My thirteenth accident anniversary fell on Wednesday of last week. This anniversary perplexes me. My feelings lie somewhere between celebration and trepidation. Yes, another year of living life with challenges is accomplished, yet another year has also passed since that day that changed my life so drastically. The recollection of the details of the day are difficult and filled with pain. A lifeless, broken body isn't exactly a pleasant vision, nor is it a moment to celebrate. Each year I deal with the day a little differently. In years past, I planned fun events or meals out with friends. Several years, due to illness or depression, I stayed home and read books or watched movies all day. But, this year, I think I finally did the right thing.
I rode a roller coaster of emotions during this past year. Last July, I was still sick, still infected, and still slowly climbed the gargantuan mountain of healing, and in stark contrast, I also learned my infection finally vanished after a decade of attack. As the anniversary approached, I pondered what I wanted to do to honor it. I am no longer an extreme person. Inner peace is my goal and a loud, festive celebration just didn't seem to fit. So, in the end, I chose not to do anything. I decided to allow it to come and go as if it was just another day on the calendar. This option appealed to me because immediately after I fell, my greatest hope was that my life would stay the same and not be a constant reminder of the day I fell, the day I felt like I lost everything. One of my first questions I posed to the doctor, was whether or not I had the ability to drive a car. I feared the loss of freedom and unrealized dreams more than anything else. I was determined not to give up on the life I planned. Of course, the change was inevitable. Plans changed and dreams changed. Some stayed the same, but many took a hit and a lot of alteration. However, the loss of freedom was only temporary and, overtime, the learned ability to ask for help only deepened relationships, rather than divide them.
When I woke up last Wednesday I remembered what day it was and thought back to the day thirteen years prior. I briefly recalled how and where I woke up that day and what I did throughout the day. For a minute, I felt sad for the girl who didn't know how her day would end, but then my dog barked like a maniac at this black cat that always crosses our driveway. I jolted out of my coma of remembrance and jumped up to stop her from waking up all of my neighbors. As the day progressed, I meditated, shopped for groceries, and prepared to head out to Ashlea's house for the evening and honestly, I forgot what day it was. My normal routine took over and the rush to get ready and gather the homemade pizza ingredients occupied my mind and I simply forgot.
Several nights a month, I dream that Ashlea and I star in a cooking show. It is a reoccurring dream and it always leaves me laughing. She and I talk about recipes and food a lot, so I can only assume this is why the dream keeps replaying itself. I finally arrived at her house late, of course. It takes me forever to spin around and get dressed and gather anything and traffic didn't help the issue either. We started to make the dough, allowing the yeast to activate, adding the flour and honey and turning the mixer on for ten minutes. We put the dough in a bowl, covered it with a towel and let it rise. While it was rising, we prepared all of the toppings. We sliced peppers and onions and olives, reduced balsamic vinegar, and made the basil pesto. And while we were doing all of this, Ashlea remarked on how fun it was and I joked we were staring in our cooking show. We were living a dream. And once again, the gravity of the day eluded me. After dinner, we played fashion show with her darling and loving children, watched a special preview of the new episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey, and had our famous, as dubbed by Kyle, Ashlea and Sarah goodbye. She and I can never, ever stop talking. We must be peeled from each other or forced to leave. After watching the kids chase and catch fireflies for a minute and trying to prolong the conversation a little longer, I finally ended up in my car and pulled out of her driveway and headed home.
It was a hot, summer night. It was dark, but the sky glowed with a perfectly crescent moon. I drove onto the highway and decided to open the sunroof and roll down the windows. I almost turned on the radio, but stopped and opted for silence. And then it hit me. The significance of what day it was finally dawned on me. But, it wasn't like all of the other years. I didn't cry tears of sadness and I didn't remember the hurt and broken girl. What I felt, was a sense of freedom, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of knowledge that I was right where I was supposed to be. And then I thought of something. Thirteen years later, thirteen years after I questioned whether or not I could drive again, I was driving. My hand controls now second nature and driving a regular occurrence. A tear wet my cheek, but it was a joyous tear. It was a tear that said I faced my fears and I won. I worried that day, all these years ago, if I would ever go where I wanted to go again, if I would ever have the kind of friendships I had before, if I would ever be the person I was before, if I could have a dog, I would ever realize a dream, and today I finally had the answers. Somethings, like driving and having a dog, turned out as planned, and others did not, they turned out better than ever imagined. This life, this life filled with challenges and struggle and a bit of suffering, well, it delivers the spectacular in spades. My relationships are better, I love harder, forgive frequently, and I enjoy simple abundance. Sure, it's been an uneasy path and will continue to be, but the growth that has happened along the way is worth every rock and every ravine. And as the wind blew on my face, I drove home, filled with love, filled with light, and a happiness I haven't felt in a long time. I drive, I am free, and I still dream and sometimes I actually live the dreams. I just wanted these things to exist as a part of my everyday life again, I wanted my life to be a life, not just a life after an accident or traumatic event. And without even noticing, without even trying, I discovered my prayers, my wishes were answered. The day was just a day in my regular old life. And the answers to those prayers, those wishes, popped up and beamed right in my face, just like that glowing moon that followed me home.