Little red Corvette
Baby you’re much too fast
Little red Corvette
Honey you got to slow down
Cause if you don’t you gonna run your
Little red Corvette right in the ground
© Prince Rogers Nelson, Controversy Music
Slow down . . .
I’ve been hearing this message a lot lately: from my family and my employees, as I push for progress on many projects all at once. From myself, as I pour on the pressure to accomplish more in fewer hours. From my neighbors, as I speed back and forth from town with less and less time between appointments.
But this time I actually wasn’t speeding. Early on the morning of Friday, April 16th, I was driving my Corvette into Petaluma to a quick appointment before a staff meeting at my institute. I came to a portion of the back road into town that had recently been patched and was still somewhat uneven. I slowed down through the rough part and before I could resume my preferred, speedy-but-still-legal speed, I hit a wet patch of pavement. All of a sudden, I was out of control.
Because these difficult financial times are affecting me, too, I’d put off repairing the Corvette’s stabilizer system. I had decided it was a nonessential expense that could wait another month or two. But as I felt myself go into a 360 spin, I realized the car wasn’t responding as I needed it to. I skidded across the lanes (at that early hour there was thankfully no oncoming traffic), glanced off a power pole, slid under a fence, and came to a stop at a steep angle in a field of pasture grass.
It all happened so fast.
One moment I was in control and the next moment I wasn’t. The sense of suddenly losing control, feeling like everything is being taken out of your hands, thinking that there’s no way to stop this thing, are all classic reactions to a crisis event. A lifetime of work as a therapist helping people resolve trauma didn’t shield me in that moment. My feelings at that time were no different than anyone else’s would have been.
I was very fortunate; not much happened to me physically. I remember thinking, “I’ll just get out of the car and everything will be all right”. But when I opened the door, stepped out, and saw the wreckage that was once my beloved Corvette, I realized I too was really shaken up. I felt dizzy and disoriented but grateful to be alive.
In the aftermath of the accident, I gathered my senses together fairly quickly, which is not always possible so soon after a trauma occurs. I discovered that I could now somewhat imagine what our service members in Iraq and Afghanistan must feel after experiencing an IED explosion. While the car had spun, collided and slid from the road to the pasture, my brain had done the same things within the walls of my skull.
The long term effects of the accident were both physical and emotional. My neck was sore and slightly strained; my head ached for a day or two. Emotionally, I felt confronted with my lack of control, not just of my car but of other things as well.
My life had been going too fast. I was trying to get things done too quickly, to deal swiftly with a number of things that needed more time to resolve and reach completion. The shock of my accident forced me to slow down and simply appreciate that I was still alive, and I re-focused on the things in life that really did matter. Things that weren’t so important fell away for awhile.
The damage to my little red Corvette far surpassed the slight damage I suffered physically. I discovered a few things about myself, though, in the days following the accident – days when I missed my car like a lost part of myself. In my next post, I’ll share some of my thoughts and discoveries – precious realizations that cost me dearly to learn (or re-learn) on a Friday morning I’ll never forget.