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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Living Mindfully: The Most Frightening 40 Minutes I Don’t Remember

I’ve had more than a few scary moments in my life. Bet you have too.

Some of those experiences lasted a long time, like ten years, and would make a fantastic plot for a Frank Peretti novel except no one would believe it if they hadn’t lived it. I’ve blocked a lot of that out – forgotten it intentionally.

But something happened a week ago today, on an ordinary Tuesday, that both amazed and terrified me.

I had an early morning dental appointment to prepare a molar to receive a crown (not the heavenly kind. The expensive kind.). My dentist is highly skilled and performed the procedure painlessly with the aid of a couple of shots of a powerful local anesthetic.

With the day in front of me, I hopped on the highway to head into Asheville, 40 minutes away, for a museum visit and some shopping.

And then the North Carolina Department of Transportation pulled a fast one on me.

Instead of one yellow line separating each lane, there were suddenly two. Rather than one red sedan directly in front of me and a gray minivan to my left, there were duplicates.

Of everything.

The double vision was so disorienting that I should have pulled over, but I didn’t have the sense to. Literally.

I tried squinting, then holding my right hand over my right eye, all the while feeling as if my mind had gone on to a better place while my body stayed right there, dodging traffic that had suddenly multiplied like a video game on fast forward.

The trip to Asheville that normally takes forty minutes seemed like only five. That’s the good news.

The bad is that I ended up parked in a place I’d never been before with absolutely no memory of how I got there. I stumbled out of the vehicle, staggered around, and climbed back into the driver’s seat lest someone think I was inebriated or, if they were believers, that a new day of Pentecost had come.

Since you’re reading these words you know the happy ending. I did not cause my own death, thanks be to God, nor anyone else’s.

I’ve had a week to ponder my lost 40 minutes. Was it a delayed, severe reaction to the dental anesthetic? Was it a mini-stroke? Or maybe it was a TIA, a transient ischemic attack. My mom had her first one when she was younger than I am now.

Whatever the cause, here’s the takeaway for me.

How often do I go through my days, weeks, months just as unaware of time passing as I did on that harrowing trip to Asheville last week?

What about the time I spend scrolling through news feeds and social media posts or falling down internet rabbit holes before I realize that an hour or more has passed, and I’ve not accomplished one darn thing on my priority list for the day?

Where did those extra pounds come from after I mindlessly consumed snacks while reading or watching a movie?

Maybe you’ve asked yourself similar questions without needing an out-of-body experience to prompt you. Do you feel as if there’s a finger on the fast-forward button of your life, and you just want things to SLOW DOWN?

I’ve had seasons of life where I was trying to be in too many places at the same time. In one particularly crazy span of 36 months in my late 50’s, I worked a corporate job 8 am -5 pm daily, attended graduate school on campus in the evenings, kept up my itinerant speaking ministry on weekends, and was at church practically every time the doors were open.

My choice. All of it. The job helped to put our kids through college. The advanced education was one I’d hungered for. The ministry bore fruit. The church? Well, those were my people, my family. And I always wanted to be with family.

It was not sustainable. And yet even in my late 60’s, I still find myself saying yes to almost every good opportunity that comes along.

My memory blackout last week has gotten my attention.

Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club, has this to say:

“The greatest gift you can give anyone is your undivided attention – yet I’d been constantly dividing mine. No one was getting it, not even me.”

We all need to live mindfully, paying attention to our health, our commitments, and most of all to each other. An old devotional put it this way:

“For this day only is ours; we are dead to yesterday, and we are not yet born to the morrow.” Jeremy Taylor, Daily Strength for Daily Needs

This day only is ours in this beautiful life we share.

And if I haven’t said it enough lately?

I love you, friends.

@copyright 2021, Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie's first book, This Life We Share, is available anywhere books are sold. Watch for her second, Life is Sweet, Y'all! releasing in March, 2022.



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