I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in. ~ Virginia Woolf
We locked ourselves in and out at the same time
We recently rushed out the door to pick our children up at school and we left the house keys inside. We realized this immediately and decided we would figure it out after picking up the kids. “We can’t be late,” I exclaimed, “they are new to this school, in a foreign country.” As we attempted to pull out of the driveway, we realized we were also locked in. The key to open the gate to get off the property was on the same key ring as the house keys. As panic set in, we ran like rats in a maze, looking for every possible way in or out.
I looked at my watch. The school was letting out and we were still trapped in our driveway. I felt so alone. I pulled out our emergency phone we purchased so the school could call us if one of the kids was sick. It never dawned on me to learn how to dial out or change the primary language on the phone so I could understand the commands. I pushed every button and reached one of the room mothers. Hands shaking I attempted to explain our situation and hoped that her reply meant she understood. I hesitantly emailed a new friend who magically got the message in time. Meanwhile, my husband called out to our neighbors that we have never met. With broken English and Italian, he managed to figure out they had a gate key for reasons that are still unclear. They let us out and we raced to school.
When we pulled into the parking lot, the kids were waiting with both people we managed to reach. Within an hour of getting home, the Vice Principal somehow heard what had happened and called to make sure all was well.
I beat myself up silently all the way home. How could I inconvenience people I barely know by asking for help? Why didn’t I familiarize myself with the phone? Why didn’t I hide a key outside, just in case? What am I going to do to thank these people that helped us? By the time we were safely inside, I was convinced I had no business living in a foreign country.
In the USA, I know the protocol. I filled out an emergency form during registration for this very purpose. There were three back up numbers the school could call if there was something preventing me from picking up my children. I completely exhausted all avenues of self-doubt and then I got tired of my own voice and landed on the reason I was standing in this place at this time.
Ask for help?
I have never been very good at asking for help. Before this incident, somewhere deep down, I believed I was weak if I could not handle something on my own. Conversely, I loved helping others when they needed it or needed me. I felt stronger when I was needed but weaker when I was in need.
It hit me that evening when the kids were safely tucked in bed and I had time to reflect on the day. I have never really been alone. Even when I thought I was enduring because of my own strength, there was always the presence of others somewhere in my experience. Perhaps it was wisdom from a relative, encouragement from a parent, friend, or child that guided me.
I may find myself standing alone momentarily, but I now know there is a lifetime of guidance accessible always. What a relief to let go of the illusion that it was ever all up to me.
The more we travel the larger the compass becomes and the easier it is to find our way.