The accident happened on a sunny morning in September of 2009. I was forced to start over. I was forced to start over on a Tuesday. I had gotten up earlier than usual that morning. I was working as a freelance costume designer, and I was feeling behind on the project. I awoke nervous and anxious. I rushed through my morning routine and out the door, barely pausing long enough to hug my husband.
In 2009, before I was forced to start over, rushing through life was the norm. My mother came to visit me that year and compared my daily schedule to a fire drill. I was a busy freelance costume designer in a small market; the flailing captain of my one-woman company. This September Tuesday was no different. My head was full of unfinished alterations, actor personalities, and budget concerns.
I want to spare the details of the accident I witnessed. It was a blur of tires screeching, loud concussions, and frantic screams. I was one of three witness cars that were not hit, but who stopped to help. The highway was eerily quiet, a disturbing stillness. My adrenaline ran towards the car that looked the worst. The driver had been ejected. Another witness came right behind me. I told her to stop. Call 911. A third witness rushed our direction, saw the scene, and panicked.
I got down on the ground with the victim and held his hand. The peripheral scene vanished. I heard my voice say, “It’s ok to go.”
I felt a hand on my shoulder, a strong voice asking me to step away from the scene. Questions followed:
Did you witness this accident?
Where is the car that hit this car?
Who was driving?
Do you know this man?
I answered the questions:
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
No. Yes I guess I do now. No, I don’t know his name.
I sat in the back of the ambulance while they took my blood pressure and asked me if I needed anything. I answered the same questions. I signed a waiver that I did not read.
They offered me a ride home: Can we call someone for you?
I drove myself home. My husband was still home.
I told him: I just can’t do today. I’m staying home.
Concerned, he asked me several times if I was alright. I lied, encouraged him to go to work, told him I would have some coffee, maybe take a bath, try to relax and reorganize. He believed me and left for work.
I sat on the couch. Everything was in slow-motion. The phone rang. Alison. I told her what had happened with almost no details. She came over. We sat on the couch. The day ended.
That was the day I was forced to start over.
After, I wasn’t sleeping well because the accident showed up in my dreams. I felt withdrawn and angry. I systematically took a scorched-Earth approach to my life. I abruptly resigned from all of my creative projects. I stopped participating in my spiritual life and personal hobbies. I hurt people who depended on me.
I reluctantly sought out a professional counselor with whom I spent the next six months rehashing the details. Searching for an explanation. I worked hard to understand that I was not responsible, that I could not have changed the outcome, that I did not fail.
I learned about myself. I learned to start over.
Now, it’s been almost ten years since I was forced to start over. Most days I don’t think about it. My life is happy, fulfilling, and dramatically different. But early dateless Tuesdays in September hold a fog I still can’t quite penetrate, and then I remember. And I start over on those days. Now, starting over is a familiar, practiced experience of acceptance, forgiveness, and the release of love sent to the man whose name I did not know. To his family. To the world.