How Coronavirus is Like a Car Accident

How Coronavirus is Like a Car Accident

or Joie de Vivre in the Time of Confusion
So… this month I decided to scrap my original post and share something very personal instead, particularly how this experience is framing the current situation for me. Indulge me a moment…

Almost 4 years ago I was in a car accident on my way to a reading. “In a car accident” isn’t quite right; I was hit head on by a drunk driver going 60 mph the wrong way on a 3-lane highway in broad daylight. And almost as soon as it was over, from the moment I was ripped out of the car, then in the ambulance, and then in the ER, I heard one thing over and over: you are so lucky.

You. Are. So. Lucky.

The first responders were amazed that my back wasn’t broken. The doctors, nurses, even later the tow truck driver who dragged my carcass of a car off the highway were amazed that I was still alive at all, let alone not paralyzed or permanently injured.

I kept hearing lucky, lucky, lucky. You are so lucky you should buy a lottery ticket.

And it clicked for me in the ER, while they were pulling chunks of glass out of my skin and hooking me up to morphine. I was lucky. I’d been given a great gift. And this was a glorious day to be alive.

This story could have gone another way. Not just the way of my demise, of course, but at that precipice between light and dark I could have turned to the dark. In that space between lucky and unlucky I could have allowed myself to become a victim–because I was a victim. I’d been driving sober, doing the speed limit, wearing my seat belt. I’d done everything right—so why did this bad thing happen to me? I couldn’t teach my classes, I couldn’t get out of bed. I even missed my oldest child’s high school graduation. And I didn’t deserve any of it!

During these days of uncertainty, I’ve been thinking a lot about those lessons of 4 years ago. Coronavirus has hit the planet like an out of control drunk driver going the wrong way on the highway, and we’ve all been part of the 7-billion car pile up in its wake. Everyone’s plans just got hijacked, and it’s not our fault.

But, individually and collectively, we are now on the precipice between light and dark. Will I become hardened, bitter, angry, victimized—this isn’t fair. I didn’t deserve it. Because it’s not fair and you didn’t deserve it. The fall out is real. We got hit. The car is totaled. Our lung is punctured, half our ribs are shattered, and our arm is going to need to be pinned back together with screws.

So here’s the point of my story: One night when I was in the hospital I vividly remember when a nurse (angel) I’d never seen before answered one of my late night calls for help. He had caught me at a bad moment, in pain, frustrated because I couldn’t go to the bathroom alone, and having a bit of a breakdown.  And I vividly remember he looked at me right in the eyes and gently said:

 “An accident is a reminder to be grateful for every little thing in your life.”

Now, whenever I’m in uncertainly, I always try to remember: An accident is a reminder to be grateful for every little thing in your life. And this worldwide “accident” will affect people differently; none of us will emerge untouched. But bad days don’t have to become bad seasons, bad years. In times of crisis, confusion, and change we always have a choice between the dark and the light. The alchemy of this moment has the power to transform either way—the heat of this fire will scorch and burn us up or strengthen us, like pottery in a kiln. We can become victims to circumstance or we can shine no matter what.

Right now I’m grateful to be quarantined in a country where I have clean, running, hot and cold water, a pantry and a freezer full of food, a heated apartment, internet access. I’m grateful to still have an (now) online version of my job and the tools to make it happen (the kids in my friend’s elementary class in New Mexico can’t afford computers to do online school). I’m grateful that it’s spring and that I have a body that still works, a bicycle with full tires. I’m grateful that being out of toilet paper is truly not the end of the world. And I’m grateful for every one of you and for the strange but glorious creativity happening in this unexpected time.

Oh no they can’t take that away from me.