Hijacked

One morning last week I woke up angry and with a headache, the kind that seems to live both inside and outside of your skull, enveloping your head in a cloud of low-grade but insistent pain. I wondered why. Oddly, it still takes me a little time, when I wake up with an emotion already in progress, to understand the problem. You probably have a guess by now, having read only this far, and I’m pretty sure you are right. However, I couldn’t figure it out at first.

I had to drive the kids somewhere that morning, and we had been bombarded with snow and ice over the 24 hours prior. Before I could drive my car anywhere I had to break it out of its wintry-mix casing. The scraper was proving ineffectual and I resorted to hacking at the windshield ice with it over and over until I burst into tears and sobbed inconsolably, flopped over the pile of ice chunks on the hood.

Oh yeah, suddenly it was all perfectly clear. Another morning hijacked by grief.

(I’ve seen so many versions of that moment in movies and TV shows, when an angry person pummels something or someone over and over until suddenly he or she breaks down crying hysterically. I had always thought that it seemed a little overwrought and unrealistic. I’ve changed my mind.)

Where did we get the idea that when we make a plan, we can be assured of its execution if only we pursue it with passion and energy and a positive attitude? Why do we assume that the world will cooperate with our vision? I’ve been trying to find a word that describes how I feel now that things have diverted me from my plans, opening a chasm between the expectation of what I had laid out and the reality of what is, and kicking me right down into it. And the word is hijacked.

If you look up “hijacked” you will find the sense of diverting a vehicle from its planned course, but you will also find that it refers to theft. The word has its origins purportedly from “highway” and “jacker” (as in “one who holds up”); originally it was used to describe a theft from someone in transit such as a bootlegger.

I feel as though my life has been hijacked twice – once by cancer, and again by loss. I was driving along minding my own business when each of these hijackers came along and took over the wheel and headed off in an unknown and unwanted direction.

Hijackings have all different time frames. Often an individual day will feel hijacked, like the day I’m describing. Or a morning, or even an hour. I am diverted toward choices I didn’t plan to make, activities I didn’t plan to do (or to cancel). I lose sight of the path I had seen so clearly. Fog rolls in.

So anyway, back to the driveway. I tried to pull my act together after I cleaned off my car. I went inside and proceeded to fall apart all over again in front of my two older kids, who kindly hugged me until I calmed down. Then I drove to our synagogue, dropped the kids off to go in to help with some Purim preparations, found parking, and then had to stay in my car for half an hour alone, still unglued. By the time I pulled myself together enough to go inside the entire activity I had volunteered to help with had been completed. Hijacked, again.

I think people often feel hijacked by all kinds of things. Hijacked by a snowstorm that keeps our kids home from school and forces us to handle the logistics and spend hours digging out. Hijacked by our own illnesses, our parents’ illnesses, our kids’ illnesses that take priority over everything else. Hijacked by a power outage or a flooded basement. Hijacked by a child’s personal crisis. Hijacked by the sudden loss of a friend or family member. Hijacked by the loss of a job, the demise of a marriage, an accident or injury. Suddenly everything is different and we are careening off on a road we didn’t plan to travel and, often, didn’t even know was there. Our time and our autonomy have been stolen from us. Our energy and our control have been usurped. We feel held up, wrongly diverted, robbed.

I have been waiting for a good idea about how to deal with this situation. I have sat on this blog post for about a week, changing the first sentence every few days to reflect the adjusted time frame, thinking that an answer would come along. And…it hasn’t. I’m so hijacked that I can’t even find a button for this post. So it will remain unbuttoned, which in this weather is not ideal, but it is what it is. Anyone out there who has a good button and wants to share it is welcome.

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