The Way I Carry Things

Andrea ChilcoteIt’s the one year anniversary of Andrea’s trek in the Atlanta Snow Storm of 2014. Join her, as she shares her “carry” series.

By Andrea Chilcote

A moment of truth is defined as a critical or decisive time on which much depends – a moment when a person or thing is put to the test. I was put to the test this week, caught in Atlanta’s epic snow storm that paralyzed the city and left thousands of people stranded overnight in cars, grocery stores, and hotel lobbies. Harrowing accounts are being told of children stranded on school buses, as well as heartwarming stories of strangers helping their fellow citizens. I have no doubt that many found lessons as well as inspiration in the events. This post is a chronicle of my moments of truth.

On that fated day, I was leading a session scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. I had flown into Atlanta from Arizona primarily for this meeting, and upon hearing the snow was expected to begin mid-day, I was optimistic that we would be able to finish our agenda and get on the road before the major rush hour (and inevitable chaos) began.

By noon, mid-session, the snow had begun to fall. Members of the group began receiving emails alerting them to school closures, as well as an authorized early release for employees.

Moment of Truth, 12:00 p.m. – To Lead or Default

I looked around and observed the buzz as people checked their mobile devices. “Should we consider whether or not to proceed?” I asked. One nodded “Yes.” Others either shook their head “No,” or did not respond. I simply moved on.

Did I make a split second judgment based on what appeared to be consensus? Or did I allow the majority response to affirm my typical tendency to forge onward despite obstacles?

I thought about that decision many times over the following 24 hours.

Moment of Truth, 2:15 p.m. – To Rush Forward or Plan

We finished the session on time, at 2 p.m. After tidying the room and packing up my things, I headed to the elevators, bound for the parking garage. I heard a voice call after me. “Are you leaving?”

I turned and saw a woman I don’t know. She continued. “…because you won’t get out. There’s a back-up in the parking garage and gridlock on the road outside the office.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “But I’d rather get started.” I continued walking – and she persisted.

“Wait two hours at least. Do you have Netflix on your computer? Sit and watch a movie.”

I thanked her again, but proceeded to the garage – quickly. I didn’t even stop at the restroom on my way out.

There’s a part of me whose motto is “Patience be damned, I’m coming through.” It’s tenacious, deliberate and clear. But sometimes I fail to consider the impact of my choices on my own well-being.

I would consider this choice many times throughout the afternoon.

Moment of Truth, 3:45 p.m. – Taking Action

Because I exited the garage via the visitor lot, I didn’t experience the inside lines that I had been warned about. I would see them an hour later, when I had moved just two car lengths from the visitor exit.

Radio broadcasts provided no encouragement to my growing frustration and concern. It appeared that the entire metro area was in similar shape.

Ninety minutes and three car lengths post departure, I found myself at another choice point. On my right was a short access road between two buildings. I frequent the area, so I knew it led to the back of a shopping center parking lot. An idea had been germinating during the time spent in gridlock. I could park my rental car and walk the six or so miles to my friend Sara’s house in Dunwoody, where I had been staying. I googled the average miles per hour a human walks in order to gauge whether I would arrive before dark.

Despite being unsure how long it would take to traverse the distance between my location and the parking lot, and a bit nervous about losing my place on the main thoroughfare, I turned right. I could decide about the walk once I arrived at the lot. The fact that I now needed to use the restroom provided more motivation to turn.

It was a very good decision.

Moment of Truth, 4:00 p.m. – Being Resourceful

The pavement was becoming treacherous and I entered the parking lot carefully, looking for open restaurants that might allow me to use the facilities. Then, I spotted REI. Yes!

Parked and in the store, I said to the clerk: “I’m going to buy clothes. First, do you have a restroom I can use?” He pointed me to the back.

In that moment, my decision was made. I would purchase gear to supplement my somewhat meager winter outfit, and then set out for Sara’s on foot in the 22 degree day.

Considering the garments I needed, I approached the clearance section, as I was not inclined to spend more than necessary on items that I already had at home in Arizona. I selected a lined and hooded jacket that would fit nicely under my wool blazer and cape, then found a pair of thin wool socks that I could gift to my husband after my trek. I had gloves already, and the hoodie would serve as a warm hat. Amazingly, my dress boots were suitable for walking in the snow. But approaching the checkout counter, I realized I was wearing a thin skirt. Back to the clearance rack I went, settling on a thick pair of leggings. Done.

Clad in tights, wool socks, boots, leggings, a skirt, silk shirt, jacket, blazer, cape and hood, I left the building with just one more decision to make.

Moment of Truth, 4:30 p.m. – My Heavy Load

I couldn’t leave my laptop bag behind, locked in the rental car. Besides my computer, it housed all of my small electronics, files with client notes, and various other “important” items. I didn’t know when I would get back to the car – and the temps were forecast to dip into the teens. And, while I’m not overly cautious, I would never have left valuables in a parked car overnight under normal conditions, let alone these.

Seeking to lighten the load, I removed a box of markers, but was still left with 16 pounds of cargo. Being an avid hiker, I can easily carry that weight in a backpack. A briefcase would present a challenge on my long walk.

REI sells backpacks. I re-approached the clerk and asked if there were any inexpensive backpacks. He chuckled. “I’m afraid backpacks are never cheap,” he replied. I briefly considered looking at packs, then rationalized that it would take a quite large one – another thing I didn’t need as I had an ample supply at home. I left the store.

This decision would form the metaphor for my greatest lesson of the trip. How much easier would my journey (in life as well to Dunwoody) be if I would just change the way I carry things?

The weekend before my adventure, I had hiked many miles over rugged terrain. I calculated that this six mile walk would take less than two hours. Not a problem – except for that bag.

For the first 45 minutes, I was fine, admittedly even a bit smug as I passed growing gridlock. I realized that waiting two hours at the office would not have helped. (In fact, those who waited spent the night there – safe, but not my idea of a relaxing evening). I was quite warm, despite heavily falling snow. Approaching a commercial area called Dunwoody Village, I stopped for tea at a still-open Chinese restaurant to rest my arms that were already growing tired from the weight of my case.

Setting out again, my mind became focused on my load. What if I couldn’t do this – then what? What if my arms cramp or just give out? I would have one of these thoughts, create a possible but far-fetched solution, then take a deep breath and switch arms.

It’s funny what the mind does when given time. I regretted not having left my pack at my client’s office. But I couldn’t have known it would become the thorn in my side.

In the village, I looked for one of those rental storage places where I could leave my bag. No luck – but I rationalized that it probably wouldn’t have been open anyway.

I fantasized that someone I knew would be on the road, shout at me, and offer to take my bag in their car. Little did I know the number of cars that would be abandoned before the night was over, some towed away the next day. That would not have been a good solution.

Pre 9-11, I might have tried asking a security guard in an office park to lock it up for me. But now, I presumed, they might call the FBI after such a request. I briefly considered asking a father out sledding with his three young sons if I could buy their small sled to haul it. But I was unsure whether that would be of benefit without one of my huskies to pull it.

So many mantras filled my head. One step in front of the other. Pay attention or you will slip and fall. Slow down and breathe – this is not a race. Going back is not an option. On and on, but one refrain was the loudest.

“The journey would be easy without this load.” Perhaps it was the solitude of the walk in the snow that created this echo in my head. It was the one I could not shake, and it holds meaning beyond this trek.

By the time I returned home the trip was costly, but worth every choice that involved spending money. So why was I unwilling to purchase a backpack, the one item that would have made my journey an easy hike? Why am I sometimes unable, or unwilling, to lighten the other loads I carry in life?

Do I underestimate the drag they create in my quest for forward movement? Do l fail to see a simple solution, a re-design of the way in which I carry my valuables? Am I not investing in the solution? I’ll ponder these questions, and I hope you will too.

Moment of Truth, 6:00 p.m. – Asking for Help

At 6 p.m., I was nearly to Sara’s – about a mile to go. I crossed the icy GA 400 overpass at Northridge Road, and turned right onto Dunwoody Place. Suddenly, no more gridlock. The road, though dangerous, was almost empty.

I paused to ponder for a minute, and then put down my case and took out my phone. I called Sara, who earlier had offered to come get me at Dunwoody Village. She was kind to volunteer, but would only have become victim to the jam. Now, perhaps she could help.

I explained that I thought she could get to me now, and being both brave and generous, she told me she would be right there. I kept walking.

About five minutes later, I encountered the reason there was no traffic.  A school bus full of children was disabled and blocking the road. Parents from the neighborhood were embracing their kids who were filing off unhurt.

Immediately I reached for my phone to call Sara, who was dialing me. She was stopped by a barricade on the other side of the bus. I had feared that she had gotten trapped in herself, but miraculously she was waiting for me in a driveway. Once there, I put my load in the backseat and hopped into the car for the short trip to her home.

Soon I was sitting by the fireplace enjoying a wonderful meal – something few commuters experienced in Atlanta that evening.

Moment of Truth, today – Heeding the Lesson

I’m back in Arizona, where it’s sunny and 70 degrees. My arms aren’t even sore, because I’m strong and fit. But just think of how far I could go if I changed the way I carry things.

Carry Series:


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!

A Happy Visit

I gave the incident little more thought – until that afternoon…

Arthur's beloved rescue horse Duke, a victim of tripping, passed away over year ago. That evening, Arthur said Duke had joined the great white horse in the sky. For Christmas, I asked local artist and friend Jan Taylor to create a memory.

Arthur’s beloved rescue horse Duke, a victim of tripping, passed away over year ago. That evening, Arthur said Duke had joined the great white horse in the sky. For Christmas this year, I asked local artist and friend Jan Taylor to create a memory.

by Andrea Chilcote

Did you have any unexpected visitors this holiday week? We did.

One night last week I was away in Atlanta on business, looking forward to going home the next day to enjoy the Christmas weekend. After I had gone to bed but was not yet fully asleep, I heard the “ding” of a text message. I had spoken a “good night” to my husband Arthur so I knew all was well at home, but I rose anyway and checked my phone.

There I found a photo of Arthur’s beloved horse Duke, who had passed away in August. The message, from Arthur, said: “Why did you send this to me??” (Two question marks).

I quickly replied that I had not sent it, that I had nearly been asleep, and wished to resume that state. He texted back.

“Well, I can see that you texted this photo! It came from you.” He persisted.

“It’s a mystery then,” I replied. “I’ll have a look when I get there tomorrow.” Arthur is not the most tech savvy person, and I assumed he somehow texted himself that photo from those in his phone. The fact that I had never seen that shot before was a bit mysterious, but I assumed all would make sense by the light of day.

When I arrived home the next evening, I asked to see the original text. Arthur told me, disappointed, that it had disappeared on its own. Thinking he had deleted it, I checked my own phone. Mine had vanished too! Yet I had seen the image he forwarded with my own eyes the night before.

I gave the incident little more thought – until that afternoon. I was sitting at my desk when Arthur ran down the hall. “Andrea, look!” he shouted. “Roxy just texted me the same photo!” I looked at his phone, and sure enough he had a text from Roxy, the loving woman who helps him care for the horses. She was at the barn, so I immediately walked there with Arthur’s phone in hand.

“Did you just send Arthur a text?” I asked, calmly. “No,” Roxy replied. “Why?”

I showed her the text, from her. Wide eyed, she pulled out her phone. “I don’t even have that picture,” she said. To be sure, she checked her sent texts (none) and her photos of the horses. None matched that shot.

I returned to the house, one part shaken and one part excited. How had this happened? Was there a tangible explanation, or – had Duke found a way (using sophisticated technology mind you) to say hello from the other side?

If you knew Duke, you will reconnect with his spirit when you look in those eyes.

If you knew Duke, you will reconnect with his spirit when you look in those eyes. –Arthur Chilcote with Duke, Christmas 2013.

Duke was a very special rescue horse. A victim of the cruel sport of “tripping,” he came to our safe haven with many physical and emotional scars. His body was aged and broken, but his spirit was strong. In the three years he was with us, he grew to trust humans and genuinely loved his main caregiver, Arthur. Our veterinarian marveled at his resilience, and shared our sadness when at last his body gave up at the end of the summer.

There’s one thing I know for sure, with every morsel of my being: There is no such thing as death. The humans we love who have passed from this earth, as well as our precious animal companions, can and do watch over us, connect with our spirits and send us their light. So then why should I find it remarkable that Duke, who had an extraordinary bond to our family, paid us a visit? I’ve pondered that question a lot over the past few days.

Where I’ve landed is this. The energy of surprise and wonderment was Duke’s Christmas gift. While we have faith in the great mystery of the eternal soul, it helps to have a tangible reminder once in a while. A perfect gift, a happy visit.

—This post appeared originally last-year December on The Spirited Woman where  Andrea is a weekly blogger.

Today I Am Thankful – Thanksgiving 2012

Join Andrea as she reflects back on Thanksgiving 2012. What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

I will officially begin celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday on Saturday when five friends arrive from Atlanta. As I prepare to enjoy time with them, I have begun to consider all of the things I am thankful for. And of all the wonderful blessings I have in my life, today I am most thankful for this one simple fact: I control my destiny.

I have been working, of late, to maintain a positive and hopeful state of mind. When small but annoying setbacks happen in my life and work, I have sought to not sweat the small stuff, and when faced with negativity seemingly all around, I have practiced management of my own energy. I’ve even succeeded in maintaining a degree of perspective in the backdrop of natural disasters and political strife.

While controlling one’s attitude is the ultimate source of control, it certainly helps to live in the land of the free.

Parrot's PerchLast weekend I met Karen Keilt, author of The Parrot’s Perch. Her book is based on her own true story, and I was stunned by the account Karen gave of her experience as a young adult in Brazil. A privileged woman living a fairy tale life, she was falsely arrested, imprisoned, raped and tortured by extortionists. Most astonishing is that the laws in that country still protect those torturers from prosecution, and the egregious offenses are ongoing.

Today I am thankful that I am a citizen of a country where success results from a marriage of effort and creativity, and flagrant violations of reasonable laws are enforced. Most of us can rest at night with a general feeling of safety and wake up each morning with an opportunity to make this day better than the one before. This foundation of freedom is, well, quite literally … freeing, in my opinion.

I am not Pollyannaish and I vow to never lose compassion for those who struggle. I am committed to remaining responsible for my thoughts, feelings and actions regardless of what’s occurring around me.

Just for a moment, step outside your present circumstances, whatever they may be, and answer this question. What are you most thankful for? What conditions or situations afford you the opportunity to choose the life you wish to live? What present factors serve as the foundation for your courageous actions as well as attitudes? Remind yourself of these in this upcoming week of Thanksgiving.


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!