If you knew you had only seven days to live, what would you do? Who would comprise your inner circle?
If you had the opportunity to know everything that is going to happen in your life for the next thirty days, without being able to change any of it, would you accept?
If you had the opportunity to see a year into your future, the good and the bad, and change only one thing, would you jump at the chance?
Questions such as these are often prompted by a significant life event of the one doing the asking, and, if engaged, are regularly done so with the aid of a cocktail (or two) all set to the background of ambient music. Party games, would you rather books, fortune teller tents (are those still a thing?), 800 numbers, even the old school magic 8 ball (just keep shaking!)--a vast compilation of goods created and sold to satisfy that apparently deep rooted human desire to see and know the future. Not buying the 'deeply rooted' piece of the equation? Allow me, then, to ask one last question that might highlight the root of this plight:
If the plate before you contained an item guaranteed to reveal all knowledge, would you eat it?
Christian and non-Christian readers will likely recognize this last question. Eve's fruit was not presented on a platter, rather on a much more enticing branch of a luscious tree; I envision this tree in the middle of the garden to somehow have been spotlighted, but that very well could be from some painting/movie, etc. I digress. The point is, from the beginning time, humanity has wrestled with the idea of knowledge, trying to navigate the balance of just enough.
I'm certain that throughout my life I've vacillated on this question of looking into the future. I absolutely have said something similar to, 'I just wish I knew where this was going.' I've also said statements such as, 'I'm really glad I didn't know what it was going to take to get to this point.'
The day after my celebratory post of the one year since my bariatric surgery, my life changed (albeit temporarily) in a sudden and abrupt manner. January 1: welcome to 2021. January 2: 90+ pounds lost and a re-entry into a reclaimed life celebrated. January 3: head-on collision with a tree.
I most definitely did not see that coming.
That Sunday afternoon, I left the house to buy a pair of pants (a regular occurrence post-gastric sleeve) and stop at the pharmacy for my husband, before returning home to watch the Packers play. As per usual this year, the side roads from my house to the highway were yet to be cleared of slush, but the sun was out and I've been driving in winters my entire life--truth be told, I've driven numerous times in much worse weather as that is the life of hospice worker--so I didn't even give it a second thought. Returning home with just over a mile to go, I was excited about the new size pants (okay, okay, and new size in the two tops, too) and looking forward to the running Messenger chat during game time with fellow Cheeseheads. I remember slowing when I turned onto that road because of the aforementioned slush and overall terrible road condition. I remember focusing on lining up my path with that already forged by cars before me; "stay in their tracks and all will be well." Famous last words, as they say.
I remember the moment I realized I was no longer in control of my car. I remember the exact second I knew with certainty I was going to hit the tree. I remember feeling helpless to stop it. I remember the impact. I remember the sound. I remember the pain. I remember the panic and the fear, quickly followed by more pain and hope that someone had been behind me and could help.
I remember when the door opened and the very nice stranger crouched next to me in the snow. I remember the relief that 911 had been contacted. I remember gratitude in the midst of the pain that he sat with me, called my husband for me, and was generally a reassuring and calming presence while the pain took over.
I remember the moment the adrenaline ceased and my body began to tremble from the pain, the trauma, the fear, and shock.
Six weeks later I am finally beginning to process the deeper layers of that abrupt shift in life. Yes, most is restored. I have a new car. Most bruises are gone. But so much still remains. The internal/rib bruising is unrelenting, diminished yet oh so present. There is a bruise on my left knee that I'm told could persist for up to six months. The permanent burn scar on my left forearm. It's all annoying, but in the grand scheme rather minor given the 'could haves'. What is most frustrating to me, though, is the brain work.
I truly never dreaded driving in the winter. Growing up in Wisconsin and then moving to Michigan, I just had to learn how to accommodate. So I did. Now, though, I'm having to relearn the trust and confidence. I need to again be able to drive in those conditions without added stress and tension that comes thanks to the fear that if it happened once it can happen again. It's improving, but I have a long way yet to go.
This is why, for me, access to a crystal ball, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or some other insight into my future is a firm, hard pass. I want to be able to stay in the moment and enjoy it for what it is. Had I known what was coming on January 3, would I have been able to thoroughly celebrate January 2 or would the tension of anticipation been too much to ignore?
There are far too many ups and downs in this life, some of which come in quick succession. I don't want to see them coming. I used to think I did, but not anymore. Rather than knowing all that is to come, I simply want to live trusting that somehow though the bad will still come, the good will come too. The good will somehow be able to break through and fill the cracks in the bad. There will be respites and long periods of goodness that I will not take for granted. In these last six weeks, there have been incredible bright spots--amazing gifts of time, conversation, expressions of love, connection, etc--that have cushioned the rest. I can look ahead knowing that healing will continue, trusting that with work my brain will be re-wired yet again, and hoping with assurance that the Light always overcomes. I can look ahead with complete certainty that, regardless of what subtle or abrupt shifts remain in my life path, those who cushion those times will be present. That to me feels like enough. It feels like more than enough, and the best riches I could ever ask or imagine.
To those people, my parents, my husband, my inner circle, thank you. It's not enough, but it's what I have at this moment. Thank you.
So, circling back, would you accept? Would you eat? Would you jump at the opportunity? Why or why not? Leave a comment, send an email. I'm curious.