“As a writer, whether it be novels, non fiction or song writing, the only thing I really do is make jewellery for the inside of people’s minds. Writing music & writing stories is nothing more than decoration for the imagination. Intracranial jewellery is a wonderful profession” – Elizabeth Gilbert & Tom Waits
December 11 2016 5:45pm. Five minutes away from home driving back with my Mom, Dad & brother in the first snowfall of the year from an early Christmas dinner celebration. One moment I am mentally preparing for what I have to do the next day at work. The next moment I am being swung in one direct as our SUV spun at 60 km/h & I hear my mom screaming as her door caves inward from the collision.
The impact created an immediate stop, no more sliding. The impact also caused my seat belt to knock the wind out of me, like the worst punch to the gut I’ve ever experienced; but it lingered. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t speak. & the worst part about that was my mom who had glass & smoke all around her was calling out for me & my brother, all she wanted was to know we were safe, but I couldn’t answer her, I couldn’t do anything.
The wheezing started & I got back to breathing after what felt like the longest minute of my life. Stars in my eyes & smoke & broken windows all around me. I looked to my right at my brother, he looked back in a shaken up daze & a scrape across his forehead. Under my breath I called out “mom, mom, it’s ok” & somehow she managed to hear me & her shoulders relaxed & she put her head back on her seat in relief. The next 30 minutes was a spiral of pain, smoke, lights & voices as I moved out of the car. It was too painful to stand, that impact in my gut lingered like a bitch. Like my stomach had been deflated & was collapsed on all of my below organs but wouldn’t inflate as I tried to inhale. The icy air stung my skin too & it was too much to handle, I had to sit down, I didn’t care if it was unsafe, I got back in that car & held my moms hand since she couldn’t escape from her inverted door.
The next half hour was pretty standard. I let go of my moms hand & was driven to the ER in an ambulance by myself, clutching my stomach as if my organs would spill out if I didn’t. Only minor bruising so they plopped me in a wheel chair & sent me off to fend for myself at triage. I cried the entire wait in line – “Where is my family? Are they still stuck at the car? How much pain are they in? Why won’t this pain in my stomach die down?” I wheeled myself to the waiting area where I found my brother & Dad waiting for me. Thank god. My brother ran over & wheeled me toward them, updating me on everyone’s status’s the whole way. Mom was being examined for a cracked sternum (where she was told she had to wear a neck brace for 24 hours), my brother had been seen for a concussion & had a small bandage on his forehead scrape. My dad, as the driver, had a bloody knuckle & a heavy heart painfully waiting to hear all of the news about his family.
Suddenly it was my turn to be checked out, the doctors pressed & felt all over me, standard. Then it was time for me to release my arms from over my stomach so they could check it out. I took a laboured breath & released slowly, feeling exposed & scared. He felt by my hips, ouch. He felt by my ribs, ouch. Then he pressed underneath my belly button, oh shit give me a garbage! I started to throw up uncontrollably. As I lifted myself back up, kind of embarrassed & kind of pissed at him he had a bewildered look on his face. I asked what was wrong with me, he said: “I’m not sure, do you have the flu?” “No I don’t have the flu” “Are you sure?” “If I have the flu now, I would have had it this morning too, which I didn’t”. A second opinion was needed.
So I was wheeled to all sorts of massive machines, where I had to do strange painful poses so they could see the right areas inside of me. Everyone was pleasant given it was nearing 12:00am at this point. About, 35 minutes later I was introduced to a doctor who would tell me some awful news as I held my moms hand in our hazy, tired state that would change my life forever.
“So you have a lacerated spleen & a rupture in your intestines. There is fluid leaking from your intestines into your body, that is why you have been throwing up. Your body is becoming septic & the blood pumping into your heart is contaminated. We have to go in & do surgery right now before your system starts shutting down. Now, if the rupture is in your small intestine we can repair it easily, but if it is in your large intestine, it is very tricky, & it is likely you will have to wear a bag outside of your body to collect your waste for the rest of your life. Do you want to proceed with surgery?”
My mom cried when they stopped me in front of the OR doors & told me how much she loved me. She adjusted the shower cap looking thing on my head & I told her not to worry, everything was going to be ok, that I loved her & I wanted her to eat something. As I was wheeled away the nurses complimented my christmas manicure I had just gotten & told me they would have to take it off for surgery. Bummer. As I was hooked up to many machines & starred at the OR ceiling, I was happy the pain was going to go away, but felt a new pain in my heart that my life could be different forever after this.
I woke up around 6:00am that morning to my moms smiling face with tubes coming out of both arms, out of my nose & out of my mouth. I did my best attempt at smiling back at her. Later that day I would be introduced to my new battle wound – 3 inches of my small intestine was removed & I was closed back up with 30 staples up my stomach not needing a waste bag.
I survived. I was happy & I was thankful.
Sometimes, on a Sunday morning I am in that mood when I’m sitting behind my computer, cup of coffee on one side of me & a sunny garden view in front of me reflecting on things. Where you’ve been, where you want to go & most of all, where you’ve made it to at this current moment & how you’ve gotten there, who you’ve gotten there with & how many of those factors are still present. They say success is a journey, not a destination. Which is why reflecting on how things were to how they are currently & how much further you still have to go becomes consuming. So many check points to factor in, so many people you’ve picked up on the way. Has it been a straight line? Likely not. Detours, road blocks, bumpy patches & most of all getting lost along the way is what my life has comprised of. Those things have been both minor & major set backs, but I ended up finding my way back to the original route eventually.
Mistakes, losses, confusion, they wear you down, & the people you’ve picked up along the way can prey on that. They can be the back seat driver, telling you certain routes are better than others, question your judgements, laugh at you when you want to stop & ask for directions & start to make you think about your competency of completing the journey. Some of their judgements weigh on you, because they are in it for the long haul. You may have picked them up half way through, or they could have been with you since day one. Either way, the ones you decide to travel with become the narrators of your journey – their thoughts & opinions ingrained into your head.
You’re journey is most likely by car, but the way I like to think of conquering back seat drivers is at sea. Because the journey is like you’re in a boat & you have an ore of how you want everyone else to see you & you’re paddling & paddling with that one ore but all you are doing is going in circles & making yourself unhappy for not being able to move forward. But if you want your life to change you have to pick up the other paddle of how you see yourself & balance both in order to move forward in your life. The narrators that get you down, you need to stop catering to them, narrating your life choices & letting them make you feel bad for the path you have chosen. You listen to them of course, let them have their opinions & hold onto that paddle as a means of balance, because the way you let other people see you is not always how you see yourself. Then, you also need to look at yourself, remember the path you originally decided upon & pick up that paddle & go towards it.
I write about this because I let my journey be one sided, using one paddle for about a year. I knew what I loved & I knew where I imagined myself ending up, but I let people get in my way. Telling me what I was supposed to do, where I was supposed to be & I treaded in circles for a year, unhappy & unmoving. I finally got the courage to pick up my paddle & start moving forward to wear I am now & towards where I want to be.