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    It Wasn't My Time

            Last Saturday, I was biking back from Falmouth. It was a nice ride, pleasant and uneventful, save for one thing. I got hit by a truck.
            Most of my trek was on the fabulous new bike path extension that runs practically to my front door, give or take a few miles. But some of my travel was on open road. When this is the case, I bike on the sidewalk if at all possible, making sure to give pedestrians the room they need to get by. This usually means hopping off the sidewalk and onto the road for a few moments while they pass. So as the two walkers approached me this day, I made my plan to give them room. I was going against the traffic, on what was my left side of the street.
            Checking to make sure there were no oncoming cars, and biking over the sidewalk curb and onto the road, I hit a puddle. Apparently, a pretty wet one. I go through puddles all the time, without ever having a problem. This time, however, because of the angle I hit the puddle at, the extreme wetness of the water, and the phase of the moon in Gemini, I started to skid.
            As I turned to control the bike, I knew if I jerked too hard to the left, I’d hit the bulky curb of the sidewalk and go flying. So I turned right, aware that there were no cars coming towards me. But as I rapidly shifted my weight and turned the handlebars, I skidded once more, most likely because of, once again, the water being far wetter than normal (and possibly because Saturn was in Virgo). This skid was more precarious, however, because I skidded across the road and into the other lane, where a landscaping truck, coming from behind, was headed straight towards me.
            He had already started slowing down and pulling as far over to his right as he could to avoid me. The guy wasn’t speeding, and he was paying attention to the road, which was very fortunate for me. If he had been driving too fast or asleep at the wheel, I would have been toast.
            All of a sudden, I’m in danger of being hit by a truck. What I remember most vividly is that, despite suddenly faced with potential disaster, I was amazingly calm. I didn’t yell. I didn’t panic. And if I was afraid, I certainly didn’t consciously feel it. My mind was incredibly clear and focused. My survival instinct kicked in and determined my best shot for staying alive was not to lose it. I figured out what I needed to do and did it, instantaneously, before I knew I was doing it.
            I instinctively knew my best shot was to avoid hitting the truck broadside, or else I’d suffer the same fate a small boat does when it hits a massive wave facing sideways. So I steered left as hard as I could while still keeping control of the bike and tried to ride alongside the truck. At the same time, I extended my right arm as the truck approached. I wanted to stave off the truck hitting my bike for as long as possible, because every second, his speed decreased. And I knew once my bike got hit, as opposed to my arm or even my shoulder, I would be thrown off the bike, and that was where I could suffer the most damage. The longer I stayed vertical, the better my chances of avoiding serious injury.
            I figured all of this out within a few seconds, and my body was able to execute exactly what I needed to do, instantly. I don’t believe that my brain or my body normally work quite that fast. Or that precisely. But then again, this situation was far from normal. Something else had kicked into gear.
            The first thing that hit the truck was my hand at the end of my outstretched right arm. I pushed off once, then a few more times, as my bike stayed out of the line of fire and I kept my balance, now on a tangent course with the truck. Finally, part if his cab hit my bike, and I was thrown off. This was the moment of truth.
            As I fell, I turned and tucked in my arms, again, instinctively, so that I wouldn’t brace my fall with my hands. What had saved me a moment ago would have resulted in a broken bone now, so in came my arms. As I headed towards the ground, my head came up so it wouldn’t hit the pavement, and I turned and rolled my shoulder, knowing that the most heavily muscled part of my torso, my upper back and shoulder area, was best equipped to deal with the fall. As I hit the ground, I rolled with the blow, further dissipating the impact.
    I got up off the ground with nothing but a few scratches on my right upper back. No blood. I wasn’t even shook up. As soon as I got up, I came over to the dude driving the truck and said “I’m fine. Completely. And it was my fault. Don’t worry about it.” He looked more upset than I probably did, even though I was the one who got knocked to the ground. I reassured him several more times that I was completely okay and that the accident was my fault, shook hands with the guy, and biked off.
            The last time I felt my life threatened, I was seventeen. Skiing down Wildcat mountain, I wiped out at high speed and went careening, completely out of control, into a ravine full of trees. I instinctively covered my head, some part of me knowing that if I ever hit my noggin against a tree at this velocity, it would be lights out. Permanently. I also yelled, knowing somewhere in me that if I needed help, yelling sooner rather than later may prove crucial. I didn’t yell when I went skidding into the truck, because yelling at that point wouldn’t do any good. I knew the guy already saw me, and using my voice at all would just redirect energy that I desperately needed elsewhere.
            In my skiing accident, I ended up sideways, slamming against a pine tree, knocking the wind out of me and breaking a rib. My brother and my first cousin, who I was skiing with, wanted to call the ski patrol, but there was no way I was going down the mountain in a stretcher unless I could not physically stand up. Only pussies go down a mountain in a ski patrol stretcher (oh the idiocy of teenage machismo). So I climbed out of the ravine, snow up to my waist, using my skis like hiking sticks, and skied down the rest of the mountain, bent to one side and trying not to wince too noticeably.
            Fear remains a perverse phenomenon. It can save our lives, and it can ruin them as well. The fear of getting hit by a truck is what triggered my survival instinct, or whatever you want to call the physical, emotional, and psychological zone that I was in for those few seconds that I needed focus, strength, coordination, and inner peace to stay alive. But my fear of abandonment, or rejection, can take me out of my life completely.
            Actually, it’s my response to fear that determines how my life gets lived. Or not lived. My response to fear in the face of a true life threatening situation was to focus my mind and body in order to increase my chances of survival. This was an automatic, mostly unconscious response. But then again, so is my reaction to fear of abandonment. It’s mostly unconscious. My growth comes when I make that unconscious fear and automatic emotional reaction conscious, so I can look at it and employ tools to change it. The fear is still there, and may always be. But my response is what I can alter with awareness, acceptance, and action.

    Please join me again for part two.

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and an instinctual number of Wrongs) Reserved.

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