Yesterday, I was in the first car accident of my life. It was an accident that could have killed me and most likely would have killed passengers if I’d had them. I didn’t. And it didn’t—kill me, I mean.
I’m not the first one to note that experiences like this make you stop and take stock of your life in a new way. From a writer’s standpoint, it reminded me that these are the catalysts for changed lives – the catalysts we try to recreate in our writing. It was sobering to be reminded of how terrifying it really is to have this kind of catalyst break into your life — it’s not all about dramatic tension and story arc anymore. It also reminded me of what really happens in those moments of terror, what registers and what doesn’t. Only the sensory details register – there is no time for thoughts. The sound of squealing tires, the shattering of glass, the world spinning, and the scream that rips through it all. Your life doesn’t “flash before your eyes” because a life is long, and you don’t have that kind of time. And there isn’t room for much thought, either. My only thoughts were, “This can’t be happening,” and “I’m going to die.”
People always talk and write about trauma happening in slow motion. I don’t think anything has ever happened so fast in my life.
Over a year ago, a good friend of mine was in a car accident just after making a major life transition. The accident put her out of commission for most of a summer. She said, “I think it was just the universe’s message to me to slow down.”
I repeated this sentiment to a friend yesterday. He said, “Definitely slow down. The world needs more people who drive like old ladies.”
I wasn’t talking about slowing down my driving. I wasn’t going fast when I was hit, although the other guy certainly was. I was talking about slowing down my life. Not beating myself up if I don’t blog here for a few days, or if I procrastinate on meeting a deadline for the sake of spending a few hours with my family. I think the message to slow down is one we can all use.
Slow down in your work, in your career. Remember that work is only part of life.
Slow down in your writing. Take time to notice what you’re doing, to create intricate settings and characters.
Slow down. It won’t kill you.
Slow down, because you’re still alive.