Heat swirled in a whirling mass, engulfing my soaking body like an overzealous sauna even the devil couldn’t handle. Looking into the mirror, penny-sized droplets of perspiration dripped off my face. Choking from the intensity, I was sure I was going to die.
It started as a typical Wednesday morning in July. Not wanting to miss a minute of our precious time together, I rode along with my daughter, Michelle, to her various business meetings in Los Angeles.
“Mom, are you sure you’re going to be OK?” my sweet child asked, parking the car. “You can come in with me.”
“Yeah, honey,” I responded, confidently. “I have calls to make. Just leave the window open.”
“So, you’ll watch my purse?”
Tipping an affirmative nod in her direction, she closed the door, aimed her key in my direction, and jaunted off.
At first, a cool breeze tickled my head and lazily danced with my hair. But fifteen minutes later, I found myself wondering how much longer she was going to take. The Southern California sun was now blazing directly overhead turning the car’s interior into a firebox.
“Man, I’m getting hot,” I stewed. “Maybe I should get out?”
Just four feet away, a bright forest of multi-colored impatiens flourished in the cool shade of the towering building. Flipping the button to release the lock, I recalled something about a purse and Michelle pointing her key at the car. Sure she’d armed it, I knew a horrendous sound would blare if I opened the door, so I changed my mind.
“Oh, God! Now, what am I going to do?” I cried, liquefying further into a puddle of profuse sweat.
Fifteen minutes became thirty, then forty-five. Thoughts of being incinerated slapped me silly as I poured bottled water down the front of my dress and shoulders. No sooner did it hit my skin than it evaporated into the sweltering air.
Believing I’d go completely loony if I didn’t do something quick, I pulled my upper body through the window, but the high-noon temperature was just as hot outside as it was in. Sliding back, the feeling of entrapment terrified me. Just as I was about to have a panic attack, I notice Michelle casually leaving the building.
“Hurry!” I screamed. “Unlock the door. I can’t stand it any longer.”
Now, I’ve been told I’m crazy at times, but the look on her face said I was certifiable.
“What’s the matter?” she yelled, running to let me out. Tumbling face first into the gutter, I quickly ran for shade.
“Mom, the car was unlocked this whole time!” she giggled.
“What? But I saw you lock it!” I yelped, horrified.
Bursting into laughter, she wiped the drenched wisps of hair out of my eyes, and said, “I was unlocking it. I thought you might want to walk around.”
Driving away with the air conditioner blasting my face, I thought about all the times I’ve allowed myself to get trapped either emotionally or physically just because I didn’t want to bother someone.
This pattern was debilitating. For God’s sake, I almost suffocated and didn’t attempt to open the door out of fear that the car would make a noise and draw attention to me. As my skin dried, I looked out the window and affirmed that I would make a change. I would stop caring so much about putting other’s needs before my own. Next time, I would make sure I had the keys. I wouldn’t allow myself to get trapped emotionally or physically… Next time, I would choose me.
It’s important to be mindful of those around us, but we must also be vitally attentive to our needs. Have you ever let the needs of another come before your own? If you regretted that decision, what did you do to rectify it?