Posts Tagged With: Flashing stop sign

Day 356: Signs, Full Stop

Like yesterday’s post, this post begins with a mistake — with something I mis-remembered.

When I woke up this morning, I knew I wanted to re-use this photo, which I took last week:

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I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of those signs with Extra Added Stopping Power (flashing lights edition).  I hadn’t, until my trip last week through space and time to sign my will.

After I woke up this morning, I knew I wanted to use that sign, again, in today’s post. And before I trudged downstairs to begin writing, I had many thoughts about what I wanted to tell you, including this:

During 1991, when I was in my late 30’s, and was in the middle of an upsetting law suit (which I had decided to pursue), I ran a stop sign and hit another car. The other car was driven by a mother, who was with her little girl.  

To this day,  I still have a vivid image of the mother, afterwards, standing outside her car, crying, her daughter standing next to her, frozen, and a bag of groceries spilling its  contents into the street.

Today, the image of that accident is still there, in my mind, for me to look at.

Even though nobody was really hurt (physically), I wondered afterwards whether I would ever recover, and let go of my guilt.  My mind kept telling me, “It was your fault.” “Being distracted and upset is NO excuse.” “The red of the tomatoes from the grocery bag could just as easily have been the blood from that little girl.””You are guilty. Period.”

I worked on that experience, in therapy, for a long time.  And I remember also thinking this: if I had actually seriously hurt or killed either of those people, I would never be able to live with myself.

But why such a harsh sentence, for myself?  I mean, my mistake was being distracted, momentarily.  I’m usually a good, observant driver.

And, honestly, I still get distracted, these days, too.  I’m  not a perfect driver. I could still kill somebody, some day. That could definitely happen (to me, or anybody else, no matter how well we drive).

And I still wonder: Would I be able to go on, if something like that happened now?

In my work as a therapist, I talk to people, a lot, who feel guilt about something they’ve done. They often use words like “terrible” to describe the deed. Usually, whatever they did, they didn’t mean to.  It was an accident. They were distracted. They were dealing with difficult emotions. They were, often, doing the best they could, at the time.  But still, something awful happened, and they can ascribe the blame to themselves.

In therapy, we have very interesting conversations about those experiences. Here are  some things I try to communicate, to those people:

You may feel different in profound ways, but you’re still the same person, with all your flawed and beautiful human qualities, as you were before this happened.

If this hadn’t happened, would you feel differently about yourself?   Well, you are still you, only now having made a (terrible) mistake.

Why condemn yourself to a sentence of never-ending guilt, for something that you cannot undo?

I hope they hear — and take in — invitations to forgive themselves, whether they hear them from me, or somebody else.

I hope I take those in, too, because — just by living as long as I have — I have several memories of times when I was imperfect, made mistakes, and hurt somebody else.

So, what’s my unfinished business, for this post, right now?  I told you, at the beginning, that I had made another mistake — related to my memory of that stop sign, above.  You can see evidence of that mistake, in the title of this post.

I had (mis)remembered the part of the sign that says, “all way.”  I thought it said, “full stop.” And I was all ready to say lots of things about the phrase “full stop,” including references to punctuation marks, among other things.

When I first realized that mistake this morning, I entered “full stop” into Google Images, because I wasn’t ready to let go of that (misremembered) phrase. And here’s what came up:

the-full-stop*

i-d-rather-be-a-comma-than-a-full-stop.american-apparel-unisex-fitted-tee.white.w760h760**

download (7)***

keep-calm-and-use-a-full-stop-at-the-end-of-the-sentence****

full_stop_120304_IMG_6306*****

And I liked those images, partly because they reminded me of other posts I’ve written for you (and me) this year. (See here and here for two of those posts.)

But here’s what I want to say about the phrase “full stop,” right now.  I wish I had come to a full stop at that stop sign, so many years ago.  But I didn’t.

Maybe, if a sign like the one I saw last week — with its flashing lights and a stop sign at every corner —  had been at that intersection in 1991, all three of us — that mother, the little girl, and me — would have been okay.  In other words, maybe the accident would not have occurred.

But it did. So the best I can do, in the moment, is hope that all three of us are okay, now.

I am.

Thanks to good-enough therapists, drivers, rememberers, healers, and forgivers, wherever they are. And extra special thanks — with flashing lights — to you, for reading today.

____________________

* I found this image here.

** I found this image here.

*** I found this image here.

**** I found this image here.

***** I found this image here.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Day 353: Where there’s a will, there’s a way

The title is something my mother used to say to me. It’s a good title for today’s post, I think, because I finally completed this:

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I’ve had lots of thoughts and feelings about the process of creating that, during this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally (which I blogged about here, here, and elsewhere).

Here are some thoughts and feelings I’m having, today:

I don’t want to mind-read (because that would be a cognitive distortion), but I do wonder if others are having certain thoughts now, like these:

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“Did you leave ME anything?”

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“I know I’m new, more skittish (therefore more blurry), and probably not quite as loved yet, but … did you leave ME anything?”

I probably AM projecting onto others, here.  But it’s difficult not to do that, you know?

Anyway, it was quite a process, completing that will. I mean, it took 60 friggin’ years. And, as Indiana Jones said:

“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”*

Speaking of mileage, here are some shots I took, yesterday, on my journey to sign that will:

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The building on the left is where my parents lived their last years together.  That’s where I saw my father, for the last time, in 1997. I am so grateful for that encounter, still. Before I left that day, he said to me, “Give me five,” holding his hand up high. I replied, “I’ll give you ten,” and I gave him a hug.

Here’s another, clearer shot of that building:

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My parents lived on the second floor, on the right.

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Here’s where I spent a lot of hours, as a kid, reading and choosing books to take home:

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When I took those books home, this is similar to what I would see:

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And this is where I read those books:

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This is what I sometimes saw, when I would leave my home, back then:

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When I visited yesterday, I did see some new things, including this:

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It’s nice that some people can attain Nirvana every day, isn’t it?

Here’s a photo (taken when I was heading back home last night) that’s related to that, I believe:

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I hope I remember that flashy Stop sign** the next time I have a thought that doesn’t help me.  Because, the more I can let go of unhelpful thoughts, the more I can do these things (suggested by a bumper sticker last night):

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And I’ve got some time to do those, apparently,  because a lawyer promised me, yesterday, that signing my will wouldn’t kill me.

Being a lawyer, he immediately added, “And if it does, at least now you have a will.”

Thanks to all who contributed to creating this post and — of course!! — to you, for visiting.


* I wanted to find a sound or video clip for that, but c’est la vie.

** Check out the antidote of “Thought Stopping,” here.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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