Brayden and I walked in the door last night around 5pm after spending the afternoon at Children’s Hospital. A little worse for the wear, both of us, he was taken to Birmingham in an ambulance for a neck injury. I came home, tried to eat, and crashed in the bed around 6pm. My adrenaline rush had worn off and my body was exhausted. No damage to the neck, just soreness and a “prescription” for Ibuprofen was amazing news, but my heart and mind were spent.
I got the phonecall just after lunch earlier in the day, “Where are you? It’s not life threatening, but we’re calling an ambulance.” I turned on the hazard lights and sped to the school. There’s a lot that goes through the mind when you get that phonecall. I was stuck 10 minutes away with too little information, too much time, and a current life that doesn’t bode well for bad news.
The problem with living this way, it only takes a small trigger to send my mind spiraling. You don’t want to know my thoughts during that long 10 minute drive to the school, but I’ll tell you this much- if you can imagine it, I thought it. I got ready to barter with God but remembered that that hadn’t worked over the last five years. Then I got ready to give God an ultimatum, but was afraid he’d take me up on it.
I’ve fought for five years to avoid those thoughts. Counseling, exercise, community, prayer, medicine, vacation, sleep, and in an instant, they bored their way into the crossing guard location of my mind policing every other thought. Nothing escapes without being first filtered by fear and loss. You can create an alternate reality in 10 minutes. You can ad hoc a new life. And as bad as those 10 minutes were for me, my kids aren’t ready for those moments either. We’re just not built for this right now.
As fate would have it, Carsyn walked through the hallway at the same time they were wheeling Brayden into the ambulance. On a stretcher, strapped in from feet to forehead, stabilized, he couldn’t move and she broke. Unstable. When you’re teetering as is, it doesn’t take much to get you off-kilter. I told her all of the things that I wanted to believe like they were facts and then climbed into the ambulance, leaving behind a daughter, face in tear-filled hands, consoled by an eighth grader.
I then called Addyson before she heard it from someone else. Even after starting with, “Everything’s ok, I just have to…” she started crying. I grabbed Brayden’s hand, juggling emotions, as he looked into my eyes, “I’m scared Daddy.” I let Addyson talk to Brayden over the phone so she could make him smile. She’s amazing. Then we called Carsyn for another pick me up. They just get it. It’s us.
I guess this is as real as I get here. Welcome to the pendulum of my life. The day before, it swings to excitement as I announce my new album and then 24 hours later, backswings to panic. I don’t like living with a tilt-a-whirl for an emotional pendulum. Living on the edge gets wobbly sometimes.
The kids stayed up awhile past their bedtime last night. I couldn’t send them to bed without stealing those ten minutes back. My heart still heavy, finally lightened by the sound of three voices laughing and loving. I can’t control what my mind does every minute of my life, but the moments it wants to go off script, I’ll rewrite. I don’t know what part of my sanity those few misused minutes cost me in the long run, but last night I exchanged them for a better ten- ten where we held each other tighter, laughed a little louder, and loved a lot harder. For at least ten extra minutes.