I make the drive to Rapid City once or twice a week. Usually I’m on my way to an appointment–here are therapists, doctors, tutors, hairstylists–or I’m running errands–here’s the Walmart, the Safeway, the library, the UPS store.
But today’s trip is just for me. I’m driving 120 miles round-trip to get a cup of coffee, to sit for an hour with my notebook. The coffee shop closes at 3, and I should be home by 4 anyway. I didn’t tell my son I’d be away this afternoon. He’s expecting me to be home after school, and I know what will happen if I’m not where he expects me to be. He can’t help it, I remind myself. He can’t help it.
I fought this trip all morning. There are so many other things I should be doing with my afternoon besides driving 120 miles for a cup of coffee and an hour’s getaway. Cleaning the house. Finishing a final round of edits on a book project that’s due. Revising some picture book manuscripts I owe. Working out. Having a conversation with my husband that doesn’t focus on parenting, that isn’t full of complaint. Blogging. Grading. Oh yes, lots of grading.
But this afternoon, I need to push the reset button. My patience is running dangerously thin. I am reacting to my son rather than responding. I feel angry, irritable, resentful. I am spending a lot of time muttering under my breath about how people shouldn’t have to live like this. And it’s true. People shouldn’t. But this is what trauma is. This is what trauma does. He is doing the best he can do right now.
I have to do the best I can do too.
I drive the 60 miles to Rapid catching up on my favorite bookish podcasts and marveling at the stark beauty of this landscape. The Black Hills to one side. Rolling grasslands and a scattering of badlands to the other. I do something I always think about doing but never actually do: I stop to take some photos. I can’t see the screen of my phone at all so I’m aiming and clicking blind, hoping something will turn out. When I get to the coffee shop and look at the photos, I realize I can barely see the abandoned house I was trying to photograph, but the sky is amazing.
I nurse a cup of coffee until it’s cold, and I people watch and eavesdrop and write and notice and wonder, and here I am again. Refreshed. Replenished. I don’t know how long it will last, but for today, it’s enough.