Five years ago I completely, absolutely, extremely, spectacularly totaled my precious little 2000 Volkswagen Beetle. I spun it out on the Universal exit ramp from I-4. It was an unusually foggy morning and my tires lost traction on the extremely slick and curvy ramp. When my car first started fish-tailing, I thought, “It’s going to be okay. I can regain control.” Well, the next thing you know, time started to slow way way down. At about this same instant my beautiful baby car started doing donuts down the ramp, banking off the retention walls (boy, are they strong) like a bumper car at a winter carnival. By the time it ground to a halt, I felt like I was under water or landing on the moon. I fleetingly wondered if I was going to get in trouble for being late to work. Then I remembered that our team was going to be in a training all day, so it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. I began trying to call someone with my cell phone, but (no lie) I couldn’t figure out how to get the magical device to work.
Luckily, nice people began appearing through the fog and asking me if I was okay. I remember wondering why they were asking. I got out of my Beetle Bug in a super-slow-mo daze and took a look at it. My car was perpendicular to the road, and I instinctively got back in so that I could move it out of the way. Yeah. One of the nice fog people said, “Um, ma’am, your wheels aren’t attached to your car anymore. It’s not going anywhere.” Little did he know, it wouldn’t start either. Being in shock, I still tried over and over to get the poor thing started. I believe they finally persuaded me to get out of the car, by explaining that someone might come speeding down the ramp (it was still dark outside) and t-bone me before the cops (who had arrived by this time) could block off the exit.
Sure enough, when I got back out I could see that both of my front wheels had come off (I had broken the axle during my vehicular pirouettes), and one of the wheels was way back up the ramp-almost out of sight. It was at this point that I noticed that the exit ramp wasn’t exactly on the ground. It’s more like a bridge, meaning that it’s really high up in the air. Let’s just say that I never want to find out how high it is. I could have died. Just as I was about to slip into a fear driven panic, a fog person asked me if I’d like to use their phone to call someone. I said yes, and for some reason, I could make theirs work. I called my boss. He came right away to pick me up (nice guy). He arrived at the same time as the tow truck. Hurray.
Well, that’s not the end of the story. When you have a car accident, it is a terrible, terrifying experience, but it’s one that most everyone can relate to (as I soon discovered). Friends, family and coworkers alike were very eager to tell me about their horrific car accidents. I couldn’t make them stop; they felt compelled to share their tales. All of them have faded from my mind, save one. One well meaning person told me that he had experienced almost exactly the same thing as me. When he returned to the scene of the accident the next day-in the daylight-he realized how near he had come to killing himself or someone else. After that, every time he came near that part of the road, he would become paralyzed with fear. Finally, he just decided to never use that stretch of road again.
The next day as I was driving my rental car to work, I started to think about what the “street avoider” had said. I became more and more anxious as I neared the exit. I zoomed past the off ramp for Kirkman, leaving me no choice but the Universal exit. I had the strongest urge to keep going to the Sand Lake exit and then doubling back, but I didn’t. I took the exit (way slower than usual), affording myself the opportunity to look at all the scrapes and gouges in the walls which had undoubtedly come from my little car as we took our last trip together. I felt a sickening flutter in my chest that dropped to my stomach, and then I began to feel really heavy. I could have died here… I began to feel fearful………..and then it was over. I did it.
I did it every day after that, until I no longer worked at that job, and I still use that exit today.
I don’t often think of this story anymore; however, I was reminded of it when I read a blog the other day by Tsoknyi Rinpoche, author of Open Heart, Open Mind. In his blog he recounted a similar traumatic experience (involving flying) and explained how he learned to deal with his subsequent fear of flying. Rinpoche discovered that he could examine his fear through the lens of a mantra: “real, but not true.” By doing this he was able to determine if his emotions were based on present conditions or past experiences. So, for example, when I wrecked my car on the exit ramp, my fear was real and true. I could have died. But, when I was driving down that same ramp days after the accident and I felt fearful of getting in an accident and dying, the feeling of fear was real, but was it wasn’t true that I was going to get in an accident and die. My fear was based on past experiences, so I was able to let it go.
If we can learn to look at our emotions that don’t serve us well in this way, we can begin to let go of them more readily. Our negative emotions are completely real. Yes, we feel them very deeply, especially if we’ve been wounded in the past, but we don’t have to remain in bondage to them forever. We can learn to dispute them and disarm them. We can watch them disintegrate in the warm light of truth.
If you’re feeling unlovable or weak or lost or afraid, those feelings are most certainly real. Come see us at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando, and our counselors and life coaches will be so happy to help you sort through your feelings to find your truth. Namaste. Kim
Call 407-355-7378 for a free phone consultation.