A happy auto accident is when nobody gets hurt. That’s what emergency people kept telling me when this happened to me last weekend. At first, I didn’t see it that way. My Jeepster was new with only two thousand miles on it and, as I told one of the sweet police officers, I had my last car for ten years and never even dented it. I’m not usually attached to my vehicles. I like a nice ride, sure, but the Jeepster was my first car crush. So I was a little heartbroken.
And, as usual, when disaster (as I then saw the accident) struck, I was alone. My two best friends in town were unavailable. My husband was gone on a long weekend. I myself was headed out of town on an adventure of my own. My bags were packed. I hadn’t even hit the village limits when bam, the Jeepster hit a car in front of me and my air bags unpacked. The results looked like this arm and leg shot, but more all over my body. The arm (on left) is an air bag burn. The leg (on right) is just a bash.
They are nice shades of purple and yellow now. Healing and hurting just a little bit. That night, they didn’t hurt at all. After it was determined that everyone was okay and I was not getting a ticket as really the guy had slammed on his brakes so fast I didn’t have time to react, after I had unbelted and removed my overnight bag and checked my Mac to make sure it still worked (priorities!), I decided what the hell. The Jeepster was done for and I needed a rental. My bags were packed. I might as well continue on my journey
EMT and police, even the tow truck and car rental guy, everybody thought this was an okay idea. My first instinct had been to go home and hide under blankets in bed. But then I thought about that empty house, and I just didn’t think it was gonna be good to go there. I needed to move forward with my plans. So I did. I was maybe 90 minutes late for check in and I was famished. No time for writing before dinner, but I did have an emergency vodka (mandarin orange!) on hand, so I poured that over ice and pressed my not-jeans. Yes, this picture is BEFORE the accident. But they are the same pants. I call them my Jack White pants because they remind me of him.
I didn’t have the foresight to realize this was going to be a photo blog, as I don’t do those. But I always admire my friend Sharon’s photo blogs, and I did take SOME pictures, so I thought, well if I have to write about this, and I do, I’ll do it a little different. So thanks for the inspiration, Sharon! I only took this photo of myself for my dear friend Bodicia, who encouraged me to take a solo trip when I wavered. She gave me specific instructions on the delicious meal I should order and the wine I should drink and the snap I should take and send to her. So I did.
You can’t tell but my face has so much concealer on it (my nose and cheeks looked like my arm, red and raw) and it looks puffy to me, too. I had a very attentive waiter and a wonderful dinner. I let him treat me like royalty. I felt so good; I can’t remember the last time I felt that good. (Well, yes I can, but I’m not sharing.) I was, without a doubt, in shock. But I didn’t realize it. I just sipped my cocktail and thought, wow this is a happy place. And I tweeted the picture of myself to Bodicia.
This was my view. The staff didn’t know a thing about my accident, but they gave me the best table in the house, tucked into a corner where I had full view of the room but felt private, like I was in my own little world. Well, I was. And that magic feeling I mentioned before still has not gone away six days later, even as reality crashes in. I had a few moments these past six days of feeling anxious and worried, but much more I felt cared for by some unseen force, by the universe and by love. So much love came pouring in when I posted pics of the accident on Facebook. I think I was still in shock then because somehow a sunset got in the pictures … I feel like it was a happy accident. The sun is setting on a lot of trouble I’ve been carrying with me for awhile now.
One of my friends, Laura (here with me in Seattle) had a great perspective on my wish to find meaning in the accident, writing something like, well I guess you have the answer to the dilemma we discussed over brunch last week. Laura and I had an amazing time, we’ve known each other several years, but it was our first real life meeting and within minutes I was confiding in her like an old friend and she was listening and exuding empathy. Laura (I realized all at once) was right. And clarity about the next phase of my life was not all I gained by the Jeepster’s unfortunate crunch.
I also learned to take care of myself in a way I had only taken care of others before. This is a lesson I will never let go. It has taken firm root. Call it shock, call it my sweet Aunt Louise, who said “bubble bath, lots of bubbles.” It just so happened that my hotel room had a soaker tub twice as tall as the one at home. I’ve only ever been in a taller one in Belgium. And there on the counter was a nice bottle of bubble gel. After dinner, I drew myself a relaxing bath. I’m sure it helped the next day, when I hardly felt sore at all.
After the bath, I fell into a deep sleep and woke three hours later at one a.m. feeling so alive and refreshed. I immediately thought “this was supposed to be a writing retreat, and I haven’t written a thing except Facebook comments!” I grabbed Mac, pulled pillows all around me and got to work, writing until the sun came up. Then I took a cup of coffee outside by the water and watched rosy-fingered dawn fight its way through the clouds. And then, I checked out of the hotel and drove home, where I slept the day away and got up to do more night writing.
As it must, reality has intruded on my happy accident interlude. But what remains is the sweetness of my find, and that is more than just figuring out an answer to my “What’s Next?” dilemma. I have my answer now. I know where I’m going, and I know how I will treat myself along the way. The lessons of that blissful adventure and the feelings it captured will live long after the bruises fade.