By Joy Wilson Parrish
Strangely, I saw the flash quite clearly—not the flash of genius or the storied “life before the eyes” kind of thing, although it was no less surprising. It was the pure flash of sunlight bouncing off highly polished chrome. Some part of my brain followed. The sky was that gorgeous royal blue that only seems to happen on crisp fall days in Michigan, and which I rarely noticed.
I had long kept the fragile framework of my life in tightly compartmentalized boxes so nothing went astray. The keys to each box were carefully filed according to my own skewed Dewey decimal system, should the need arise to unlock and examine the contents. I do not recall that ever happening. My mental collection room was vast, it was dusty and, although deposits were frequent, withdrawals were rare. I filed and I fled.
My eyes resumed their search for the flash source with my usual detachment. It took a bit for the freeze frame to fracture and then gather the splinters of itself back into something I could comprehend and communicate. BRAKEBRAKEBRAKE.
An isolated part of my brain registered the screams of my daughters while yet another threw a tangled dialogue up to face whatever holy entity was currently paying attention. I was fully prepared to take the entire force of whatever was coming and I completely trusted this to happen. Fluff, fold, into the box. New box and category needed.
First flip—My purse was clutched tightly to my chest protecting identification and insurance cards. Second flip—I hoped my phone stayed put and functioned so that I could notify work that I wouldn’t be in. Third flip—the light in here is a rather calming shade of yellow and green. What is that? The windows blow out but the roof is holding. Fourth to the fifth flip and we are done.
The silence is thick and palpable. My oldest is clutching the steering wheel tightly although it is no longer connected to anything. Shards of glass are caught like crystals in her hair and she is so beautiful—the sun beams are back. My youngest is barefoot and texting, one long, lithe leg extended. There is purple glitter on her toenails and I am clutching her sock tightly in my hand. This strikes me as funny and I start to laugh. We are all laughing. Tattered bits of leaves and glass, droplets of fuel and blood and shouted commands for life flight are filtering down through what I think used to be a window and we can’t stop laughing. We clasp hands and we laugh.
I stop to gaze inward in time to see the locks break open. Long captive feelings dance with dust motes in the sun and float up into the blue fall sky.
* * *
It has been two years and some pocket change since that day that my life changed. I look back and I still see the bright peacock blue of the sky and the glints and sparkles of the sunbeams caught in the glass prisms in my daughter’s hair. So many life lessons have been absorbed and treasured and, as I look back, I can truthfully tell you that I would not change one thing. As it turned out, the universe did heed my request to protect my girls and they emerged unscathed. I climbed from the wreckage with the assistance of the Jaws of Life and some amazing fire fighters, only to find out that I was walking on many broken bones and a derailed life plan.
I spent the better part of a year unable to walk following numerous surgeries on my leg. I then spent countless weeks in therapy learning how to walk correctly, turn my head, fully breathe beyond my broken rib cage. Every day I had to learn grace and I learned to be grateful. I learned humility. My world had indeed shrunk in size—but my life had expanded beyond my wildest dreams.
Suddenly that person I used to be, you know the one who kept everything so carefully filed and tucked into color coded file folders, could no longer function in the same way. None of my previous coping mechanisms worked. I could no longer reach the damn filing cabinet! A prideful introvert with a closely guarded private life, I now had to rely on others for help with the slightest thing. To further compound that, I had managed to completely isolate myself to the point that I had no family nearby aside from my teenage daughters and a few close friends.
I had to ask for help. The horror! I had to rely on people I hardly knew to help me bathe, to move, clean my house, get me up and down the stairs to therapy, to a different city for more surgery. And through all of the indignity and pain, an amazing thing happened. I softened. My heart cracked open and my life expanded. I learned to breathe again. I learned to lean in—and the world leaned back.
People I did not even know stepped up and supported me in ways that I can never repay. People not only shared food with my family, they dropped by to share their knowledge of energy work and alternative healing. I was exposed to and went on to study various healing modalities including acupuncture and reiki and use of essential oils. I made friends with artists and artisans and writers and I learned to paint. I discovered yoga. I began to write and that alone has opened up a whole world of healing that I never even knew existed. I wrote poems and stories and saw some of my work published. I made friends who have become family.
Oh, please don’t get me wrong. I am still more at home alone with my books and pots of ink and the blank pages of my many notebooks than I ever will be with large groups of people, but I have learned that they are not mutually exclusive. I have found peace. I found a sense of humor. I still have anxiety in moving vehicles but I do really well if they are just parked in the garage. I may not be able to return to my previous career in the same manner but I have learned how to do other things that I love even more. I have learned the beauty of balance.
I can no longer run but I have learned how to dance, in my own way. I had to almost lose my life in order to learn how to live it and I wouldn’t trade a day of it for all of the colored file folders in the world.
Joy Wilson Parrish is a new writer who divides her roots between Vermont, Louisiana and Michigan. Her works have been published in The Rebelle Society, The Tattooed Buddha and The Potpourri Anthology V. 1. Her first book of poetry is scheduled for publication in late spring 2016. Follow her on www.facebook.com/JWilsonParrish.