Crash

Yesterday, I crashed my car.

Wait. The right words are very important.

Yesterday, I was involved in a car crash. Yesterday, my car crashed. Yesterday, two cars crashed, and I was in one of them.

Nope.

Yesterday, some crazy woman in an SUV —

No, that’s not right either. Or, from another perspective, it’s exactly as right as all the others.

The facts are these: yesterday morning, after Light’s elementary school delayed the start of classes because of the torrential rain, I drove her to school via the grocery store. While turning off the highway to climb the hill to the school, an SUV struck the front-right wing of my car at immense speed. Both cars spun in lazy circles on the wet road. I have bruises on my knees and across my chest from the seat-belt, and Light has a sore wrist. No other injuries were sustained, in either car. The air-bags didn’t deploy. The eggs in the trunk didn’t break. For reasons which elude me, the passenger-side brake light was broken. The windshield cracked in three clean, straight lines, but it did not break.

Yesterday, a number of complex systems including physics, mechanical engineering, meteorology, human psychology and chance joined forces to spray fragments of glass and body-work across a four-way junction.

Bruises are healing, Light slept well last night and was pretty relaxed, all things considered, about being driven to school this morning. We’re as completely insured as it is possible to be, and the gap between the value of the car and the market value isn’t so large that we’ll be very far underwater. We are, by any measure, incredibly fortunate.

Yesterday, I was stupid lucky.

The reason that the words are important is this: I feel guilt. That’s no surprise, I have a thing with guilt. I will take responsibility for things are completely beyond my control, and feel terrible about them. I’m not just talking about apologies, from the casual to the sincere — I’m British, that’s a significant part of my social engineering — but rather the deep-seated feeling that I did something wrong, that I must atone, that I can never be forgiven. The truth, as I see it calmly right now, is that it was an accident. I didn’t do anything wrong, and neither did the driver of the SUV. It was One Of Those Things.

And yet…

Yesterday, a decision I made endangered my daughter and four other people.

Even as I write these words, I want to justify my response. I want to say that when you’re driving, what happens is your responsibility. When you’re a parent, what happens is your responsibility. I was in charge, so what happened was my fault. Don’t pity me, don’t forgive me, just let me carry this.

But the right words are important: responsibility is not the same as fault. I took responsibility: I checked on Light, and got her to safety; I checked on the other vehicle, and helped where I could. I called Lani, dealt with the police officer, spoke with the tow-truck guy. I did everything that I could do, but the thought of what could have happened is terrible, so terrible that I can’t even enumerate the specifics. That’s alright; you know what they are. Things could have been worse, and the fact that they weren’t is… chance. Luck. This is my fault, and only improbable good fortune saved the day. I’m a monster, and I should feel guilt.

Yesterday, I made a mistake that cannot be forgiven. It was a long time coming.

This is the difficult part. Here goes: I grew up believing that I was bad, unworthy, rotten to the core. It isn’t true, of course, but a lot of those dark little whispers took root in my soul, and I believed them. Bad things happened, people let me down, I made poor decisions — but what else could be expected of a witless wretch like me? Those things aren’t true, but they’re still there, and when I’m tired, or stressed, or afraid, they come back, casting doubt over every good decision, leeching away the happiness from the most peaceful of moments, and promising with dark foreboding that some grim day, it will happen. I’ll lose everything. And I’ll deserve it.

I’m working through it, and have been for some time, but yesterday was tough. Lani calls it The Bullshit — even the kids call it that, and take a certain amount of glee in pointing out when I slip toward the dark. For the first time, I’m beginning to accept that the things I have always believed are not — and have never been — true.

That’s why the right words are important. If my attention slips, I start to rewrite what happened, tumbling down into culpability, guilt and self-loathing. When I remember that it was an accident, that I did everything I could do, and that I wouldn’t blame any other person in world for what happened, then I can keep perspective. It’s a long road ahead, but things are, for the first time, beginning to change. It really is time to let The Bullshit go.

Yesterday, I crashed my car. Today, I’m doing okay.

 

10 thoughts on “Crash

  1. “Yesterday, a decision I made endangered my daughter and four other people.”

    Also, yesterday decision that you didn’t even know that you’d made helped you and Light walk away with minor injuries. The auto-responses that have been trained into you the entire time that you’ve been driving worked for you.

  2. I’m so glad you and yours are all right and I understand how hard it is to use the right words. I find even when I do, I’m paralyzed by “what if”. Most often, after some time has passed, I can let that go and just be grateful for “what is”.

  3. Ugh! I’m so glad that everyone is doing well. I completely get it about the guilt. I think it is one of the rotten side effects of being a dependable person. And I am guessing you are very, very dependable. Somehow we begin to believe that with enough care and attention to detail that bad things can be avoided. Not with our brains, or course, because that would be illogical. But deep down we believe that the outcome of our actions should be, well, dependable. Predictable. So when fate takes a hand, it makes us feel that the whole system might be flawed. Maybe all the spinning plates are heading to the floor. At least that is how I feel. I won’t speak for you.

    Anyway, be extra nice to yourself. Try not to let the guilt take a hold for too long. Most important, try to hear what the people who know and love you best are telling you. And ignore everything else. “God’s in his heaven, and all is right with the world.” At least as much as it ever was. Thanks for the post.

  4. I’m glad to hear that you and Light weren’t badly hurt. Be kind to yourself. Personally, I think one of the many things MADD gave society is a new language – there is a difference between a crash and an accident. You had an accident. Let yourself believe it.

  5. What a way to gain insight. Sometimes when we’re shaken up, surprising thoughts emerge. Dealing with yesterday’s emotions in the way you posted is an achievement I expect will carry you a long way. So glad the injuries and aftermath are minor. Keep driving forward.

  6. Hugs, Alastair. Of course you feel guilty and you question if there was anything you could have seen, done differently, or reacted to faster in the collision. The answer of course is no. It was an accident. Accidents happen. They come without warning, and that’s why they’re called collisions…sudden violent force. But you wouldn’t be human, and a caring human, if you didn’t question yourself. Now be a loving human being, give everyone you love an extra big hug and allow someone to hug you back in the same way. You’re all safe. The car will be fine. You will be fine.

  7. That is all part of being a dad. No matter who is at fault you take it all. Just remember that because you care and Light was your first concern, and you did everything you needed to do, shows you are a great dad and lots of love to share. Don’t let it get you down for too long.

    Glad everyone is okay.

  8. The right words ARE important. I would have used slightly different ones, to wit, “yesterday, I was involved in a car accident”. Car still crumpled, bruises still healing, but with no blame apportioned or shouldered. Be kind to yourself, Alastair. I well know how easy it is to believe oneself to be in the wrong, to be chronically apologizing. Not everything that happens to you, with you, or around you, is because of you.

  9. This character is foaklere, and 2 minutes of research will easily show you some bored people on a web site decided to create a new urban legend/entity hence Slenderman.But thought can be a very powerful thing, IMO.  And the key word there was create . If enough people start believing in it and feeding their fear into it, it may be able to manifest. So if you watch this video some night, then hear some creepy sound, and your mind starts to race it could become quite real.

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