I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How quickly things can change

Remembering the Mediterranean
I took this picture on the first day after I arrived in Turkey; it was the first time I'd ever seen the Mediterranean Sea. There was a storm brewing, as you can see in the turbulent sky and breaking waves. During the few days I spent there, I saw many versions of this beach, including a terrific windstorm where nobody ventured outside and the electricity came and went as we watched from our place of safety.

But sometimes there is no place of safety, we just have to endure the storms of life in whatever way we can. It helps to have company when we traverse these difficult times, but make no mistake about it: they will come, whether by illness or accident. My latest "storm" has come through a car accident. On Friday afternoon I collided with another car and bashed in its passenger door, while damaging the bumper quite badly on my own car. I was attempting a left turn into traffic and saw what I thought was my window of opportunity, but I was wrong: another car was coming that I didn't see. I can still remember the sound of the impact. Fortunately nobody was hurt, no air bags deployed, and a policeman wrote an accident report. I was able to drive my car away, but the other driver chose to have her car towed since the passenger doors were damaged. And then I was left with the aftermath of this particular storm.

It's Sunday morning. After having spent the first evening dealing with my insurance company and ascertaining how to proceed, I found it difficult to let it go. My mind kept going over and over the event, and although I was very tired, I couldn't sleep. Every time I would begin to relax, I'd remember it all over again. I kept remonstrating myself for my mistake, wanting to change the event's trajectory and wishing I had chosen a different path. Finally I slept and when I woke yesterday morning, I decided to go ahead and drive my damaged car to join the Saturday walking group. I'm glad I did, because that began the change in my attitude toward the event as well as giving myself some exercise.

I walked with my friend Linda and told her about it. As I was telling her how I'm beginning to realize how much my reaction times have slowed and about the changes I'll be making in my life, she offered me some good advice: wait three days first. She said it takes that long to absorb it all, and she's right, of course. I already feel very differently about the event, and although tomorrow I'll need to begin to deal with the process of getting the car fixed, it's no longer a huge overwhelming mental obsession.

I've been through many incidents in my life that make this one pale in comparison, but it doesn't matter. They are behind me, and this one is right here right now. My ability to roll with the punches, along with my reaction times, show the signs of my advancing age. I'm not the same person I was a decade ago, or even a few years ago. I can feel how differently I respond to change of any sort.

As long as things go on as usual, I am content and happy, but anything that disturbs my equilibrium these days is hugely disrupting. After having successfully traveled halfway across the world, since there was nothing unexpected involved, I managed to deal with the stress. And I'm dealing with this relatively minor incident as well. But it makes me wonder about the next big thing: how will I react? What can I do to get ready for it?

One of my blogging friends, Anni, is recovering from a heart attack. She wrote about it here, and I read it with both relief that she will be okay, and with interest in the description she gave about the symptoms she experienced. I had heard that women have very different responses to a heart attack, and she describes it well. She has every expectation that she will make a full recovery. I wondered how I would have responded if I had experienced the same symptoms. It's worth thinking about.

Part of my morning habit is to turn on the news to listen to the weather report and see what might have happened in the world while I slept. The local news always has weather and traffic every few minutes, and I give thanks that I don't have to deal with the traffic in and around Seattle during rush hour. Or any time at all, for that matter. There is never a day that several of the arteries around Seattle are not blocked by a traffic accident, whether it be a major one where people are injured or killed, or a minor one like I had on Friday. We have grown accustomed to driving, but people are killed every day in this country, maybe even every minute of every day, in these machines. I was reminded on Friday how quickly it can all happen.

I also ponder how similar the arteries in our hearts are to traffic arteries. Both require everything to flow easily and not get stuck, or else a blockage is formed. As human beings who eat several times a day, and who get behind the wheel of a car without thinking about it, we do actually have the chance to make a difference in our lives by making better choices. Whether it is to choose heart-healthy foods or make a right turn rather than a left turn for safety's sake, we can make a difference.

As I drove around yesterday, I realized that what is usually automatic became much less so. I was driving rather slowly and cautiously because of my accident, and I realized it would be really nice if I were able to bring that kind of consciousness into my everyday driving without having to be reminded so painfully of the power under my hands to change things forever.

And because of having lost an hour overnight (with the time change), I realize that I've finished this post a little later than usual. It's almost 8:00am rather than almost 7:00am. Sort of. My stomach is rumbling, asking to be fed at the usual time, and I'll consume some heart-healthy food, since it's pretty much all I have to choose from anyway. I hope that you will be well until we meet again next week.


Anonymous said...

My sister's husband is dying of cancer and other ailments. It happened quite suddenly. He was fine on Thanksgiving, and now he is dying in March. Heartbreaking. He was a vegan and exercised every day, was never obese. Why is he dying? David and I plan to see him at the hospital today.

Friko said...

Dear DJan, first of all let me say how glad I am that you are well and have taken no major damage from your accident. These things happen, young people have accidents too and young men most of all. So stop worrying about being old and past it.

The Insurance company will take of the financial aspect.

As for any other prospects: we cannot see into the future and there is no point in projecting fears of what might befall us.

And heart health is often a matter of luck, family history and circumstances. As is cancer. You cannot protect yourself from any ailments and diseases. One in three of us will have cancer at some point, so it’s the luck of the draw. And even the most health conscious and physically active person can get it, whatever it is, so stop thinking that illness is your own fault. It never is (unless you smoke and drink yourself to death)

Take what comes and don’t feel responsible. Enjoy life instead.

Gigi said...

I am sorry to hear of the accident, but happy to hear that you and the other party are okay.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Sorry to hear of your accident. I think at our age we often see our crises from multiple perspectives. For example, you had to be feeling pretty good about your ability to be a world traveler, and you are a very capable person overall. Now you don't see this as "everybody makes a mistake once in a while" but as "uh-oh, I'm losing it." Yes, drive carefully, but no, don't panic. Have a good week!

Elephant's Child said...

Questioning yourself is fine, doing so to the detriment of your peace of mind is not.
I am glad that you are safe. I am glad the other driver is safe. The rest is minor, in the scale of things.

Red said...

You beat yourself up pretty badly on this one. It's normal for people to find these incidents very stressful but as you say it passes. Now we have to get back up and do the usual driving. I wrote about how it takes a while to recover your confidence after a fall. It's the same thing with your fender bender.

#1Nana said...

I'm so glad you are okay. I also have a hard time letting go of unsettling events. My mind will relive and examine the event over and over. The three day rule is a good one to remember. Take care, DJan. I hope you are back to your fearless self soon!

John's Island said...

Hello DJan, Sorry to hear about your accident but very glad to hear you were not physically harmed. Your reflections on the incident and how aging may be involved are well taken. There is no doubt in my mind that these kind of events take a bigger toll on us as we get older. My move is a fresh example to me. I've done it several times before but this last one seemed so much harder. As for driving ... I think it was good for me to read this post. I need to quit taking so much for granted and thinking I'm the same driver I have been for a long time. My vision is not as perfect as it once was and my response time is slower. I hope things go well with your insurance and getting the car repaired. Thanks for sharing this with us. John

Arkansas Patti said...

Friko made some very good points and I like the 3 day rule your friend advised. I had a similar accident that you had when I was 30. Even at that age, I questioned my actions and reactions.
Just give it time and relax. Being more aware while driving is never a bad thing.
Hope all the repairs go well and the insurance isn't a pain.

Tabor said...

By the time you read this post you should be healing even more. Glad there are no aches and pains or even minor scarring along with your accident. Perhaps your reactions are slower or perhaps this was just an accident. We were abruptly cut off by a young man running a red light the other day and had we entered the intersection a few seconds earlier I might well be in a hospital. So there are good reasons for slow reactions.

amanda said...

Sorry to hear about your accident, and so glad that everyone involved is ok. I understand the turbulence felt though.. when something upsets or throws off my daily routine and happiness, my mind has a hard time not obsessing over it.
Your words resonate here with me in many ways.
"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts." -Eleanor Roosevelt
Enjoy today, DJan!

Linda Myers said...

Glad you came through your accident with no injuries.

I find as I get older that I have to pay attention more than I used to. Can't do so much on autopilot. It is somehow comforting to know that we are all in this together.

Stella Jones said...

So sorry to hear about your accident Djan. I hope you'll soon be over it. I know from my own experiences that it is a knock back and it takes a while to have the confidence to move forward again. Take your time and you will soon be back to normal.
The picture of the beach is lovely.

Sally Wessely said...

I had to go back and read this. I don't know where I have been for a week. Goodness, I'm sure glad you are ok. I understand the ruminating that one goes through after such an event as a car accident. There is that feeling of, "I want a do over."

The main thing is the main thing. You are ok. So is the other person. You will be more mindful as you drive. All this is good. Take care and keep watching out for the other guy also. XO

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I'm so relieved to learn that the accident dented only the cars and did not injure you or the other person. But I do understand the stewing and the obsessing that comes in the aftermath of such an experience. When I first moved here to Missouri--after not having an accident for 36 years--I was 73 and that first summer I backed into a parked Lexus and stewed for days, blowing everything out of proportion. The next summer I backed into another car in a parking lot.

What's happened is that I am a much more careful and aware driver. And like you I wish I could bring into the rest of my life the living in the present that I do when I drive. The awareness. That would mean, I think, that I would be living with gratitude always and ever. Peace.

Sabrina Craig said...

I’m sorry to hear about the accident you were in, but I’m glad to know that you’ve taken a big step in regaining yourself after the incident. It’s also quite inspiring to know that you don’t let all the other incidents in your life take much toll out of you, and that you still manage to go on. Thank you for sharing this with us. All the best!

Sabrina Craig @ Medical Attorney NY

Wilford said...

I hope you end up being OK. Some of my biggest concerns about driving are not just for my safety and of my passengers, but of fear of all the uninsured and erratic other drivers there are out there on the road. It seems crazy how many people are driving without insurance or a care in the world about other drivers.

Wilford @ Samakow Law

Tyron Tanaka said...

You could be driving to work tomorrow and get into a rollover accident. Or, a tornado could hit and wipe out your home. While life may be going great one day, it can all fall off in a matter of seconds. Always have a plan B to cover you and your family.

Tyron Tanaka @ Low And Canata