Living outside the lifelessness

Stories are about people just as life is about people.

Kate Nelson

Two weeks ago today, a car hit me while I was walking down the street. I was thrust against its hood and windshield and then thrown back onto the ground before I really knew what was happening. Somehow my tote landed under my head, saving me from horrible possibilities (and they say oversized purses aren’t good for anything).

Stunned and scared, I didn’t realize how serious the situation was until a police officer was kneeling beside me, asking me if I knew who the current president is. An ambulance rushed me to the hospital. The X-rays revealed no broken bones; I am lucky.

My body is, however, plagued with pain, my mind is trying to understand the trauma it was forced to endure. The healing process has not been easy, and it takes much longer than the 14 days I’ve had so far.

When I was hit, I didn’t see a light. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. And afterward, when my sister was explaining how such a jolting event shows just how precious life is, I’m not sure I entirely understood. Thus far, I have had no such epiphany. In fact, I might still think I’m invincible; I haven’t really had time to question it.

So it must be that the epiphany came later. Somewhere in between the telling and the retelling of the incident, my 22nd birthday, bickering with the people I love and the onslaught of mail from attorneys and chiropractors, I started to wonder where the people were. Where their faces were. Where their hearts were.

I started to question why and how we got so wrapped up with the things. And I don’t mean simply material goods. I’m talking about anything that doesn’t have a heartbeat, doesn’t breathe, isn’t able to live: jobs, appointments, obligations, words, calendars.

Though I’d like to think of myself as a nice person, I’m not sure just how true that is. I’m not all that pleasant to the people who are holding up the line at Starbucks, keeping me from my iced chai latte. I’m catty with those I consider competition. And sometimes I’m far too easily annoyed if a loved one can’t give me exactly what I think I need exactly when I want it.

At some point the things, all these lifeless objects taking up space and time, overwhelmed my mind and my life. A University journalism teacher once told me that news isn’t about events; it’s about people. Of course, he also burst into song numerous times in keys far too high for a man of his stature, but somehow I still knew he was right: Stories are about people just as life is about people.

So perhaps this catastrophe did bring with it an epiphany. And the more I think about it, what my sister said makes perfect sense; life is precious. I just wasn’t able to understand it at the time, not through all the clutter, not through all the things.

I think I’ll start surrounding myself with life. And I’ll try my best to breathe life into those around me, to offer them a breath of fresh air lest they get caught up in all the lifelessness.

Kate Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected]