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.
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?
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