Imagine yourself in this scenario: It is Friday night, the end of a long work week. You leave work 15 minutes late, drive 20 minutes to pick up your baby from daycare, drive another hour back to your neighborhood. A block away from home, you stop to get some beer – and realize you left your wallet on your desk back at the office – on top of a notebook which has all your personal information, including every password to every account you own. (You check your purse twice to verify this.)
Of the two miserable choices – drive all the way back to pick up these items or wait until the morning and hope they’re still there – you choose the former.
As you turn back around, you are faced with thick, Friday night traffic. The freeway is a parking lot. You take the first exit, then surface streets all the way across town, another 45 minutes. Your skin starts to itch and twitch.
Your baby looks at you questioningly. This is taking a lot longer than usual, her eyes say. I’m really hungry and tired. When can I get out of this car? She can’t talk so you might be projecting. But she does not look happy and she’s fidgeting, which is the precursor to whimpering, then full out crying.
Are you calm and collected in this situation? If so, please tell me how.
I was in tears almost the whole way. I only refrained from laying on my horn and screaming because I didn’t want to alarm the puppy further. I tried calling work but everyone was gone and there is no after-hours service. I didn’t call anyone else because I was practically hyper-ventilating. I tried to focus on my breathing but every time I thought of what would happen if someone stole my wallet and all my passwords, bank accounts, investments, email addresses, credit cards, my home address, my social security number, my security questions and answers…
Instead, I imagined what my husband would have said, because I would have called him. He used to call this talking me “off the ledge.”
He would have acknowledged that the situation sucked but encouraged me to think the best and focus on driving safely. He would have told me that chances are my stuff was still there, but IF not, I could cancel accounts and change passwords right there at the office, probably faster than someone could take advantage of them. He would have urged me to not beat myself up, and promised to make me a cocktail when I got home. “Stay calm. Call me as soon as you get to the office,” I could hear him say.
Talking myself off the ledge wasn’t quite as effective, but it did help. By the time I got to the office, I had at least stopped crying. I left the puppy alone with the windows cracked while I ran up to my desk.
My wallet and the notebook were still there, right where I left them.
When I came back to the car, the puppy was so stir crazy she jumped out and gleefully ran around the empty parking garage just as a senior executive was getting out of his Mercedes. Why was he coming back to work? I wondered as I ran after her.
When we finally made it back to the neighborhood, 3 hours after I originally left the office, I bought champagne instead of beer, and some Ben & Jerry’s.
The next day we went to Joshua Tree… where all our worries flew away in the wind like tumbleweeds.
Who talks you off the ledge? Or how do you talk yourself off?