Trial By Fire
A few years ago, I was sleeping in my bed around midnight when my daughter’s scream woke me. I thought that I might be having a nightmare. I bolted upright, heart thumping in my chest, and sat still, listening for clues. I wondered if my imagination had awakened me, or if there was an intruder. Should I grab a weapon and investigate?
My daughter’s screaming resumed, so I threw back the covers and ran to her room as fast as I could. We had wooden floors, and I was wearing socks. As I rounded the corner at top speed, my socks met the slippery floor, and I went flying across her room and landed hard, like a batter colliding with home plate. I heard a crack, and it hurt, but I had more important things on my mind; I had to know if my daughter was okay. I flipped on the light, half expecting to find her window open and a man in a black mask trying to kidnap her.
She was lying on the floor, alone and trembling. She had been climbing down the ladder of her bunk bed when she slipped and fell. I checked her thoroughly, and although she was banged up, nothing was broken. We decided that she would sleep in my bed for the rest of the night because bunk beds suddenly seemed more dangerous than a great white shark in a swimming pool. I limped around for the next few weeks before I finally went to the doctor and found out that I had broken my big toe. It was excruciatingly painful for nearly a year, but despite our injuries, I remember that night as victorious.
When I was married, if I awoke to a scary noise or a screaming child I would wake my husband, who was more adept at handling crises. He would assess the situation and bark orders at me like a commanding officer, shocking me out of my zombie-like trance and into action. When my daughter broke her arm, and I stood motionless staring at her mangled body, he scooped her up and told me to call my father and check on our son while he drove her to the hospital to have it set. When we found her gasping for air in her bed due to an acute asthma attack, he threw her in the car and raced her to the emergency room for a lifesaving breathing treatment while I stayed home, pacing the floor while our infant son slept. When the house next door caught fire in the middle of the night, and we awoke to the sound of sirens, I was transfixed, staring out the window at the flames lapping the roof less than twenty feet away. He told me to take the children outside quickly and go across the street, as far away from the inferno and blowing embers as possible. When my husband and I divorced, I worried about what might happen if there was an emergency when I was alone with the children. If something awful were to happen, would I be paralyzed by fear, or would I rise to the occasion? Would I know how to protect us? Would the children be safe with me?
When I heard that scream in the middle of the night, I didn’t have a husband to help. But when I ascertained that my child could be in danger the adrenaline mixed with the fierce protectiveness of a mama bear and instead of being paralyzed by fear, or running from it, I ran toward it.
I’ve learned a lot about myself since my divorce; mostly that I’m capable of much more than I imagined. It turns out that when I was married, there were a lot of things I didn’t do because I didn’t have to, not because I couldn’t. I didn’t need a husband; what I needed was more faith in myself. Now I have that, and a broken toe was a small price to pay for it.
What have you learned about yourself through difficult situations? What else might you be capable of if you had more faith in yourself?