I almost died last Tuesday. A week ago today. At twenty to six in the evening, I was driving to Aberdeen. It was a wild and stormy evening, with lashing winds and torrential rain. I was slowing down as I approached a bend in the road and hit a patch of water just as I touched the brakes. The car aquaplaned off the road and into a tree, caving in the passenger side of the vehicle. I know I’ve been fairly quiet on the internet front for the last week and that’s why. For a long, utterly terrifying moment I genuinely thought I was going to die. Right up until the last split second, the car was aiming head on for the tree at 45 miles an hour. If I’d hit it head on, I would have died. I still don’t know how I swerved. Bottom line is that I was unbelievably lucky to walk away with just a sprained shoulder and a bruised back.
It’s given me cause for a lot of introspection. I know better than most that life is too short. I’ve been trying to follow my dreams, to create something positive out of the darkness of my past. The last 3 years have been a voyage of discovery for me. I’ve done brave things…I’ve turned my life around. I’m not the same woman I was 4 years ago. I thought I had it sussed, that I am being all I can be.
I was so wrong.
It’s weird that even the harshest of life lessons can only expose your mortality in an abstract kind of way. They can be deep lessons, lasting lessons…lessons that profoundly change your approach to life, but until you come that close to dying I don’t think you ever truly understand the value of life.
I’ve always believed that you have a choice in how you respond to bad events. You can choose to let it define you, be a victim, live forever in the shadow of your past. Or you can choose to live, to let it make you a stronger, better, more vibrant person. I didn’t know until last week how fine the line between them is. In all my determination to live, to dream, to grow, I never accounted for the fact that sometimes fear can just swallow you whole.
My fears in relation to my past have always been there but they’re very nebulous. I worry in an abstract way that I’ll regress, that I’ll turn back into the pale, insecure doormat that was my former self. I worry that when I meet a new man I’ll either overthink it and destroy something good, or underthink it and miss the warning signs that are leading me down a path I never want to tread again. I worry in an abstract way about losing the people I love. This time of year is difficult for my family. It’s the anniversary of my stepfather’s death at the weekend. He was so young and it was so unexpected that it really knocked us all for 6. Sometimes I think that it doesn’t matter how accepting you are of the fact that someone is gone, you don’t ever really come to terms with the ‘why’ of it. It’s not understanding the why of it that leaves you with a residue of fear that it could happen to anyone you love at any time.
On Friday I was clearing out the car ready to go to the scrap yard. On the back seat there was a plastic crate of mugs, all individually wrapped in bubble wrap and newspaper. Every single one was smashed and the plastic crate was shattered beyond repair. It was a frighteningly visceral reminder of the damage the impact could have done to my body. I cleared it all up and then spent an hour crying and shaking uncontrollably.
It only takes a second to snuff a life out. Just a second.
I’m ok now but it is a stark reminder that we need to live. Life is not about simply existing. It’s about wringing every single drop of joy out of every single second you walk this earth. You never know when it might be too late.