It wasn’t until I got to the hospital and a nurse was kind to me that I fully realized what had happened. And I started crying, sitting on a gurney, in a corner of the emergency room. I got up to use the bathroom: the toilet seat, the floor, the sink were all covered in blood. Unless you are a doctor, we are never exposed to blood, averting the gaze when they stick a needle in us, stuffing our finger in our mouth when we get cut.
Recently, my life has been punctuated by hurdles. If I look at my calendar, I focus on the stressful, mainly work related events scattered amongst some personal business and I sem to race from one to the next – when one is over I fantasize about taking a breather but the worrier in me takes over. I keep on galloping forward, jumping over the hurdles, stuck in a permanent race track.
Eons ago, my life was punctuated by whatever I was looking forward to – a holiday, a trip, a night in front of a favorite tv show, a rendez vous with a man. I always equated getting older with getting wiser and more relaxed but while I would like to think the wiser part did happen, the responsibilities seem to grow in direct proportion to my age.
The question is – how do I go about changing this before being shot when one of my legs break? No answer had come to me yet despite all the training in learning how not to care about what you can’t change and all that crap about focusing on what really matters. Yes, on my deathbed I will most likely not reminisce about any of the Nobel dinners I spent weeks preparing – still, this rationalization is not helping me much when I am in the midst of it or wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the next hurdle.One would think that after a difficult year, it would be easier to put things into perspective and let go of what is meaningless and yet we get stuck in our pathetic little lives, with nary a perception of the world around us.
And then something happens to turn your world upside down in an instant. I was in a bad car accident a couple of days ago, the first in my life, and although I am physically fine I saw the proverbial reel flashing in front of me and, for a few hours, had the surreal feeling that I was witnessing the entire scene from far away, as if I were watching somebody else who looked like me, was wearing my same yellow jacket but whose similarities ended there. I suppose that is what a state of shock is like.
The police officer who hit me was hurt (I know, when I do something for the first time, I do it in style..) and never was I exposed to the sight of so much blood before. Thick clumps of deep red blood all over my car. I remember sitting on a low wall outside a posh beach club in Santa Monica, giving a statement to a neutral police woman and I kept on thinking that I didn’t know whether I was shaking so violently because it was so cold outside or if that was what fear felt like.
I also remember being taken to the hospital to give a voluntary blood sample to prove I hadn’t been drinking – somewhat hilarious as everyone who knows me has been a witness to the violent allergic reaction I get if I down as much as a light beer – and that is when the out-of-body experience ended and it dawned on me that it was me this was happening to, not some Law and Order rerun.
While lounging on the couch all afternoon, between bouts of odd tears, with my dog next to me wondering what the hell was wrong with me, I thought of all the Iraq and Afghanistan vets I read about over breakfast, gone from my mind as soon as I start washing my coffee cup, and their PTSD and what it must be like to live through a thoroughly traumatic experience and then relive it over and over. If it’s possible to empathize with another human being, it’s not always possible to know how it feels to walk in their shoes.
I try to feel grateful for the instant that gave me back the awareness that had temporarily left me while I abandoned myself to the maelstrom of self-inflicted stressful activities of the last few months, although I do feel terrible that another human being, whose path collided with mine, is suffering right now. I think I will go and park myself in the stable for a while – enough racing. This horse is going out to pasture.