So yesterday was exactly six years since my car accident. I knew it had happened September 20 something-or-another back in 2011, but it wasn’t until I was reviewing my old report from my neuro psych testing that I started to feel this mounting anxiety about a the 2,193rd day since my head injury. Maybe it was because David’s birthday was today (the day after my accident, and therefore the day I moved in with He-Who-Shant-Be-Named). Perhaps it’s in part due to the fact that I literally just bought a new vehicle (a choice I won’t say wasn’t at least partially motivated out of fear of driving another red vehicle on the anniversary of the day I thought I was going to die in one). Whatever the case, fear had its claws sunk down deep.
Friday night, lying in bed, it slithered its way down my throat, forcing me to word vomit every irrational and insane sounding fear immediately after swearing left and right that I was going to just shut up and go to sleep because I needed to wake up at 5am for work and already hadn’t slept worth a damned since sleeping all day Monday after nearly being low key overdosed by the nurse at Planned Parenthood before being informed that my sterilization procedure would have to be rescheduled another month out. I fought back the tears as I felt the familiar spiraling panic as control begun to slip from my grip.
I considered calling into work. Hell, I considered quitting altogether. All those twists and turns on the back roads to get there- crashing and dying was inevitable, really. And wouldn’t that just be exactly the kind of twisted irony I’d grown used to, to die on the anniversary of the date that segments my life into the blissful and ignorant “Before” and the haunted and uphill battle of “After”. But I didn’t quit. And I didn’t call in. I left earlier than usual for my 45 minute commute, vigilant for deer or early morning drunk drivers, white-knuckling the steering wheel the entire time as if I expected some rogue bolt of lightning to take me out at any moment.
On the way, I listened to Guy Raz narrate the Ted Radio Hour, grateful in a way that I had an hour in the car to listen to one of my favorite radio shows, hosted by one of my favorite voices on NPR. The subject of this segment? Failure. I half-heartedly listened to the CEO or something of some company or another in the tech industry talk about changing the stigma on failure, how they give bonuses and vacations to their employees when they fail, because they’re trying. I thought of all my own perceived faults and failures over the years. I wondered, not for the first time, where I would be in life by now if I hadn’t gotten into that accident. If I hadn’t gotten far too familiar with the term “Stockholm syndrome”, if it weren’t for all the time lost to dissociation- if it weren’t for this uncanny inability to get the fuck out of my own way.
Suddenly, a single word uttered by a new, female speaker caught my attention. “Misfit”. I turned up the radio and turned my attention to author Lidia Yuknavitch’s Ted Talk, titled The Beauty of Being a Misfit.
The angry buzzing in my head slowly dissolved, melting into a puddle which I found myself pouring into this woman’s words who seem to take on an all too familiar trajectory. It were as if she were telling my own story. No, I’ve never been a swimmer (I actually can’t swim at all, really) and I’ve never been divorced, or to jail, or rehab, or lost a child. But I have experienced tremendous losses, internally and externally and been broken in ways that I was certain was beyond repair. Yet here I was, a mile away from a job I was not only managing to hold down, but actually excelled at and actually looked forward to going in. I loved a captivating man who couldn’t be further from the darkness of the captivity I’d found myself in six years ago. I was, dare I say, happy…
As I pulled into the parking lot at work, I sat in my car and listened as Lidia’s talk drew to a close, oblivious to how much time I had before my shift started. And then she said it. In 10 seconds she managed to validate something I’ve been struggling with for the past 6 years. “Even at the moment of your failure, right then, you are beautiful. You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty.”
The last 6 years of my life have often seemed to be one hurdle after another, the game always changing up on me just when I think I’m beginning to have a grasp on things. And though my shins are battered, bruised, and bloody, I’ve gotten better at recovering from my failures- embracing them and using it as fuel to push myself forward. And for the first time in my broken, foggy memory, life doesn’t feel like a race or constant fight for survival.
It feels fucking beautiful…