The Crack in the Windshield

There’s a crack in my windshield.

It started as a tiny divot in the glass, where a piece of gravel made contact after flying from the back of a truck during my morning commute (back when I had one). This chip in the glass occurred…oh…probably three or four months ago now?

After a month or so of ignoring it, a little crack began to creep its way from the left side of the divot, inching toward the driver’s side of the van.

“We need to call our insurance guy and see what our deductible is, then have it replaced,” Drew and I would murmur to each other from time to time.

But, as with most things these days, following through on that task fell to the bottom of the priority list.

Last week, after additional neglect, the crack suddenly bolted its way across the expanse of windshield—most likely from a combination of moisture and cooler temperatures mixed with another warm-up.

We couldn’t even pinpoint the exact time it happened—it was that quick. Was it before or after dropping the girls off at preschool? Or possibly the night before?

Nobody saw it happen, but all of a sudden, there it was: visible evidence of not properly maintaining our vehicles.


Fast forward to late Friday afternoon.

We were about 15 minutes into our drive—on our way to Kalamazoo to pick up Drew’s Mom (Babcia) to bring her up to our place for the weekend—when it started.

First, I felt short of breath. I turned up the fan on the passenger side of the van and tried to deepen my breathing, hoping it would help.

Next, my hands started to shake, my fingers tingled, and when I looked down at my hands to witness this strange occurrence, I noticed my vision was blurred.

My heart started racing.

I couldn’t catch my breath.

The highway outside the windshield looked distorted—as if I were viewing it through a funhouse mirror.

“Something’s wrong with me,” I said aloud, turning to Drew in a panic.

“What?” he said, looking at me as if I were crazy.

“I don’t know what’s happening, “ I replied, trying to get across in my tone—even though I couldn’t really control it—that I wasn’t playing around. “But I can’t breathe, and everything is blurry, and…”

I started to sob.

(Which didn’t help my breathing.)

Now…gasping.

Holy shit, I thought. I’m dying. I’m literally dying right now, here in the car…of a heart attack or something. I don’t know what.  I’m going to die.

Then, an idea struck me. I had skipped lunch…it was probably just low blood sugar.

I reached my shaking hand out to Drew, asking if I could take a drink of the Coke he’d bought at the gas station we’d stopped at on our way out of town.

I took a long swig, and the cold liquid felt wonderful on my throat. I took another one. I kept trying to take deep breaths. I turned down the temperature and the fan up even more.

What was WRONG with me?


If you were following my Facebook feed this weekend, you would see no account of the event I just described. You’d see happy, smiley pictures of pumpkin patching, Chuck E. Cheesing, birthday cake eating, birthday present opening, and leaf-pile jumping.

All of those fun activities happened, of course. And, yes, we had a lot of fun!

But this other thing also happened. And it haunted me the entire time, like a veil clouding the view of the wonderful sights in front of me.

I so badly wanted to see everything clearly—without muddled vision. I wanted to be able to fully immerse myself in the fun.

But in the periphery, I could see the darkness hovering, trying to creep its way back in—looking for an opening.

After Googling the symptoms of what happened, Drew and I think I experienced some sort of panic attack. From what I’ve read, panic attacks occur spontaneously, but usually to people who are under enormous amounts of stress.

My first thought after reading those words was: “But that doesn’t describe me right now: ‘enormous amounts of stress’. I mean, I’m not working outside the home anymore. My Mom helps me with watching the girls three days a week so that I can focus on writing or household tasks. I should be less stressed now than I’ve been in the past few years, actually.”

But then I continued to ponder our lives right now…

Drew’s extra hours at the office over the past month…

Drew’s near-daily trips to Kalamazoo to see his Dad after work during his last weeks…

The start of a new school year and transitioning the kids back into that routine…

Having a three year old (‘nough said)…

Worrying about finances now that I’m not bringing in a supplementary income…

So then my second thought was: “Wait. Why am I the one having a panic attack, instead of Drew? Why is he able to keep it together, while I lose it? Hasn’t he been under more stress than I have?”

The obvious answer to that question is yes. I think he has. He is the one working more. He is the one supporting our family solely right now. He is the one who just experienced watching his father pass away.

I’m just the one at home, taking care of the kids. Often times feeding them alone, putting them to bed alone. Worrying about us infecting my Mom with another round of sickness. Worrying about—and constantly keeping my eye on the bank accounts and the job market to see if I should apply to any jobs to help support—our finances. Running errands. Dropping off. Picking up. Making appointments. Trying to fit in a workout. Trying to spend quality time with the girls, but often having the planned activities dissolve into a puddle of tears and frustration (for both Mama and kiddos). Worrying that I’m doing it wrong—failing—while other Moms have so much more on their plate and succeed. Hiding in the bathroom and crying when I feel overwhelmed, so that the girls don’t see me.

I wish I were stronger. I wish that my attempts to keep things semi-normal at home during these anything-but-normal past few months hadn’t “ended” in me “cracking” suddenly in the car on Friday evening.

But I’m not (stronger). I reached my limit somewhere in between the sixth request for goldfish crackers and trying to remember if I dusted the guest room for Babcia before we left the house.

Refusing to acknowledge all of my anxieties and feelings of being worn out caught up with me. I neglected self-maintenance, much in the same way I’d been neglecting getting that damn windshield fixed.

crack

I’m not sure where to go from here. I don’t know how to ensure I don’t have another one of these attacks.

But I’m going to start with breathing deeply.

Trying to be kinder to myself.

Going to bed earlier.

Re-instating my morning devotions and prayer time.

Working out more often, but not necessarily more rigorously.

And I’m going to hope that—for now—that will be enough to keep the darkness from creeping its way back in from the edges of my vision.

Written by Ember

Ember

Wife. Mother of 2 girls. Bookworm. Coffee addict. Lover of shoes. Killer of most plants. I write for a living, but not the glamorous kind (think: instruction manuals, not New Yorker essays).

One comment

  1. Brenda says:

    Very well said, this is so true! I believe it is a blessing to be home with your children but so much more work than anyone could ever train a person for… Taking care of yourself often times slips through the cracks. So thank you for reminding me that I’m not the only one experiencing this and I’m not being selfish when I take sometime for myself. You ladies are doing a great job and I really enjoy reading!

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