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Preparing to be Unprepared

Preparing to be Unprepared

I found myself careening down a mountain, my hands gripping the steering wheel, and rarely uttered prayers slipping out of my mouth up toward the heavens.  The gas gauge read 0 miles.  Zero. None. No more.  I had already gone 7 miles on 0 miles of gas left in my tank and panic was setting in. 

This had never happened to me.  By sheer will alone I am sure, I coasted into a tiny gas station in middle-of-nowhere Oregon to refill my tank.  I started to cry once I plugged the gas pump into my tank.  Pure relief and something more surprising washed over me – shame. 

My daughters and each of their friends on our road trip were confused by my reaction. “Mom, it was going to be fine.  We would have gotten gas one way or the other.”  For me it was more than that. 

I am the daughter of an Air Force pilot who meticulously plotted our road trips.  He was been preaching preparedness to me my entire 45 years of life.  As a result I pride myself in being prepared.  I enter every courtroom well prepared.  With my family and friends I am known to map out “Itineraries of Fun” for any vacation complete with weather data, key phone numbers, and hourly time slots filled in.   

As I found myself running out of gas I had not accounted for the many miles I would go without services in a rural area on the interstate.  I had not accounted for my less than normal gas mileage due to the cargo carrier I had strapped to the top of my car.  Lastly, I had not accounted for the residual shame that was coming at me from my divorce. 

I had not planned on my marriage ending in divorce.  No one does.  I had not planned on being a single parent.  I had not planned on living half-time completely alone.  When divorce became my reality I was ill-prepared to say the least.   

The end of my marriage tops the list of my lifetime failures.  I am not sure that it should – but nonetheless, it does.  For the planner in me – divorce created the most chaos I have ever lived through.  The feeling of being out of control, helpless, and scared were never more prominent in my life than the year I divorced. 

The small sensations of all of those feelings hit me anew as my car glided into the gas station.  While this brought back residual feelings and a disproportionate reaction to the situation – it also served as the perfect metaphor for the bigger picture of my divorce. 

You see – I filled up my tank.  I continued on my journey.  And I was better prepared for the next time I would find myself unprepared. 

Angela Dunne