Yesterday, when I was one mile away from my highway exit and only minutes from being safely home, a three-vehicle accident hit me from behind. I was driving 70 miles per hour, heard the crunching metal and then felt the impact. I was stunned — I had never considered the possibility of being rear-ended at full speed. My glasses flew off and I scraped my chin but after the initial shock I was fine. Somehow, despite wreckage over three lanes of a four lane highway, I held my lane and was fine.
I was fine.
Once I realized the car had stopped and that nothing else was going to hit me I took a deep breath. I stopped the bleeding on my chin. I pulled my car over to the edge of the highway. I turned on my hazards. And when I knew that I was safe and that everything was under control, I did one more thing: I called my husband.
“I’m okay. I’ve been in a serious accident on the highway, but I’m okay. It looks like it is going to take awhile to get things cleaned up, but I see the flashing lights. I’m okay.”
Sitting safely on the side of the road my worry was over, I felt nothing but gratitude and relief. But I knew nothing would ease the worry of my husband until I was home and in his arms. Every single time I leave the house and drive away the man who loves me more than anything worries. He worries that something will harm me when he isn’t there to protect me. He worries that the chaos of the world will be too much for me.
When there is a moment of chaos, our opposing world views collide. I see coming out the other side as proof that all will be well. He sees the chaos itself as proof that danger is everywhere.
We’re both right.
Early on in our relationship I fought his worry. I felt insulted by it, like he didn’t trust me to take care of myself. I raged and reminded him that I was a grown adult and that I had lived successfully without him for 20 years. I hated being judged and I didn’t spend even a moment thinking about what was behind it or that he experienced the world differently than I did. I fought it for longer than I should have.
Thankfully, at some point I got smarter. I started asking questions and listening to the answers. I didn’t stop going into the world or taking on new challenges, but I tried to understand how the person that I pledged to be with through this journey would feel as I did. I made small changes, like texting “I’m okay” when I went out alone. Mostly, I just learned to appreciate that the worry was wrapped so tightly around the love that they were virtually indistinguishable.
And that’s why when he told me this morning that he didn’t sleep last night, I simply hugged him. I knew that he spent the night playing through 100’s of different scenarios, ones where I didn’t walk away. Ones where my version of the world is wrong, no matter how much he wants it to be right. And I couldn’t be mad at him for that. So, I hugged him some more and reminded him of one basic thing, the one thing he cares about more than anything.
I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.