Slow Down

It was peak Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) season, that thrilling time when Alaskans collect their mineral royalties, when furniture and sportsman stores advertise mark downs, and when folks stock up on snow gear or buy discounted one-way tickets to Honolulu. 

I figured splurging (again) on my favorite Starbucks drink was more than reasonable.

Izaak was up by five, anyway, and so I knew a Starbucks run before the first bell at Abigail’s school was more than possible. 

Somehow, we still raced to dress, brush teeth, Velcro shoes, and clamber into the van. Morning’s always a mad dash. 

“Mom, what do those numbers mean?”

“You mean on the speedometer?”

“Yeah, what do those numbers mean?”

“It measures how fast you’re going. On the highway you can go fast; in town you go more slowly.” 

Funny how some conversations only add up after the fact.

We snagged our coffee and doughnuts, and though I knew we’d be early, I felt the stress of being out of our routine. Would Abigail make it to school on time? 

On a main drag in town, and all within thirty seconds, I juggled eating, driving, waking up, and listening to Abigail’s chatter. I saw the yellow lights of the school zone. “Wagon Wheel” came through the speakers. More chatter. Red and blue lights. 

Now, a few weeks ago, I was told I have chronic hypertension. This makes pregnancy more complicated. I told the nurse I can feel my blood pressure rising, that I learned to recognize the signs back when a fight almost broke out between two of my fifth period students. 

I panicked about where to pull over and felt the rise – rapid heart rate, caffeine-induced jitters, blood rushing to my head. Thirty more seconds passed and I ended up on the side of the road at a major intersection, shaking and wanting to explain that yes, I was going to pull over, and that yes, I knew to slow down in school zones. I had intended to do so.

I wanted to paint a vivid picture of all the distractions of the past sixty seconds. 

I wanted to plead pregnancy.

Instead, the officer peered into my open window and waited while I searched the glove compartment for my paperwork. All I could manage to say was, “Sorry, I haven’t been pulled over in years and I’m kind of freaking out.”

And, “the last time I got pulled over my insurance card was paper.” 

And, “do you mind if I call my husband? He’ll know where in the app to find the insurance card.”

The officer smiled just a bit. I’m sure it helped that the kids sat quietly and wide-eyed throughout the entire experience. 

He left me to retrieve my insurance card online. I found it, and then awaited the verdict. I waited just long enough to reflect once more on the state of my life.

With school comes routine, and with routine comes grounding. A new baby on the way means nesting, and in nesting I find peace and purpose. But clearly not enough grounding, peace, and purpose to chill out when it counts. 

Even as the seasons change for the better, I’m still me, still rushing to fill every last second and still juggling everything all at once to maximize efficiency. 

In my continued pursuit of efficiency, I paid my ticket almost as soon as Izaak and I returned home. I guess I still hope the officer saw that I paid the ticket so quickly, and that he considers me a good kid after all. 

In my own kitchen, my Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew tasted watery and disgustingly expensive. And after further reflection on the events of that morning, a truth surfaced. Some days it takes illness or tragedy to slow you down. Other days it takes getting pulled over in a school zone.

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