Single Mom Slice Of Change:
The Rubber Band Effect


It was a dark and stormy night, on a steep hill, and no streetlights on that stretch of road. The driver had had her license for only 24 hours. She was driving her brother’s truck… a black truck… a black truck with no tail lights… on that stormy, dark, wet, steep, lightless road.

So when she stopped in the middle of the road, I didn’t see her – not until after I hit her. Within a heartbeat, the hood of my car twisted into an angry imitation of an accordion with the ease of wet tissue paper.

That was my first – and only – car accident. I was only 18 at the time, and I remember swearing to myself that I would never drive again. For a month after, I broke into a sweat each time I got behind the wheel of a car. For a year after, I drove at least 5 miles under the speed limit. Twenty some odd years later, I still taste the bitter taste of fear when I have to drive in the rain.

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It was traumatic. It took practice, and a lot of deep breaths, but time did heal those wounds. I don’t think about that accident anymore… until the threat of rain looms darkly overhead. As soon as the first drop lands on the windshield – no time at all has passed. I’m 18 again, in the dark, my tears mixing with the rain, as I vow to never drive ever again.

I tell you that to tell you this… time is like a rubber band. You can move away from an event, forget the little details, go for stretches of time without thinking about something you swore you would never forget… until one random trigger snaps you right back into that place.

Last December I was hospitalized for what began as an asthma attack gone wrong, and ended up with me staying the night in the cardiac ward as doctors tried for seventeen hours to bring my blood pressure down from stroke levels.

I made a lot of promises, vows, and changes in my life. The look on my sons’ faces as they tried to function through the worry and the fear of seeing me in a hospital bed was a powerful motivator. So was the lecture of the doctor saying that at only 41, I was walking on the edge of congestive heart failure. The stress of the multiple kidney, lung, and heart tests that came after…

I did make a lot of changes. Salt was the first thing to go, then cheese, fried foods, and sauces. I worked out, became more active, took my meds faithfully, and joined a weight-loss community that supported and cheered me on each step of the way.

Pounds were shed, meds were removed, and doctors praised me. I became more active, the kids worried a little less, doctor visits were scheduled further apart, and the progress I swore would never change… slowly did.

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A cheat meal here, a missed workout there, a slight stray from my plan … and the doctor’s voice is a little harder to hear. It’s not that I don’t want to continue to move forward, or that I don’t remember those vows.

It’s that I’m human, and with each day is a new milestone. Buying pants a size smaller overwrites the news that my kidneys weren’t damaged by my high blood pressure. Seeing the gap betting bigger between my steering column and my belly overwrites buying pants in a smaller size.

Then, a loved one said, “I reread what you wrote about what the doctor said and it would have scared the shit out of me, but whatever…”

…and like a taught rubber band, I’m snapped right back into the hospital room, with the pain, the fear, and the vows to change. With one comment, I feel chastised, ashamed.

Don’t get me wrong – that’s ALL on me, and I need those reminders. Those reminders put me back on track, they remind me that people care, they are invested emotionally in my health, and I need to invest as well.

So, back to the gym I go. Back to the healthy meals, the support system that has forged around me, the reminder that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and I still have a long way to go… but I’ll get there.

Until next time, ask yourself: what is your trigger that snaps you back into place? How do you know when you’ve strayed too far from your goal, and what do you do to at least try and prevent it from happening again?