Those of you avid readers of my blog will remember my anxiety-ridden post, Leaving the Little House On the Prairie.
It was about my concerns over major transitions that went on in September of this past year- my starting school to get a teaching degree, my son starting preschool at the age of 3.5, putting my little one in daycare so that I could study and work, me working (teaching gardening at a school) so that I could pay off some of the expenses. I was stressed big-time about leaving my simple life behind to enter the rat-race. I admit that, even during those years on the farm raising my kids, I was not without anxiety, but it was existential anxiety. I was plagued with questions like: what am I doing with my life? What about developing a career? Have I become a housewife? This kind of anxiety was completely self-generated. I could remedy it myself with slight adjustments. I would sit each evening and meddle around with my video editing software, occasionally putting out little videos that satiated my appetite for creativity. In hindsight it was a pretty damn nice life.
But I wanted to feel I could generate income, and I wanted it to be through sufficiently intellectual challenges: becoming an art teacher. That’s what this year was all about.
Some of you who read my post left encouraging comments, to the effect that I should take it one day at a time, it won’t be as bad as I’m imagining, I’ll adjust and feel fulfilled. I recall one friend, Ohad, even said something like “everything will be fine, you’ll see.” Well, Ohad, you were wrong. Everything wasn’t fine.
I was hit by a car.
This is how it happened. Every Tuesday I would take the bus to Arlozorov train station in Tel Aviv, where, at 7:30 AM, there was a free ride to the college where I was studying. This morning I was running a bit late. The details are superfluous, I guess, but let’s just say I could blame it all on my kids. (Being half-Polish, I plan to use this as leverage in child-rearing. Next time the kids defy my wishes, I’ll say “Stop that! Do you want mom to get hit by a car again?”) In any case, as I approached the bus stop, I was fairly certain I had missed my bus, which would mean missing the once-a-day ride to school. I could travel the whole way by public transportation but it would be a headache, and I’d be late. I crossed the first half of the major road where the buses run. The lights are not synchronized on this road, so I waited for my turn to cross. And then I saw my bus approach! And it was stopping at the traffic light before the bus stop! This was so lucky! I could run and reach the bus stop before the light changed back to green! All I saw was my bus stopped, several cars stopping in the lane next to it. I bolted for the bus stop.
And felt my body stopped by a great force. I hadn’t checked the first lane to make sure the cars there stopped too, and this driver obviously wanted to catch the end of the yellow light (or maybe he even ran a red- it was probably borderline). I literally didn’t know what hit me, till I fell over the metal barrier and into the island, between a few bushes. What hit me was a white SUV. The driver MUST have had a chance to press on the brakes, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be writing this.
Two lovely passersby, who probably stopped at the same traffic light and saw what happened, immediately showed up. One gave me a bottle of water and the other argued with the driver over who was in the wrong. I watched my bus drive by, the driver following me with his gaze. I tried to get up. They told me not to, which may seem obvious, but I was still hoping to get to school that day- better late than never.
But the ambulance soon showed up, and they had me stand up and cross over the barrier, which I take to mean I appeared to be in good shape. In any case, lifting my right leg over the barrier was excrutiating, and once on the stretcher, I passed out.
I woke up and realized this was all just a bad dream!
And then I woke up again to see the fluorescent lighting on the ceiling of the ambulance. Nevermind, this was not a dream.
Long story short, my right pelvis was broken in two spots, so was my tailbone, and I had fractures in two upper vertebrae. My hemoglobin levels plummeted in the emergency room, and I was given 3 pints of blood (karma, for the roughly three times I donated blood in my life, until my iron levels dropped and just stayed that way).
Thanks to my mother-in-law, I was received by a wonderful rehabilitation center (the hospital would have released me 3 days after the accident, if we hadn’t fought it). A month and a half later I’m still there, doing physical therapy, sitting in a wheelchair. If my X-rays next week show that the bones healed, I’ll be able to step on my right foot again.
What about my studies, my work, my kids? Luckily the college permitted me to finish the semester at home, completing the final papers and taking the exams. But there are a few very good professors whom it sucks to miss out on. My job found a replacement for me… but the accident had happened just as the garden was coming to life and I stopped hating my job. And my kids? My mother has sacrificed the last month and a half to them, living on our property and caring for them. My father misses his apartment in Tekoa, but he’s being stoic about this whole thing. My husband, Barak, has stepped up to the plate, doing all sorts of dirty work he hadn’t had to do since becoming a father.
I don’t often stop to consider what this has been like for my parents, I mean the aspect of watching their daughter physically broken. Kudos to them for their strength.
It’s hardest on the kids. Shmaaya has had to grow up quickly in a short span, and I’m quite proud of him. He’s become more open to other people, perhaps because he can’t lean on me quite as much. Shalva, when she comes to visit me at the rehabilitation center, still makes a very dramatic scene every time we part. She’s been acting out quite a bit at home, though always with charm, and sulking a lot at daycare.
I have to admit that, aside from the worries about home, I’ve been granted a vacation the like of which I haven’t taken since summer camp. I have a cute schedule which includes physical therapy, the gym (I mostly pull on a big rubber band while watching the music videos off of the big computer screen), and psychology sessions (I think I pretty much exhausted the meaty stuff during our first session. Now I just vent about looking for a job next year). I spend most of my spare time on the computer, writing papers or, you know, this blog post. I get to focus on me because, well, if I don’t, I may not be in good enough shape to take over my past roles.
But my real point here is, “I told you so.” This year was stressful. And as if I didn’t have enough to stress about, I was already worrying about whether I’d find work as a teacher this fall, so I could get started on my career and start paying back my expenses from this past year. It’s not incidental that, as that SUV hurled towards me, all I saw was the 274 bus. I was transfixed, transfixed on my goals, and it was not healthy for my bones.
It’s a little bit like the Alanis Morisette song, “Ironic.” Remember, the verse about the guy who was afraid to fly? “He packed his toothpaste, kissed his kids goodbye. He waited his whole damn life just to take that flight, and as the plane crashed down he thought, ‘well isn’t this nice?'”
I have to give credit where credit’s due. My friend, Meital, from the rehab center has a much more “ironic” story, in the Alanic Morisette sense of the word. Married, with a baby, she was about to turn 30 and expressed her desire to overcome her fear of heights. Her husband arranged for her to take a ride in his uncle’s flying ATV (a business he runs for adventurers). Her husband and baby watched as she got in the vehicle with the uncle. The parachute was ready. They drove off the 65 foot cliff, and crashed into the abyss. Look up flying ATVs online. They’re “fun and safe.” There’s never been an accident involving one in Israel before. Meital sustained a broken spine and more. I’ll save the details for the podcast I hope to create.
I asked her if she’s over her fear of heights. She said “no, but on the other hand, I’m still here.” That’s sort of the message I take from my own, albeit much less dramatic, accident. I was stressed this year, I rushed too much, I got hit by a car, it ruined a bunch of things for me. My biggest fear is experiencing pain or physical limitations years down the line, and remembering the accident that caused it. But I know the best tactic for avoiding that is taking it easy, pampering myself (maybe I’ll finally get a membership to that really expensive pool?), stopping to smell the roses (really difficult when the scent of roses is overcome by that of the massive puddle of pee Shalva just made right outside the door, fully dressed), and thanking God every day that I’m here, because there are no guarantees.