“Who’s the President?” the EMT asked.
I rolled my eyes.
“I’m a teacher, I know who the President is!” I insisted.
“Okay, then…” she smiled.
Zero alarm showed in her face when she asked, “You wanna try that again?”
It took me ten minutes to get to Obama. I had a concussion. I had broken my arm in two places. I had a broken eyesocket and a broken cheekbone. I had torn the outer casing of my spinal column. I had a badly dislocated jaw.
I had a beautiful, but totally totaled almost new shiny red Aprilla scooter.
It was bad.
The next thing I remember was being wheeled into the hospital on the gurney. I wasn’t feeling pain, but I could tell by the bustle around me that things weren’t going so well. I looked up at myself at a mirror in the hall and this is what I saw:
I did not consider the meaningfulness of my life or my relationship to God.
I did not wonder whether I was going to die.
I did not think about my loved ones.
I did not think about my afterlife.
What I thought was, “Oh shit. I might not be pretty anymore.”
That’s right folks. When faced with the prospect of my mortality or potential disability, I was worried about how I looked.
I mean, honestly, I looked bad. Really bad. My girlfriend almost fainted when she saw me. And it was only going to get worse. That picture was taken after they cleaned me up, but before the swelling started. (I’ll spare you the swelling photo.)
The doctors gave me just enough morphine to get me feeling philosophical. People flitted around me, concerned, but I was lost in my head. I wondered who I would be if I wasn’t beautiful.
I didn’t know.
What I did know was that there was something really fucked up about my priorities.
I spent three weeks at home in that bunny suit. I couldn’t eat solid food. Everything hurt. My mom and then girlfriend, now wife, hovered around me ceaselessly. I spent most of that time simultaneously watching tv and trying to find a quiet place in my head where I could find a part of myself that I liked.
The external wounds began their healing process, but I didn’t know how to fix what was broken inside me.
I decided to change my life.
I went skiing (with a still broken arm). I stopped cowtowing to my boss at work (she fired me). I stopped wearing make up. I did Swan River‘s teaching training. I ate hallucinogens. I went on a weird corporate protein shake health kick. I started running. I bought a motorcycle. I planted a garden. I asked my girlfriend to marry me. I decided to move to New Orleans.
I was on a quest to find Tracey.
This is me one year after the accident:
That was like my sixth handstand. I couldn’t do a handstand before the accident. Even though I had been practicing yoga for almost 15 years at that point, I had never even really tried to do a handstand. Honestly, I didn’t really try to do anything that I wasn’t reasonably sure that I could look good doing.
Before the accident, I thought I knew what I was good for: looking good in black leather, pithy cutting cultural commentary, and being a really good time at parties.
Afterwards, I had no idea what I was good for, but I really wanted to find out. Breaking my face induced a breakdown that was really a breakthrough. I didn’t actually know who I was, but I knew what kind of identity I had built up to protect myself from finding out.
Five years later, I am still on that quest. I am still breaking down the bullshit versions of me that are nice to show people (see above) and uncovering the truest parts of me that merge with the infinite.
I’ve learned a lot. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned is how to do this work of breaking through without actually breaking down (most of the time). I have learned that what I am good for is sharing this work.
I don’t mean that I am just good at helping people get to handstand (although that can be fun). I mean that what I am good for is helping others find breakthroughs without breaking down.
(For the record, it’s way more satisfying than “being pretty” ever was.)
You don’t have to buy a motorcycle or eat acid or break your face to break down your ego, but you do have to go on a quest and you have to ask yourself some really hard questions. Questions like, “Do I spent my time doing the things that are most important to me?” or even better, “What does how I spend my time tell me about who I am and what my priorities are?”
The really question is: Do you get it? This life is temporary. What are you doing with it? Who do you want to be in it? Who do you want to love? What do you want your last thoughts to be?
I was in an accident two months ago. As my car spun a one eighty on a two lane road, I thought, “Well, okay.”
It’s not enlightenment, but it is acceptance. And that’s a start.
Do you want to share your own epiphanies? Email me.
Do you want to go on a quest with me? Embodied Alchemy.
Do you want to come take a class with me? Here’s my schedule.