Sunday, July 26, 2009

Being Alive

Someone wants me alive.

"Lots of people want you alive," one of my co-actors told me tonight at rehearsal.

Yes, I understand that, I thought. But someone really important wants me alive too.

Important enough to like, I don't know, deploy angels or change history or something. I know, I know God didn't do that for the millions of Jews who died in concentration camps, and I know God doesn't do that for the poor civilians we Americans kill in the middle east or for the millions of women who are raped in Darfur and other hate-stricken places. Or maybe God does. You know the age old question is, "but how many people didn't die in the holocaust or were spared in war or were hidden from their oppressors..."

But that's enough inscrutable theology. I should tell my story.

I was in a non-wreck today.

Let me explain.

I went to an AMAZING wedding this weekend in Port A on Padre Island in South Texas. I drove down with Kirsten, the bride from the crazy NYC wedding and we met up with my friend Melanie whom you've met on this blog before, her fiance Joey and the rest of the wedding party. The drive down was an experience. One I promise I'll get to in another blog. (And I thought MickeyDee's gave terrible customer service, what til you hear about WhatABurger! Serving not just sex in a parking lot, but so much more).

But for the purpose of discussing being alive, I'm going to focus on the ride home.

I left at 10:30 to return from the sunny, sandy beach (sigh*) to hot, dusty Austin. I was going to head straight for the theater at church (we're doing Steel Magnolias and we open Friday) because after a 30 minute detour, I was running late. So as the caravan from the wedding approached San Antonio, I waved good-bye to Bria in her Volkswagon Bug, gave her the A-OK sign that I knew where I was going, and sped ahead. Bria on the other hand, had no where to be and so stuck with the speed limit.

Everything was fine. I was staying awake (yep, there's a story there too, wait for it...) and had popped in Les Miserables to sing along to while I munched on some trail mix for my lunch.

Golly, I thought (as all good art should either make you laugh, cry or think), would I offer candlesticks to someone who robbed me? If I offered to make Crazy Carol's speghetti to some man who just got out of jail whom I saw walking down Downs Drive and who then proceeded not only to eat all the speghetti and not put his dish in the sink, but then, while I was out of the room on a phone call stole, I don't know, say my favorite pair of Banana Republic grey suede high heels (work with me people, we all know I don't have silver, fine or otherwise). And if the cops caught this man and brought him back to my house, would I then give him the all too precious and perfectly fitting Ann Taylor dress too?! And would I tell him to use the money he gets selling my beautiful outfit to Buffalo Exchange to become an honest man? Would I do that?

So I'm munching on my trail mix and pondering life's great challenges when I see a HUGE truck, one of the big ones that rich people buy when they're compensating for something, begin to come into my lane. There are three lanes on this highway. I'm in the far left lane. He was in the middle. And I obviously was in his blindspot. And he obviously had poorly adjusted mirrors and hadn't looked over his left shoulder.

Over he came. And in a milisecond, my right hand that instinctively reached for the horn, realized there was no time and assisted my left in clutching the wheel and veering left into the (thank God) extra paved area beyond the thick white line of the edge of the highway. But at the end of that leeway of land still ran the wall of the median. And I was suddenly stuck between a rock and a hard place. Fortunately, in the next millisecond the truck driver saw me being pushed off the highway and he swerved back into his lane. Unfortunately it was too late.

For the in the vast amount of words and time it has taken me to write the last paragraph, what happened was so fast, a wreck was imminant. Following the truck swerving back, I tried to steer carefully back into my lane, but the speed and the quick change of velocity was too much. My tires spun and my brakes locked and despite my attempts to not over compensate at the wheel, the back of my car swung into the right lane. I waited for the crunch of another car crashing into it, but fortunately there was none.

But what goes up must come down and what goes right must go left. The backseat of my carthen swung back into my lane and then to the left. And then after one more sweep to the right, the car spun all the way around and I went straight toward the wall, backwards, facing the opposite direction I had been driving not a three seconds before.

Contrary to what one would think, I have the ability to remain remarkably calm in traumatic situations. "You're about to have a wreck, Ann," some part of my conscious said to another part. "Your car will smash into the wall now, but it will be alright." I was calm and waited for the impact.

The car stopped.

I didn't hit the wall.

I stared at the little blue car facing me that had screetched to a halt behind, or rather now, in front of me and I blinked a few times.

What now?

I turned off the volume on the music and thought, okay. Turn around. Figure this out. You're sitting against a wall and traffic flying at 80 miles an hour. Get out of this.

So I tried to put the car in reverse. It was dead. The trauma had killed the car. Clutch in, I stared it back up. I did a three point turn, praying people in the middle lane would see me and stop as well (as opposed to taking off the front of my car). They did. See me, I mean, and they stopped.

Two lanes of traffic now halted, I waved a thank you to the woman facing me, finished my shaky U-turn and began to accelerate back to highway speed.

Oh My God.

I could have been hit by that truck, I could have been smooshed into the wall. I could have been hit by a car whose lane I spun into. I could have crashed into a wall facing backwards, I could have been hit by oncoming traffic following behind me. I could have... I could have...

I could have died.

But there was not a scratch on me... or my car. The truck had (eventually) seen me, no one had been following close enough behind to hit my swerving backside (a miracle in that heavy traffic) and my car died and the acceleration ended before I was thrown into the median wall.

Someone wants me alive.

I was in shock. I continued driving in traffic when all I really wanted to do was hug that woman in the blue car who saw the whole thing and stopped just in time. I was alive. Didn't she want to hug me too? I was alive! But she had resumed to highway speed as well and was now on her cell phone. "Oh my God, Darlene, you'll never believe what I just saw..." I could hear her recounting.

A student called my own phone then and I calmly answered and responded to her question. I returned to Austin driving 70mph, not the 45mph (however dangerous) that one would expect having just had a non-wreck. I passed another wreck and said a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer of supplication for those involved just like I always do. I think I was in shock.

When I got to the theater, I saw my director and she hugged me and told me she was glad I was okay (I had texted her while we were all sitting on the highway, not driving, waiting to pass the wreck). And then... I burst into tears. "I could have died!"

I feel egotistical, narcissistic, naive, saying that God wants me alive; I struggle with guilt that I'm alive and others aren't. But then my conservative christian upbringing chides, "Why wouldn't you give glory to God for saving your life? God kept you alive. That wasn't luck." It's always, all about "me" with them. "Thank you Jesus for saving me this great parking spot up close," someone had relayed to me earlier in the week. Like Jesus gives a damn where you park your car. He probably wants you to park farther away so you can walk further and work off some of the gluttony bulging off your holy temple of a body.

I'm getting off track. Suffice it to say, I struggle with providence. If I don't believe God causes evil in the world, but I do believe he causes good is that consistent? No providence on bad stuff but yes providence on good stuff? It seems weird. All I can say is I felt grateful after my non-wreck, and when I entered back into traffic on I35 I had the sense that I was supposed to be alive. And then I thought, man I gotta get my book written.

I felt like God wanted me alive for a reason. I feel like that now. I guess I just hope I'm living out that reason, here and now, today and every day.

I'm alive. I'm alive. The shock is gone, but I'm still here.


Taylor Sandlin said...

Great post. I'm glad you're alive, too. Your book should definitely include the lines:

"'Thank you Jesus for saving me this great parking spot up close,' someone had relayed to me earlier in the week. Like Jesus gives a damn where you park your car. He probably wants you to park farther away so you can walk further and work off some of the gluttony bulging off your holy temple of a body."


Unknown said...

Freshman year of college I spun out around a curve on a two lane hill country road and flipped my first red pickup truck doing at least 60. It was a ten foot climb back up the hill to the road where I went off. The truck was suspended upsidedown 2 feet off the ground in a grove of cedar trees one of which was a particularly large cedar tree that was snapped in half, and I wasn't wearing a seat belt. I walked away without a scratch. It still freaks me out. And I don't begin to know how to think about it theologically. I'm afraid if I do, I either end up with an anxiety disorder or a Messiah complex. :-)

Melanie said...

Ann! I had no idea that happened the day after my wedding! Why didn't you tell me? I'm soooo glad you're o.k.! I had a spin out like that once that didn't end in a wreck, but it was on a country road, not I-35!

I'm so glad you're alive to act in more amazing performances like Steel Magnolias; to officiate your friends' weddings in the most graceful, beautiful, memorable way; to help deliver babies; to console the sick and grieving in hospitals; to write words that make people laugh and cry and think; and continue to touch many, many, many more lives. I love you. Keep up the great work! You're not going anywhere anytime soon. xoxo, Mel