Thursday the 13th May I was driving my car along a country road in Suffolk and a motorcyclist came around a bend, lost control of his bike, veered across onto the other side of the road, into my windscreen, and then somersaulted about 20 feet down the road. Amazingly, he’s okay — on the afternoon itself, as he was taken off in the ambulance, we weren’t so sure he would be.
I was lucky that my airbag inflated (I didn’t even know I had one and everyone should check that they have), and that the motorbike burst my tyre on impact so I didn’t head off into some trees or a ditch. I’m pretty sure that my huge duvet coat that I’ve barely taken off for months also minimised my bruising, even if it does now have a seatbelt mark imprinted on it. And we were all lucky that my friends who I was away with were on the scene in 10 mins, that amazing Suha is trained in First Aid, and that there were other witnesses too who were able to be with the motorcyclist until the ambulance and police arrived.
As the motorbike hurtled directly at me I closed my eyes and thought when I opened them I’d be really hurt. It was such a relief that I wasn’t, and apart from a slight panic when my car started smoking and I couldn’t get my door open to escape, I remained pretty calm for the 3 hours I was then on the roadside. It wasn’t until my Mum arrived (she’s nearby in Cambridgeshire) that I broke down in tears — the power of a mother’s hug even at the age of 44!
The motorbike was split in two, my car has been declared a write-off.
Car accidents are brutal.
It’s not my first, and in fact is probably the one I was least injured in, but they’ve all been crushing, harsh, violent. When I was 7 my drunken Dad drove us both into a ditch. At 14, as my Mum drove me and some friends to youth club a man pulled out in front of us, sending us veering into a telegraph pole and then tried to blame my Mum for what happened. I stood on the road with blood pouring from my nose and a cut on my lip, yelling the C word at him. The worst was at 17 when an ex boyfriend, in a rage, with me (again) yelling at him to slow down, drove us both head on into another car. He carried a semi-conscious me through fields, trying to flee the scene. I later ended up in hospital.
I’m sharing all this because it’s made me think a lot about fear.
“Don’t allow your body to brood on the memory.” — Hala Alyan.
The first thing I did was drive a courtesy car to Cornwall, dosed up on painkillers for my whiplash, I wanted to face any fear I might have. Actually I realised what I’m most afraid of is that something like this could snatch away my fearlessness. My trust. The faith I have in things being okay. The hopefulness I carry. My perception of risk.
My world view is not fear-based , I’m not a worrier, I’m never anxious— one could say that is a position of privilege, though I like how Hala Alyan describes it in this podcast — fearlessness is at the heart of the indigenous perspective.
It’s made me realise how much some work cultures can exacerbate fear too. Fellow Point Person Jennie, who is an expert in systems psychodynamics, has taught me so much about how culture, rules, process and structures determine how we feel in organisational systems. The risk registers, the need to protect, assumptions that the worst will happen, the low levels of trust — a whole organisational nervous system can become wrecked by fear. Uncertainty becomes more and more unacceptable, conservatism dominates, fear breeds fear.
“We crowd in when we are afraid.” — Hala Alyan.
I was off work this last week, and I’m taking next week off too. A lot of people thought I needed to stop — though probably not quite in this way. Despite the constant word in my own ear about how lucky we were that nobody was more injured and how grateful I should be, I’m still not feeling totally okay. I cry really easily at the moment — the few people I’ve answered the phone to have soon found me weeping. I know as I heal, I need to be around cultures of hope, joy and care — I can’t be around fear.
In St.Ives I’ve tried to etch different things back into my body and my nervous system. I went on long walks, whatever the weather, doing deep breathing along the way to activate my vegas nerve.
A thoughtful friend posted me some watercolour paints, brushes and a sketch book, so I joined a life drawing class one evening and on another day sat by the sea playing with watery paints and inky pens. It was a really good reminder that I should revisit my art-making more often. Writing has become my preferred activity for finding flow (and I love the tapping on the keyboard), but painting takes me away from a screen.
Most of all I’ve found surprising comfort from this gorgeous creature, who’s gentleness and wagging tail of joy brought me daily smiles. She started to accompany me on my walks and I’m already missing her now I’m back in London.
If I owe you an email, a DM, a Whatsapp, a text, a call…. it may be a little while longer. And I feel super grateful for all the people who’ve been in touch, to my team and my manager who’ve just been brilliant. ❤️