In the wake of an accident that could have easily sent me and others to the hospital, I’m very much at a loss of words. So here is my attempt to provide some clarity on these discombobulated thoughts and feelings swimming in my head and heart.
This is my 2001 Toyota Avalon, the car I’ve driven for the past 7-8 years. We’ve likely had our last drive together and as you can see, it ended at a light post and it didn’t end well. I was driving back to my apartment from my parent’s house. Our family had just gotten back from our first Dodgers game in 10 years. I had a couple drinks at the game (literally 2), had gotten some sun, and had had a long night last night after having friends over to celebrate the birthday of one of my very good friends, despite being sick. I was tired. Less than a mile away from my apartment, I fell asleep at the wheel. While my eyes were closed, my car drifted left, through an intersection, into and past the opposing traffic lane, through a bus stop, and into a concrete light post, somehow avoiding all the cars, pedestrians, and bus riders normally present on Main Street, Alhambra on a Saturday afternoon. I woke up when my head recoiled off the airbag. I heard the hissing of my engine. I saw the airbags deflate. I smelled smoke. Fuck. I realized my car was in no condition to drive and that the police would arrive. My thoughts immediately turned to the drinks I had at the Dodgers game. A DUI would at the very least put me in jail and suspend my physical therapy license. Fuck. I stepped out of the car with nothing more than a bump on my head and scratches that my kitten could have given me. I was in front of a car dealership. A car salesman asked if I was okay. I instinctively replied, “Yes.” I was okay but I would’ve said yes even if I wasn’t. He told me to sit on the grass. I told him I didn’t need to. We compromised when he offered me the back of a truck to sit on. I asked for a cup of water. If there was a sobriety test to be taken, I wanted to be as sober as possible. I reached for my phone and texted the picture of my car to my sister, who else. She asked if I was okay and then about the alcohol. We think alike. The police came. Two women, with the younger one definitely in charge. Officer Gomez. She asked me what happened. I told her. She asked me if I had been drinking. I lied and said no. She asked more questions, quite rotely, while I stood at attention and answered politely. She went back and forth between her car, my car, and me. Bystanders took pictures. People asked me what happened. I told them I fell asleep. People asked if I was okay. I told them I was fine. A man in his 50’s with just a bit of curly white hair urged me to go to hospital because falling asleep at this hour while driving is not normal. I told him I was okay. He pressed again and told me I should see a doctor at the very least because falling asleep like that was very dangerous. Oh really? I wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up but instead I said I’m okay, really, I just had a long day and was tired. AAA came. They began towing my car. It turned out to be a long process because of the awkward position I crashed in. In fact, the question I got asked just less than if I was okay was how the hell I got my car to where it was. Well, I was asleep, I don’t know. Officer Gomze asked for a more detailed report of what happened. I told her I about the Dodger game and the one drink I had at 2PM. She requested I take a FST. What is a FST officer? Oh, a field sobriety test. I should be good at this. I do balance exercises with my patients all the time. But I’ve also sprained my ankles multiple times so my proprioception isn’t top notch. And I was also nervous. 1, 2, 3, sober. I passed. She told me she didn’t think alcohol played a part in my crash. Thank god. I was given a report number. My car was finished being towed. I was allowed to leave. Marco, the AAA guy gave me a ride. I asked to be dropped off a couple blocks away from my apartment. I wanted to walk. I took my penguin hamper, my UCLA gym bag, and my laptop bag from my trunk and walked to my complex, up four flights of stairs, and into my apartment. I stripped, I changed, I called State Farm, I called my parents, I texted my friends, I did everything I needed to do, and then I laid in bed. Numb. I played games on my phone. I watched Kentucky beat Wisconsin with a clutch Aaron Harrison 3-pointer. Numb. Check Facebook. Clash of Clans. Twitter. Tumblr. SportsCenter. Numb.
At this point I already realize how amazingly lucky I am. To be alive, to have not hit anyone, to have not been injured at all. To have not been charged with a DUI. Yet, there is still a very deep, unsettled feeling inside me, sapping my desire and motivation to do anything other than engage in mindless activities. I think about it and I know this is a familiar feeling, more noticeable at some times than others. This accident did not cause this feeling, nor did it shine upon me the joy of life and dissolve it. This accident merely provided me a significant enough event for me to pause, pause, and pause to truly reflect on what the hell has been happening in my life. And as I reflect on today’s events, on this dark feeling inside me and on the issues that have been plaguing my mind for the past months, I begin to realize this is the most honest reflection I’ve given these thoughts and feelings in quite some time. I also begin to notice a pattern of dishonest words and unmeaningful actions and I realize how tiring (and absurd!) it must be for me to always try to say and do the right thing. It’s no wonder I take refuge in these mindless activities when so much of my day is spent thinking about what to say, what to do, what my friends want to do, what my friends want to hear, what my patients want to hear, what my patients want to do. Life would be so much more lived if I did what I wanted and said what I meant. And isn’t my life meant to be lived? By me? Yes and yes. This what I vow to do more often. This is where I’ll begin.
“The essentialist approach…states that an etiologic mechanism exists for every disease, whether or not that mechanism has been discovered…Essentialism is the driving force behind science’s relentless pursuit to identify the origins for all manner of disease causes. After the narrowest possible level of cause has been identified, an essentialist approach to treatment is to eliminate or modify the cause.”—Rob Landel, Diagnosis for Physical Therapists
It’s quite dangerous to base so much of your life on being better. There is no summit and if you slip, you’ll fall right into inadequacy. You’re in danger of believing that everything and everybody around you isn’t good enough. And when I sit down and think about it, this is what I’m truly scared of…that my way of life has become dysfunctional to the point that I’ve to pushed away all my girlfriends, all my good friends, all my acquaintances and all the things that bring me joy because I’m in search of something more. I’m scared that on my pursuit of betterness, I’ll forget how to be happy.
“When I was anxious, you were there for me until I realized everything was okay. When I was uncertain, even about you, you were there for me until I realized you are someone I can be certain about. I understand why you feel insecure, but I promise you, I’ll be there for you until you feel safe.”—
Scratch my back when I’m sad. Let me run my fingers through your hair. Let me be weird. Be weird with me. Travel with me. Talk to me. Pack me lunch. I’ll make you dinner. Tuck me in. Kiss me good night. Be yourself.
The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.” The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought, is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter — beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace — arise from beyond the mind.