to go get the boy, and leave the car on the side of the road in Mills River. After failed attempts at self-repair, we had it towed, and worked on. It was "ready to go" yesterday, the day Philip had to go back to college. Adam put him in the Jaguar, followed him for a while to make sure it was running fine, and sent him on his way. Hours passed with no panicked phone calls.


Last night, in the dark, Philip called me and said the car was dead on the side of the interstate. He was frustrated. It was blowing steam out of the engine. We told him to leave the car there, and call a friend to come get him. He had made it to Chattanooga, at least. We thought that would be the end of it, at least for last night.

Only Philip didn't do that. He waited until the car had cooled down, and he got it running again. About an hour later, I get another phone call. It's Philip, and he's screaming at me on the phone: "Mom!! The car is dead again, and I'm in the middle of the road! With semi trucks whizzing past me! What do I do??!!" The terror in his voice was palpable.

Then he told me that he was sitting in the car. And I was terrified.

Adam wasn't in the house. All I could think was the danger my child was in. I told him to call 911 immediately, and get a policeman there. And I hung up, because every single second mattered in whether he lived or died.

I spent the next 15 minutes pacing the house, worried, terrified, mourning, crying, praying so hard. Begging God to protect him. Thinking of the danger. Each second I wondered: is this the second when a huge truck plows into the back of the car, and kills him?

When Adam came home and heard, he blew his top, and called Philip a couple of minutes later. Thankfully -- very thankfully! -- a policeman had arrived. The car was on a frontage road, still dangerous, but not as horrific as being stalled in the middle of the interstate! The car was towed to a repair shop, Philip got a ride up the mountain, and he is safe.

But one's heart, one's gut, one's inside does not recover from that kind of stress. I couldn't sleep. I woke up crying in the morning, crying from my dreams. I spent the morning knitting because that was the only thing that could even maintain my equilibrium. It's like my whole torso, all my insides, are wound up in tight knots, and they hurt. Then, they hurt even more as they slowly begin to relax.

Adam said this morning that, awful as it was, it was really a small thing. It's now somewhat resolved. The car is an issue. We need to decide what to do with it. But for me, the bigger picture is the way my heart and my body responded to the event. Sometimes you are under such pressure, for so long, that the smallest thing is almost unbearable. This occurrence was not a stressor that I was able to handle well.

There's no lovely punch line here, or eloquent maxim. Life is agonizing sometimes. Perhaps some people out there live a life that is close to heavenly, but for most of us? Well, we won't get ease until we're with Jesus. I'm still trying to breath deeply and remind myself that the terror is past. Sometimes it takes a while to believe.


  1. When Simeon said to Mary at Christ's baptism, "A sword will pierce your own soul also," those were very apt words. The closer we bond with and pour ourselves out parenting these children, the more it anguishes us when they are in peril.
    The patriarchs often opened their prayers with, "Oh God who brought us out of the house of bondage, through the sea on dry land, etc.." Often, when I am fearful, I recite my own personal Psalm, chronicling many of the trials that God has brought me through, and this calms me and brings me the assurance of His capability to deal with my present looming fears.
    I pray that your pain will soon subside, and that you can add God's deliverance in this instance to your own personal Psalm soon. (But knitting is a mighty fine way to soothe oneself, too!) :) Beth Ann

  2. Oh, my Dear M.K., I well know the feelings that you had. At those times it becomes clear how weak we are, that we can't get ourselves into the peace of God's presence. But He knows our frame, and gets us through the trial without us completely losing our sanity -- at least that is my hope!
    But you probably got a few gray hairs that night.


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