Last week was a most unfortunate week for me. However, not being one to shy away from unexpected opportunities to write, I decided to use my experience to stress the importance of relationships.
Being the longest. winter. ever. in Illinois, we unexpectedly endured yet another snowfall recently, The city forgot to use protection; no plows or salt trucks to be seen…nor was the ice beneath the snow. Those of us who prefer not to ruin our day to grapple with a disabled car in the unforgiving ditch were patiently white-knuckling along, inch by inch. Others, believing themselves to be impervious to the road conditions, were making up for lost time as they plowed forward.
Back to the invisible ice… So, as I am poking along at half the speed posted, clutching my steering wheel, I notice a car in the oncoming lane begin to fishtail. I watched in disbelief as the car advanced closer, closer, closer with each swerve gaining momentum.
This is not going to end well.
Clutching the steering wheel and taking a deep breath, I braced as the missile-on-wheels crossed the center lane – directly into my path. I do not remember the moment of impact, which is probably a good thing, however I do remember hesitantly opening my astonished eyes with the realization:
I. Am. Not. Dead.
Smelling something oddly suspicious of smoke (which turned out to be eau-de-airbag), I grabbed my purse (my phone!) and ran out into the snow. Soon paramedics, police, and firetrucks arrived (how DID they get there so fast?) and I was whisked off to the ER with only minor airbag injuries. Thankfully the other stunned driver was okay as well. However, both our heroic cars lost their dependable lives saving ours.
Alas, one more example to reiterate this fact: when protection is not used, accidents happen.
As soon as I was able, I sent a text to two friends – whom I knew to be driving on the perilous roads – to alert them to the road conditions via a photo of my car:
Text: “Roads are bad.”
Within minutes my phone was lighting up with texts. “Are you okay?” “What happened?” “How can I help?”
Relationships: Ten realizations that evolve when one is delightfully un-dead.
What I learned from being in a super bad crash.
1. The relationship you have with your airbag and seatbelt is one of sacrifice and support – yet they expect nothing in return. Use them – you never know when you will need them. It is the one relationship in which it is okay to take advantage of their unrequited goodness.
2. Kindness and compassion enhance pain relief. The evening of my accident, a cherished friend stopped by to present me with three essential items guaranteed to bring immediate healing; a ginormous bouquet of flowers, a ginormous box of Godiva, and a ginormous bottle of grapefruit vodka. All three ginormous treats helped bring emotional healing, but none more than her ginormous, spirited presence.
3. There are many mechanisms to maintain relationships: Facebook, Face Time, texting, emails, phone, letters, and old-fashioned coffee dates all have a part in our crazy, tech-driven world. In an instant you can be connected with loved ones around the world, and can even see their smiling faces while exploring far-away continents. But there is nothing like the hug of a friend to feel connected.
As a young nursing student, I was taught about a phenomenon, failure-to-thrive, in which infants actually died because they were not being held. Adults also need that human touch to thrive in our world. Free hugs anyone?
4. Friends want to be there. There are reasons we choose our friends: common interests, similar lifestyles, spiritual kinship. Some people will drop everything to pick up a bewildered friend giving a lift home and indulge in a comedy-of-errors-afternoon while locating a totaled car in an unknown location.
5. Relationships are as unique as the individuals who form them. The people we choose, yes choose, to be in our lives offer us something uniquely special to enhance our life journey. Hopefully we do the same for them. Balance is key. We may have a dear friend who holds an opposing view on certain issues, yet their goodness and kindness shines though to allow for an unexpected kinship. The mutual respect allows for laughter and an agreement to disagree. Life is too short to not to apprecaite differences and and embrace friendships with people who offer something new to our world.
6. Physical pain stinks, but so does emotional pain. Physical discomfort takes some time to heal. However as the adrenalin dissipated, and the realization of the severity of the accident hit, tears suddenly flowed days later. I had a friend who hopped at the opportunity to hold me when the frightened tears finally released.
7. Our children really DO like us! You know those rolling eyeballs I refer to on occasion? One day the eyeballs will refocus to what is really important (you, of course), but it is up to you, their first and most important teacher, to show them a positive perspective. Remember, one day you will be in a nursing home and longing for visitors. You will likely want your children to visit, even if you do have to guilt them into it.
8. The most important relationship you have is with yourself, because in the end, that is who you are stuck with. Care for yourself, do what makes your soul happy. You will find people who cross your path who are meant to be in your world at the right time in the right place.
9. You will always be your parent’s baby. Don’t believe me? Make the phone call that starts with, “I’m okay, but I need you to know….”
10. Grab an amazing friend and get out of Dodge. Escape once in a while. Whether it be to the movies, dinner, or a trip across the country looking for the elusive summer, change your perspective. Get your tarot cards read (hey, you KNOW your future is bright! You are a survivor!), walk in the sand, enjoy a decadent dessert… because life is good.
Enjoy each day. Do not take your moments for granted.
Healthy relationships are the crux of sexuality health. A supportive, caring community of humans, whether it be one or two close friends or a large circle of individuals, build you up as a person, strengthen you when down, and help you to see the world through interesting and varied eyes. When we care for ourselves we are able to accept care from others, and are then able to build trust to allow us to love fully and completely.
We will all have to face moments of darkness such as accidents, cancer, or divorce. The people in our lives will allow us to move forward with their support. These are the same people who will celebrate with you the amazing joys that life brings as well.
It is during our darkest moments that the brightest lights shine.