An Alternate Reality?

Since I began writing Twenty Four At Heart, I've had readers occasionally ask me what my life was like before the car accident, how it was changed by the accident, and/or what positives have come about in my life in the aftermath.

I haven't spent much time addressing my old life, or the life I thought I was going to have before the accident disrupted everything.  I haven't, because I can't change reality and for a long time it was just too difficult to think about.  Also, it almost seems to give The Accident more power than I'm willing to, by writing about the what ifs.

I got this comment a few days ago:

I'm glad you are starting to feel better — and I hope this surgery brings better things. It sounds hopeful! I don't get much sense of your life before the accident, other than that you were an active, busy mother (and not in constant pain). Do you ever think about the person you might have been now if you hadn't had the accident? I get the feeling that in some ways it has not been all loss, despite the pain. For instance, do you think you would have become a writer and photographer? (Forgive me if you were already both — I only "know" you post accident.  Duchess Omnium

It isn't the first time I've been asked these questions, but for some reason they are nagging at me now, wanting my attention.

My life before the accident was extremely busy.  I never seemed to have a free moment.  I'm married to a man who travels extensively for business.  Although I used to be a manager for a Fortune 500 company (yes – really!), dual high pressure careers were too difficult for us once we were onto our second and third child.  Let's be honest, one high-pressure career in a house is hard enough to maintain.

I was burnt out on the corporate world, hotels and airports.  I was ready for a change.

I embraced being a stay at home mom.  

Because Briefcase is gone so much, my life was more similar to that of a single mom of three than to that of most married, stay at home, mothers.  I did the mom stuff, I did the dad stuff, I did all the household stuff, paid the bills, maintained our lives.  We entertained a lot.

I had no help, paid or otherwise.  We have no family close by.  I did everything for everyone, all the time and rarely took time for myself.  I didn't mind – I liked being busy.

I loved the beach then, as I do now.

I loved photography too, and spent a lot more time with a camera than most people probably ever do.

I loved gardening and my house and yard were maintained beautifully.  I took a lot of pride in my planters and gardens and planted pots.  Our patio and deck overflowed with hanging baskets and pots of beautiful flowers.

Sometimes I would "work" for pay too.  I took on odd jobs, here and there, depending on my time and interests.

The plan was always for me to go back to a full-time career.

I'd be working, at this point, if the car accident hadn't happened.  Our family was counting on the income to offset college expenses, etc.  It's very expensive to raise three kids.  It's very expensive to live in Orange County.  

But then, there was the accident.

Life changed, literally, in the instant it took for one man to accelerate through a stop sign.

It has been four and a half years since that day.

Eight surgeries.

Thousands of hours spent at physical therapy.

Hundreds of doctors appointments.

Millions of tears.

Entertaining is rare now and friends have disappeared.  Seriously, if you ever want to watch your friends disappear – go through multiple surgeries and watch them run.

There's been no time to think about a career.

My days have been spent recovering, putting the pieces back together – trying to hold the lives of my family together while my husband continues to travel nonstop.

Who would hire me now?

I have one working arm and it isn't my dominant arm, which makes the simplest tasks slow and difficult.  I can type, but only with a laptop on my lap.  I wouldn't be able to work on a desktop computer or at a desk.

What am I qualified to do with only my left, uncoordinated, arm?

Nothing.

Or so it feels ….

At home, not one flower has been planted since the accident.

My planters and garden and pots remain empty and disheveled.

Every time I look at them I despair.

"You can only do what you can do," I whisper to myself in consolation.

But it's not enough, of course.

The feelings of failure and frustration haunt me. 

Some days are worse than others.

Some days the waves of pain and frustration overcome me and I feel like I'm sinking so far down, I may never rise to the top again.  Other days, I notice some small token of progress – an improvement that makes me hold my head high and feel triumphant.

What is my life like now?

I love my life.  

Of course, I don't love the situation with my damaged body and the pain I live in.  I don't love the disability and all the frustrations that come with it.

But I love what I'm doing with my, very imperfect, life.

My biggest post-car accident victory has been my return to photography.  For three and a half years I couldn't lift a camera.  Now I can, albeit sparingly.  I've had to re-learn photography-related things I forgot.  I've had to make adjustments and modifications so I can hold a camera with a near useless dominant arm.  I have a long ways to go, but oh – I have come so far!

Do I love photography now more than ever?

Yes, I do.

Losing photography made me realize just how much it means to me.  For years, I stared longingly at everyone who passed me with a camera in their hands.  The day I bought my DSLR camera, three and a half years after the accident, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to hold it. 

But I was determined to.

Photography brings me so much joy.  It also brings the challenge of wanting to constantly improve and learn more.  I like being challenged.  I thrive on challenging myself.  It also provides me with a creative outlet I crave.  Photography is my oxygen and I'm not exaggerating, in the least, when I say that.

On the other hand, I have always been a writer and I didn't lose my ability to inscribe as a result of the accident.

As a child I wrote, as a teen I wrote, and as an adult I wrote.

Some of my adult writing was public relations related, and some it consisted of boring things like press releases.  However, communicating through the written word has always been a part of who I am, and I hope it always will be.  

I'm very shy in person.  Writing is liberating for me.

I enjoy the writing I do now more than any other writing I've done in my adult life.  I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to combine both my writing and photography.  

Yes, the writing I do is different now, but I enjoy it more.

Now, most of the time, I write less formally than I did in my pre-car accident life.

Now, I write to you.

What could be better than that?

© Twenty Four At Heart

25 Responses to “An Alternate Reality?”

  1. Jack

    I am willing to bet that within 5 years you’ll have something that is career like- that is if you so choose.

  2. Maura

    I don’t spend a lot of time looking back, either, so I understand your reluctance to do so. The “What if?” game isn’t always a great exercise. But then, sometimes, it can offer some perspective.

  3. Deidre

    It must be so hard having your partner jetting off every which way all the time. You’re very brave and very strong, 24!!

  4. Jan

    “Now, most of the time, I write less formally than I did in my pre-car accident life.
    “Now, I write to you.
    “What could be better than that?”
    Absolutely nothing, my friend.

  5. Aimee

    And we are so lucky to have you! I think there’s A LOT you have to offer an employer still though. When the time is right I bet we’ll read of some very big doors opening for you. This post is beautiful, powerful, the essence of YOU. Somehow I seem to think your doing exactly what your suppposed to be right now. xoxoxoxoxo

  6. Pam

    Wow! Your writing and photography are beautiful! Thanks for sharing your story!

  7. Karen

    Wow this is so powerful. I’m going to be replaying your words in my head all day long. You are amazing. Yes, amazing and inspirational!

  8. jenn in tenn

    This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being so open and honest (today, and always). And I, for one, will say I am glad you write for us.

  9. Freda

    Thank you for sharing this so openly. You probably don’t want comments telling you how brave you are and so forth, though that is clearly true, but what is so wonderful is that you are getting on with life and doing more than just making the best of things. The You that you have become is of the same essence but is obviously changed; it sounds like a kind of renaissance. You are a writer, you are a photographer and though you are a quiet person you are reaching out into the unknown world of cyberspace. Thank you again.

  10. Anonymous

    Friends leave when our lives change and I think that’s because we change too. I think back to my twenties and the holidays spent scuba diving at night in the murky waters of Lake Michigan, and feeling nothing but mild irritation if a fight broke out between a couple by one of the campfires and he slapped her. In my forties I can’t believe either that I dove with so little training or that I was so accepting of spousal violence.
    In my early thirties I scorned stay at home moms as I flew around the country handling manufacturing crises as an engineer, yet in my late thirties I was perfectly content to raise my children and take care of my second husband.
    Now, when I look back it feels like there have been so many versions of myself. I have trouble understanding or even liking all of them. How could anyone else?

  11. Sandra

    I smiled at the end. 🙂
    I used to mourn certain friendships. I felt betrayed by them for leaving or moving on with their lives. They stopped including me in things, which made me feel like I’d done something wrong, even though I knew I hadn’t. But then I read something once that made sense to me. People come into your life for a reason. Maybe it’s for you to learn something from them, or they from you. Once that “lesson” is completed, we move on. New people come into your life, some lasting longer than others, and it continues on that way until we die.
    We’re your new friends (and stalkers) :0) I can say honestly, I’ve learned many things FROM you thru your writing and the telling of your life experiences.
    I certainly never knew about BAing the trains before I found you! LOL

  12. Kristi

    I have been feeling sorry for myself lately, and this made me realize that before my life changed (in a different way than yours did, but dramatically and permanently,) I looked great on the outside, I really had it all together. But I like myself as a person a whole lot better now that things don’t look so great. Thanks for helping me realize this.
    Also, what you have to offer the world now is so much more than you did with your Fortune 500 job. Please don’t think of yourself as unqualified. Almost anyone can type, but very few have a mind and heart like yours. You will find your place.

  13. Crystal

    inspiring that you found something to bring you out of the funk. My mother suffered two accidents within one year, neither her fault, and she still has not recovered, twelve years later, both emotionally or physically. She has become a hermit and I try to find outlets for her to come back into the world and have been unsuccessful. I think this blog might be what I was missing – someone who understands. Thank you.

  14. goodfather

    I’ve been sniveling on my blog lately, and your post just kicked my azz. Your blog has been, and is, an inspiration. Thank you for once again laying it out there.

  15. DuchessOmnium

    “Careers” are overrated. The trick is to do the minimum that society values to give you a living, and the maximum that you value to give you satisfaction.
    Your loss is profound — and you have struggled back to do the things that matter to you. That has obviously been a tremendous personal triumph.
    But I think there is more, and more yet to come — not only the journey back to who you were before, but the journey ahead to a new person you wouldn’t have been if you, or the other driver, had arrived at that stop sign a moment sooner or later.

  16. Kelly

    Well, nothing could be better for US. Not that I stalk you much or anything ….

  17. Linda Tustin

    I can honestly say i love you 24. You inspire me to be introspective and I am so glad I found your blog. (((24))))

  18. Anne Gibert

    One of the things about who you are now (but I bet you always were in many ways) that I admire the most, is your ability to connect with so many different kinds of people in so many different stages of life. I (78 year old living on an island)love your blog and your pictures. My daughter who lives on a boat on a river in England loves your blog. Freda, a retired preacher who lives in Scotland loves your blog. And so many more. Some I recognize because theirs are blogs I read, others are too young or too involved with kids or issues for me to follow; but they all find some common humanity in your writing. Someday, when I drive down the coast from my perch just under the Canadian border, I hope to be able to drop in on you and give you a (careful) hug.

  19. Rob

    For what it’s worth, one more – Wow.
    Regarding your pre-life: It seems the only time you slowed long enough to breathe – (just barely?) – was on the beach.
    Yet your left arm is nimble enough to raise Rabbits, right? 😉
    I surmise when your pain is managed your leftie will speed up. Planning, thinking and executing new movements Is hard. 3-5 thousand repetitions to become natural – if you’re not distracted.
    But you already know that…. <*))))<

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