About 10 years ago I was in an auto accident. I was at an intersection waiting to make a left turn and a pickup slammed into mine head on at maybe 30 miles per hour.
It gave me an unexpected insight.
I was wearing my seat belt and shoulder harness, and when the pickup hit, I was thrown forward with full force.
When I fell back into my seat, I took a second to realize what had happened, then took a breath.
“Oh! I can’t breathe!” I thought.
After several more attempts, I still couldn’t inhale.
Instead of being scared, I just sort of settled into my seat and thought, “Well, this is it. This is how I’m going to die — sitting in a car in an intersection.”
It was all very peaceful.
Then I suddenly gasped and took a few deep breaths that really hurt because I had a couple of newly broken ribs. Then I got scared.
You’ve heard of “getting the breath knocked out of you”? I didn’t realize it actually happened. The seat belt and shoulder belt saved me from being thrown onto the steering column and hitting my head against the windshield, so they did what they were supposed to do.
But the trade off was that most of my injuries ran in a diagonal line across my chest where the shoulder harness was. On the whole, I’d trade those relatively minor ones for the major injuries I could have suffered otherwise.
And yes, when you’re hit head on at 30 mph while wearing a shoulder harness, it’s going to knock the breath out of you for a few seconds.
No surprise there. The surprise was the way I reacted during those few seconds....
Fear is a luxury. Fear is an early warning system. You’re only afraid of things you can still do something about.
Things you can’t do something about you either just accept or don’t.
This summer I’ve got a small role in the Redwood Area Theatre’s musical “Into the Woods”, which you can still see on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday of this week.
I only agreed to take part as long as I didn’t have to sing, or at least only had to sing as part of a chorus. The idea of public singing is one of my phobias, although I have taken a few small steps toward conquering it during the microphone checks.
As the rehearsals wrung on, the rest of the cast was pretty intimidated at having to sing some very complex songs, and recite a lot of tongue-twister lines. Many of us didn’t think we could pull it off.
Page 2 of 2 - But as we got closer to opening day, most of us got calmer rather than more nervous. Part of it was just getting more practice, of course. There’s nothing like mastering a skill to help you deal with your fears.
But the other part for some of us was just realizing it was just too late to back out.
When you know you don’t have any choice any more — when you’ve committed to either fishing or cutting bait, as it were — it gets less scary.
Then you just move on, or you don’t.