Hi guess what? Thank you for reading this. Cause it long as hail.
What I'm about to share with you is uncomfortable for me. I don't like talking about this kind of thing because I'm not looking to share a sob story or have the point I'm trying to make get lost in the reason behind it. Quite the opposite, actually. With that being said, I'd like to tell you why I'm alive.
I don't have a clear answer, but here's this:
Tuesday, January 19 2016, as I was on my way home from Mammoth, I lost control of my car, lost control of my consciousness, and ended up perpendicular to oncoming traffic on a pitch-black mountain road. If you've ever been on Highway 14, you know it's most likely where every murder movie/actual murder has taken place. During the day, it's a gorgeous little route with vast, open deserts, lined by nothing but massive, breathtaking views of mountain tops kissing the clouds of the sky. During the night, however? Pure murder.
As you know from previous posts, I drive a lot. Hell, I drove 4 hours round trip almost every day for 10 months. Driving is my friend. So needless to say, I was having a grand ole time on this trip. Adele and I were harmonizing flawlessly, I had just photographed a successful proposal of two dear friends while being halfway submerged in fresh snow, and life just felt really, really good. I saw the signs for the windy mountain road coming up so I quickly glanced at Waze to see my ETA, knowing I wouldn't have reception for a while. I remember thinking to myself, "How bad would it suck to get in a crash or break down here, lololol." Call me Theresa Caputo, Long Island Medium, because no more than 1 minute later, that thought became a reality.
As I approached a slight right turn, my front-left tire hit the yellow lines dividing the 4-lane road, throwing my car into a uncontrollable swerve/spin. I don't have much more detail from the full crash to share because I don't remember it (a good thing in my book) - all I know is my mind woke back up in time for me to watch my car go full speed at the guard rail on the other side of the road. And then this thought came real as real can get:
"This is it. Heaven, here I come."
Bang bang. Car stopped. I looked up to see the face of a mountain looking at me, and two headlights coming to greet the side of my car. I couldn't move and the rationality of my next move makes great sense (no it doesn't). I looked at the car like,
"Oopsies! Sorry, I can't move, you need to go around" as if they could see me, understand what I'm trying to say, or even HEAR ME, for heavens sake. Get your shit together, Carol.
It was as if I was a soccer mom in a Kohl's parking lot that ran out of gas, making passive aggressive hand gestures to "go around" at the annoyed drivers around me. Good to know that this is my reaction in a literal emergency. Gooooood to know. And purely by the grace of God, they stopped and went around. (BY ALL MEANS, DON'T STOP TO MAKE SURE THE PERSON IN THE WRECKED CAR IS OKAY). Just kidding, I wouldn't have either. Because murder.
My mind started working a little better, leaving me with only sweet, comforting thoughts like, "OH MY GOSH. I don't have service, it's pitch black out here, and I could be bleeding out of my ears for all I know." I turned the car on, AND IT TURNED ON, so I kept driving. I remember my head and neck feeling wet. Blood? Nope. Okay cool, keep driving. I got reception, found a gas station that was an exact replica of a... you guessed it, murder movie. The two men at the gas station looked like they were in biker gangs, and don't know what the words "shower" or "haircut" or "bandaid" or "sunscreen" or "Estée Lauder wrinkle cream for the murderers face" mean. Which is fine because I look like that too on Tuesdays, but in this situation, mama no likey. Speaking of mama, I called her and with a very calm, collected voice said
"Hi, I'm fine, so don't worry, (HA) but I just wrecked my car. I don't know where I am."
Calmness right on back, "... Okay, wow. Wow. I'm glad you're okay. Do you feel safe?"
"... Yeah. Not really. I mean, I'm fine though. Should I call the cops?"
What's more comforting for a mother than that, right? I'll fast forward a bit to where she and my stepdad drove 2 hours to Lancaster to pick me up with the most gracious, loving, comforting hearts I could have ever witnessed. They didn't blink at the idea of doing so. Also didn't give me an option since my only idea was "I'll just drive it home and go to the doctor in the morning. I honestly think it's fine." or "I'll just have the cops take me home." I'm sorry, what? Yet another champion-like, heroic response to an emergency, Jenna. Please by all means, do join me in all emergencies.
Okay so why do all these details matter when I didn't even want to share them in the first place? Because none of them should lead up to the fact that I am now sitting in my bed, in ONE piece, drinking coffee, listening to Emily King, blinking, typing, breathing, ALIVE.
I'm still in shock. I have not been face to face yet with the reality of what could have happened, and how this story could be much different.
What if that car didn't stop? What if I had a passenger with me like I was supposed to until the last minute? What if my car didn't start again and I stayed out there without service? What if the men at the gas station didn't feel like being good people that night? Why didn't my car survive but I did? Why am I so lucky?
I could sit here for days, weeks and months asking myself those questions, and probably drive myself into a downward spiral of fear and depression. But I'm choosing to TELL myself only one thing, the thing I told myself half-consciously in the notes of my phone that night:
YOU ARE ALIVE FOR A REASON.
Nothing is more eye-opening than looking potential tragedy dead in the eye, tipping your hat and shaking hands with it, and then walking away in one piece. And please, save the argument. I'm not trying compare this to something like war, or world hunger, or extreme poverty. Not even close. I know that regardless of this situation, I am unbelievably fortunate in my circumstances of life. I'm talking about something that could have been tragic, but instead is covered in peace, SCREAMING God's grace. The God I've been so closed off to for so long. The one that sent an angel to Highway 14 to orchestrate this "accident" to it's very execution. The one that kept the heart in my chest pumping blood to the rest of my body. The one that got me home safe. The one that gave me the greatest gift I've ever received in life (my family) to come save me.
The reason I'm alive today, and have been living for the past 21 years, is to fulfill a purpose. A purpose not to be understood, only to be carried in my pocket everyday, hearing the beautiful whispers of truth in my ears. Letting it remind me that the treasure of life is love, the mere fact of my existence is an important thing, and the people I meet, the ones I know, and the ones I will know, all carry a similar purpose in their pocket. Only while I'm here, still breathing, am I able to pay attention to it and listen. But something else always wants to scream louder, and this one sits on my shoulder. Sometimes on the edge of my ear, just so it ensures I hear it. This one reminds me of the what-ifs and the should-have/could-haves. It's only job is to remind me of the fear of living out my purpose. It's a bully.
So here's a letter from me to you, bully:
My eyes are wide open to the fact that I am not invincible, making you all the more pathetic. Why? The fact of my not being invincible doesn't make me scared. It makes me excited. It makes each day a canvas; one to be painted with fierce love and enriching experience. It makes driving a car yet another gift of life, not one taken away from me. It makes your voice small and ugly, so don't try to disguise yourself and harmonize with the voice of my purpose, because I'll hear you. And you're completely irrelevant because I'm alive. And I'm breaking up with you. So get off me.
I hope it doesn't take a car accident or something equivalent to open your eyes to the preciousness of your life. I'm lucky to be alive, so are you. Accidents are accidents, you don't plan for them. All you can plan for is friending the purpose of your life (it's a beautiful, unique one too), and live like the reality of it's not being invincible and has an expiration date is true. Because it is. We have no control, and there is nothing in life we can hold a single expectation to with full confidence. We can only be grateful, loving, empathetic to others, and carry on in everyday life with gumption. If there's anything I'm not grateful for, it's being ungrateful for anything. Life can be so hard and so impossible to be grateful for at times, and your purpose seems weaker on certain days, but it's all we have to live for while we're here. So, today sucked? Make tomorrow a good one. And tell that bully it's not invited.
You're alive for a reason, okay? Okay.
Cheers, Brothers & Sisters. Xoxo