July 7th. It is a weird day for me. Four years ago today I was riding my scooter down West 7th St. in Saint Paul, MN when I collided with a car that turned into my lane. The driver was on his cell phone and he didn’t see me and he turned right into me. I had just visited my friends at the library and a friend and her son in Lowertown. I was headed home to make a lovely dinner for my partner. My life so completely changed in that moment that I still grieve for my previous life while at the same time anticipating what my new life will bring.
I’ve talked to numerous other people who’ve been in traumatic accidents and many of them divide their lives into before and after. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the whole notion of before and after.
We assumed I’d get back on my feet enough to return to libraries; but, I did have to assess and really make sure that the library field was worth fighting for and if I didn’t return to libraries what then? Part of my recovery was spent in Portland, OR. My first job after the accident was at Powells Books. I worked at the smaller outpost on Hawthorne and loved it. I loved the people. I loved the books. I loved the neighborhood. When I got the job, I thought: I’m not spending more than a year here. I knew it wouldn’t take very long for me to know how I was doing being back at work and I also knew that I couldn’t get too comfortable at Powells. I spent exactly one year to the day there.
It is easy to get complacent. It is easy to just let life go along propelled by inertia. It is easy to get stuck in our ways. Sometimes change comes in small ways: cutbacks at work bring more responsibility or we get a new boss who has different ideas. Sometimes change comes in big ways like my accident. It is really how we weather these changes that makes all the difference. Change brings opportunity, even when it’s painful. My accident brought to me the opportunity to learn things about myself. It reminded me that I’m in control of what my life looks like and how I’m going to move through the world. We make decisions all of the time. Sometimes the decision is to do nothing. If I do nothing, I want to make sure it is a conscious choice. It’s fascinating in so many ways. In some specific ways the accident has taken things from me whether by physical limitation or by choice (no more scooter riding); but, in other ways it has opened up a whole new future. I don’t quite get to do a do-over in life; but, something near to it.
People always ask the same questions; so, I’ll answer them for you: yes, I was wearing a helmet. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. I broke a bunch of stuff and had a head injury. The friend I was visiting prior to the accident would sometimes say, what if we stayed at the playground longer? what if you left sooner? I can’t play those games. I’d say I was damn lucky. I crashed about 4 blocks from a level one trauma center. The man who was in the car behind the guy who hit me was an off duty EMT. He saved my life. I probably would have bled to death in the few moments it took the ambulance to get there.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, I feel sorry for myself. Sometimes, I still deal with the emotional aspects of trauma and I get weepy. Sometimes, when I can’t do something because of a physical limitation or I have a day filled with chronic pain, I get pissed. I try to allow myself the moment to feel sad or mad and then redirect it to feeling lucky to have another shot at living in this incredible world.
When we get bogged down in negative thinking, it is our choice to stay there and suffer or ask the questions that will give us a chance to reframe the experience.
This is different post for me. One that is entrenched in the personal; but, really it is about navigating change and that is something we encounter in all parts of our life. Sometimes change is within our control and sometimes not; but, how we deal with change is always in our control.
I’ve struggled with writing this one. In fact, I’ve rewritten it seven times. I don’t know how to tie all up in a nice neat package and I guess that’s okay. And because now I’m one of those people: wear your helmet and when you drive, just drive. Please refrain from talking and texting. You might just save a life.