My mind did not initially register what I saw.
I walked toward where my car was parked and saw a white car with random parts on the ground in front of it, the bumper hanging partially off, the headlight busted. What happened to that car, I wondered. How did that even happen?
"You guys," I yelled to my friends, trying to keep the note of hysteria from creeping in. "Look at what happened to my car!"
Melissa and Danielle rushed over from where they'd been headed and we gaped at the destruction.
This was not how the weekend was supposed to go.
We had picked a random town in Wisconsin to meet up at the end of July. I hadn't seen Melissa and Danielle since before I moved to San Francisco but now that we lived in adjoining states, it was time to catch up.
We've been friends for almost 20 years now and it's easy to feel like we're still in college when we're together, no matter how much has changed since then. Saturday evening we'd visited a brewery and then found a restaurant serving our beloved fried pickles. We all agreed: these were as good as the ones at La Grotto's. No small feat. Sunday morning we'd planned on checking out a cute coffee shop we'd passed on the way to the brewery.
That plan was put on hold as it became clear my car had been the victim of a hit and run. While a few hotel guests had witnessed it happen late the night before, they had been unable to catch the license plate.
On any given day, my mind is a wild cacophony of thoughts. Put me in some sort of difficult situation and those thoughts take a hyperbolic and/or fatalistic direction. Welcome to the jungle.
I needed to drive home that afternoon. Was my car even drivable? If it wasn't, how would I get back to the Twin Cities? I didn't know any mechanics there. How soon could it be fixed? What would I do if I had to stay in Wisconsin? What about work?
Then looming behind all that: the knowledge my temp job would be ending soon without any good prospects on the horizon. I was about to be unemployed again while having to pay my deductible and a portion of the rental car for something that wasn't my fault. Stressed was an understatement.
This all passed through my mind in seconds.
Then I took a deep breath. If I'd been there on my own, I might have fallen apart. The last straw and all that.
But I wasn't alone.
I looked at Danielle and Melissa and this zen state came over me. Unlike most things in my life, I didn't have to go through this on my own.
Sure, there was still strong language but the hysteria that tried to take hold quickly ebbed away. Everything rolled off my back. I focused on one thing at a time: talking to the sheriff's department, calling insurance, determining if my car was drivable.
Emotional equanimity is the gift of the healthy Four and that day it was on display in full force. I am convinced my friends were a big part of that. Their presence kept me present. They kept checking on me because they were ready for the breakdown. I was upset but I held it together because what else can you do?
Instead, I focused on what I did have.
My friends stayed by my side while I made phone calls and waited for the police. They waited with me and took me out for tea while we waited for a mechanic and drove to get gorilla tape and took my mind off of the weight of this new disaster.
Unless you have been single for many years, I'm not sure you'll understand how much this means.
I wasn't alone.
Let me repeat that: I wasn't alone.
I'm in charge of everything in my life. Whether it's chores around the house or everything that comes with moving out of state, it all comes down to me. It can be exhausting but I'm used to it. I don't have a choice. Either I take care of things or they don't get done. Full stop.
When it came to this car debacle, I still had to make all the phone calls and deal with the car rental company and the mechanic. But I had two dear friends by my side and that made all the difference. Having Melissa and Danielle there to bear witness and help out in tangible ways was a balm. I didn't know how much I needed that balm.
The gift of presence goes farther than any of us ever know.