Things have been pretty hard and sad around here, as you can tell from all the depressing blog posts. But then Mark got hit by a car on Friday, and all of a sudden I was longing for the hard, sad days of before. It made me realise some big things about control.
He’s okay – or he will be, after 6 weeks of bed rest, when his broken back heals itself and his sprained wrist comes right. He’s lucky: it could have been much worse. But being knocked off your motorbike and skidding across the road till your lumbar spine hits the pavement is pretty bad, let’s be honest. And it has made one thing very clear to me.
Not that motorbikes are dangerous and he shouldn’t be riding one – interestingly. I kept waiting to feel that, and he told me in the hospital (while he was waiting to go in for a CT scan to see how fractured his vertebrae were) that we can discuss whether or not he keeps riding a bike. But to me, the fact that he had an accident on his bike after riding one the entire 13 years I’ve known him is not the point. He chose a bike (a powerful, safe bike) because he doesn’t want to sit in traffic for 30 extra minutes each way each day. He wants to spend that hour at home with us. He has the safety gear: the special jacket, the special helmet, the special gloves. And they worked – his only side injury is a horrible roastie across his lower back where his backpack pulled up his jacket.
But life is dangerous. Driving a car is dangerous. If he’s sitting in an hour of traffic every day, guaranteed he’s going to pull out his phone now and then – we all would. And then we’re talking a car crash instead of a motorbike crash, but both are dangerous. He’s an excellent driver and I trust him to make the right decision. Once he can ride his bike again he’ll see how he feels, and we’ll take it from there.
No, the one thing that is now very clear to me is that we really don’t have any control over our lives. We can control the little things: what we do with our days, who we spend time with, what we eat, if we abuse our bodies or nourish them. We can create an illusion of control by being super organised, and that illusion can last for 36 years. But let me tell you, when your mom randomly dies within weeks of being totally healthy, and your husband kisses you goodbye and then an hour later is strapped into a stretcher and carried into an ambulance, it makes you recognise that we have no say in the bigger stuff.
Life can change completely and irreversibly in a day.
What is strange is that I find a weird kind of comfort in that. I’m not going to say I’ve hit rock bottom, because that sounds dramatic. But let’s take a look at the last two months of my life. Two months ago today, I flew to Durban to visit my mom in hospital, thinking we were going to figure out a treatment plan. Since then, my mom has died. Her dog committed suicide. My niece was in hospital for 5 days. The house next door to my parent’s home (where they’ve lived for 30 years) has been demolished, the trees have been ripped up, and they’re building a McDonald’s there… by December. And my husband has been hit by a car. Oh, and I’ve been audited, which seemed like a big deal a week ago and now does not, at all.
Where exactly is my control in this? I have none. Of course, the pat response is to say that I control my reaction to all of it, which I can. But it is actually more helpful to me to recognise that in this grand adventure called life, we are not in control. We never actually were.
The Grief Handbook
The Grief Handbook is out on the 13th July 2021!
You can find out all about it, and where to buy it, on www.griefhandbook.com