Slowing Down

It was a Friday in the middle of this past June.  Just another day like any other.   It was 9:30 in the morning and it was already hot.  I was rushing out of my apartment and to my car — headed to work.  As I was striding to the parking lot I had a million things on my mind, a list of tasks that needed to be completed that day and what lay ahead for the upcoming weekend (local bars Friday, friend’s house for a party Saturday, and would definitely get some writing in that Sunday).  It was jam packed, and the next week would be more of the same — I like to be busy.

As I made my way into the parking lot there was a collection of landscapers taking a break from work.  They were talking and laughing loudly — I said hello and commented on their conversation, we shared a quick laugh and they told me to have a good day, I said the same thing back, never breaking stride towards my car.

At the time I’m positive we were the only people in that parking lot.

I got to my car, tossed my gym bag, sneakers, and dry cleaning bag into the backseat, backpack into the front.  Hopped into the driver’s seat, plugged in the ipod, set to shuffle, some, random loud hip-hop song came on, turned my volume up.  I glanced into the rearview — nothing. Put the car in reverse and brought it backward — fast (hey, I’m not proud of it).

I turned the wheel hard.   Standing right there, literally inches from my driver’s side door was an elderly woman.   I had come that close to backing my car right into her.  I gasped as I looked out the window.  She was frozen, as was I — the reality struck both of us — I had come so very close to seriously hurting her, maybe killing her.  I felt horrible, I rolled down my window, peeled off my sunglasses and looked into her eyes.  They were a rich blue, and very gentle.  “I almost backed right into you,” I stammered, “I swear I didn’t see you, I’m so sorry.   Are you okay?”

“I am,” she said, then she asked, “Are you okay?”  I remember thinking to myself, ‘I almost killed this woman, and she wants to know if I’m okay?!’  Seriously?  We live in Bergen County lady, people aren’t that nice up here!  I was puzzled, and I looked up at her, “I think so, I think I am.”  I glanced past her at the landscapers — they weren’t more than twenty-five feet away and they were still laughing and carrying on their conversation as if nothing had changed.  Shouldn’t their attention be on us?  Didn’t they just see what almost happened?

I looked back at the woman, again full of sincere shock — she could see it.  “I was going too fast, I’m really so sorry.”  She looked down at me, fixing those blue eyes on mine, and then, I remember this vividly…my arm was on the windowsill.  She gently placed her hand on my arm, and I felt her fingers sink in softly — they were very warm.

“It’s okay.   You need to slow down though.”  That’s what she said to me.  I looked up at her, “I know, you’re right, I do.”  She smiled softly — it was eerie because it was so knowing.  She nodded and released my arm — slowly backing away from the car, and I watched her walk away.  She was fine, care free.  She’d already made peace with the incident that could’ve ended her life.  I sat there and kept the car in that place for several more moments, thinking about how awful I’d feel if I had hurt that woman, or worse.

I finally got myself on the way to work, thinking about her and what I had almost done the whole way up.  It stuck with me for a few days and I drove a lot slower during that time, more conscious of pedestrians than ever before.  I took her message to heart, at least I thought I did.

In the coming months my life would become more complicated than I ever remember it before.  I would be pulled in so many different directions, chasing down and worrying about so many things simultaneously it felt impossible to keep up — everything was moving SO FAST.  My heart, my mind, the whole world was racing. All of the inner transformational work I’d done up until that point in the year was forgotten, abandoned even.

In the midst of it, I’ve thought often about this woman.  I was hoping we would cross paths again.  Makes sense that we would, it’s a garden apartment community so she must live here, she was coming from the same direction, the same courtyard as my own home.  I remember her face vividly, and I’m sure she’d remember me, yet I’ve never seen her again.

Looking back on it, was there a deeper message she was trying to convey?   The way she looked at me was from a place of absolute recognition, like she innately knew me, who I was and the challenges that would lie ahead.   I feel like she was trying to offer me some very valuable advice, and not just about how I should handle my civic.

In retrospect, I should’ve listened to her.  But it’s okay.  Because the great thing about good advice is that it’s always good, no matter when you choose to accept it in your life…and it will always be there.

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~ by Dan Fabrizio on February 13, 2011.

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