Column: Taking care

“Do you realize that you were doing 73 in a 60, ma’am?” The officer stood at my window. He had pulled me over in a speed trap on I-12 near the outskirts of Baton Rouge. I fumbled in my glove box for my insurance card.

“It also looks like the registration is expired on your license plate.”

That came in the mail not too long ago, I thought. “No, I have it around here somewhere. I haven’t put the sticker on.”

He taps my windshield and chuckles. “And it looks like your inspection sticker is expired too.”

Now I’m in trouble.

What he doesn’t know is that as soon as I pull out my purse to show him my driver’s license, he will see that it has expired as well—with my birthday last month. I had yet to make time during the chaos of summer to get another one. He’s going to call back to the station to hee-haw with his friends about me, I’m sure.

As I start sifting through the stack of insurance cards in the portfolio that also holds my registration, he looks over my shoulder and sees that I have cards that date back to 2009. I have never thrown them out. I flip through the 2009’s proof of insurance to the 2010’s and 2011’s.

“Getting closer,” he teases. My hands are shaking.

How did I get to this point?

I’m not typically unprepared. In fact, I can book a weeklong trip for a family of six, including airfare and dinner reservations, in one evening—and I do it up to a year in advance. I host family dinners at my house for 12 or more people and I cook all day, the kitchen is clean when guests arrive, and the table is set. I lay out clothes for my children the night before so that they are dressed for church or school on time. I manage the monthly duties of this magazine while juggling activities for children and fun evenings out with my husband.

So where is my durn insurance card?

In the midst of all the planning and the chaos, I’ve neglected to take care of myself. This is true. I’m the last to go to the doctor when I am sick. My dentist calls me when it’s time for a checkup. Once, when work was extremely hectic, my husband actually booked my hair appointment because he knew I hadn’t been in so long. Of all the balls I juggle, the one I drop is usually my own.

You wouldn’t know it from looking at me. I seem responsible and pulled together. But like mothers throughout the ages, I take little time for myself—even necessary, inspection sticker time—because I am putting the immediate needs of dinner, daily work and household duties first.

The officer glances in the back of my vehicle at the basketball, my daughter’s cardigan and a forgotten stuffed animal. “Looks like you’ve got your hands full with kids.”

I nod, unable to talk because I’m trying not to cry. Ridiculous.

He looks me in my teary eyes. “Just slow down, and take care of yourself.” And with that he walks away.

That day, that officer gave me a new lease on life. And a command. I don’t take his words or his mercy lightly. I saw to the immediate needs of my car first. I booked doctor’s appointments that needed booking, and I went to the dentist. I even started running more frequently. Take care of yourself. Now, I am.