As I am sure any parent would agree, getting 3 kids ready for school in the morning while simultaneously getting yourself ready for work is no easy task. Now throw in the fact that one of those children is disabled, and requires even more assistance than a “normal” child, and it becomes darn near impossible. I would put it right up there with solving the million dollar math problems like the Riemann Hypothesis or the Navier-Stokes existence proof (sorry, I geeked out for a minute). As difficult as it was though, my family managed to work out a routine that allowed everyone to get where they needed to be, dressed, fed, and on time, at least most days. This carefully choreographed dance that we executed every morning required everyone to do their part though, and if anything went wrong with one part, the entire routine would quickly start to unravel, leading to a lot of anxious running about playing catch up and usually an angry momma. Even though we carried out this daily grind common to every American household with varying degrees of success for several years, there is one morning that really sticks out in my mind. Not only was this particular day a little traumatic for me, but it also illustrates and serves as a reminder of a valuable lesson.
It was a drizzly, cold morning in October, and I was 5 years old and in kindergarten. It was one of those mornings where nothing major went wrong, but any little thing that could happen to slow you down, did. They were all small events in and of themselves, like my brother not being able to find his shoes right away, me getting toothpaste on my shirt, and forgetting that I needed a check for lunch money. These separate, small miscues piled up though, and when we looked at the clock expecting to be on schedule, all of the seemingly insignificant little hiccups that only robbed us of a few seconds have added up, and we should have left 5 minutes ago. You know, one of those wonderful mornings that we all love so much. So, after a lot of hurrying around and stressing out about being late, which is a cardinal sin in the Drotar house, we were finally ready to throw on our coats, grab our backpacks, and load up in the van, almost 10 minutes behind when we usually would.
Of course, when it rains it pours, and just as we were getting ready to pull out of our driveway, the school bus for our neighborhood arrives and momentarily blocks our departure. After the longest 60 seconds that have ever been documented, I think that the space-time continuum actually morphed to slow down time, we were finally able to get on the road. The comedy of errors just continued rolling however, as a garbage truck pulled out right in front of us as soon as we got moving. Already running late, we didn’t have time to sit behind this slow moving monstrosity that stops every 50 feet. So, even though it was a tight squeeze on a country road with a great big garbage truck, my mom decided to try to maneuver around it and continue on our way. As she hit the gas to carefully zoom around
the truck, everything went into slow motion for me. I was riding in the back of the van in my manual wheelchair (they thought I was too young to trust around other kids in my power wheelchair), and I felt the force of her accelerating throw me against the back of my chair. Next, I feel the torque from the van throwing my body to the right as she turned around the massive vehicle in our way. As I am being thrown to the side, I feel the left tire of my wheelchair lift up off the floor of the van, and instead of my wheelchair’s chest restraint holding me up, both the chair and I took a tumble and tipped over. I cannot imagine the terror that must have gone through my mom’s head as she had to watch in the rearview mirror, as her physically disabled son toppled over in a moving vehicle. She hurried back to where I laid, and using the superhuman strength that all mothers in crisis possess, she got my wheelchair upright again. Even though this was really scary, somehow I managed to survive the fall with nothing more than a bump on the head and a nasty headache. Oh, and we still ended up getting to school just in time to get to class.
When I think about this moment in my life, and I so vividly recall the feeling of falling over while my mother was doing her best Danica Patrick impression, I am not only reminded of the terror I felt, but also how close I came to being seriously hurt for a really stupid reason. What was the worst thing that could have happened if we were a few minutes late? Stephanie and I are maybe counted tardy, and my mom at worst gets a slap on the wrist from her principal for not showing up on time. Not exactly the end of the world, when you really stop to think about it. When you consider the fact that I could have been permanently hurt or even killed as a result of hurrying to arrive on time, these consequences seem even more trivial. This sort of thing happens all the time in our lives. We get so caught up in trying to blindly satisfy the black and white rules set by ourselves or society, that we don’t take the time to think about what we are doing or why we are doing it. If my mom had thought about the danger to her children versus the ramifications of being 10 minutes late, there is no way she would have tried to be Jeff Gordon. It would not have been worth the risk. In a lot of situations in your life, if you are self-aware and in the moment enough to realize what you are doing, why, and the consequences of not doing it, you will be able to avoid potentially harmful or dangerous results. You will also save a lot of mental stress from frantically trying to satisfy some arbitrary rules set by society, as well as a lot of time you would spend completing a task you really don’t need to do. All of these benefits from merely stopping to ask yourself, “What am I doing? And why am I doing it?”
Although now my family and I can look back and laugh about the time mom tipped Scott over in the van, I am sure that both my mother and I will never forget how scary that morning was. The good thing about that, is that means I will also never forget the lesson that it illustrates. It is important to stay focused on what you are doing and have the mental clarity to think about why you are doing it. If this cost-benefit analysis suggests that the consequences of not doing it are small or nonexistent, or if the potential rewards are not worth the effort, time, or risk, then you can decide to stop. How often do you just go through the motions and mindlessly follow some arbitrary set of rules without even thinking about why? How often do you “tip over a wheelchair?” At least once a day either at work or at home, as you are just robotically carrying out a task, stop and think about what you are doing. Is it the best use of your time? What is the worst that could happen if you don’t do it? I bet you will find, as I have, that you can greatly increase your efficiency and improve your life by doing this simple act. By keeping all four wheels on the ground, you will avoid a lot of possible loss, and you will lead a happier, more successful life.