Fight or Flight

IMG_4566

I can’t remember the first time I heard a story about super-human strength, but it was definitely when I was a kid. I feel certain I saw it on TV, on “That’s Incredible” or “Real People.” (Note, we now have the Internet and a thing called You Tube, all but putting these types of shows out of production.) A person rescuing another from a harrowing situation and the lifting of a car or the ripping of a door off its hinges Hulk-style was the general gist of every story. Once, a row of lockers fell on a friend while we were horsing around after gym class, and I lifted the lockers off of her… so I know these feats are true. Soon after, I learned about the endocrine system, and that a rapid burst of adrenaline is the magic juice that enables our muscles to effortlessly lift steel lockers off a friend. Even knowing the science, I was still fascinated with these tales of survival. It did not just happen in movies or to Wonder Woman.

And then, I got older.

Age brought with it life experience, which seemed to have more stories about people getting hurt, maimed or dying than of adrenaline-fueled survival. And these were sometimes people I knew. Worse still, people were getting sad, or hopeless, or addicted to all manner of distractions. And because it can always get worse, I saw that people isolated themselves. I was one of those.

Last fall when I went to Camp Mighty, I started to connect that very idea. That in the face of a long series of fairly large failures, disappointments and setbacks over the past nine years, I was choosing isolation as a coping strategy for far longer than I intended, and that now, if I wanted to get done all the things on my Life List let alone just live my life the way I wanted to, with perhaps some joy and even some love, I would have to find some of that super-human strength to do it.

I got back from Camp raring to go: work was great, the Giants won the World Series, and then, over Christmas break, while in my hometown, I found myself in a room with a man I’d been enjoying getting to know, when his ex-girlfriend walked in unannounced. Everyone was fully clothed; I was still in my coat and hat in fact, but yeah. There I was.

Being lied to. Again.

During Christmas. Again.

I walked out. I calmly, maybe almost too calmly, just got my bag, put my sunglasses on and walked the fuck out.

When this happens to you, and I hope it does not, there is no huge scene, or, regrettably, all the phenomenal and witty comments and comebacks of so many great movie scenes. No writer is feeding you lines like, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” and you’re definitely not shoving all his belongings into his BMW, dousing it with gasoline and lighting it on fire.

Nope. Not for me anyway. I just walked out.

(Later that day, I lost my mind with rage and hurt. Unfortch, I don’t like to eat or drink when I get upset, so I could barely even get the sorely needed booze down my throat at the parties I had to attend later that night. Again, no screenwriter in their right mind would have a just-dumped character not go on a bender. Not very cinematic.)

A pause now in this part of the action to jump ahead to this past Wednesday morning.

There I was, in my bathroom, freshly showered, naked, worried about missing the ferry while hastily putting body lotion on, when I came face… to another face in my bathroom window. After two full beats registering that there was a FACE LOOKING INTO MY BATHROOM WINDOW, I screamed an enraged terror scream that would have made the hair on the back of Jamie Lee Curtis’s neck stand up. The face disappeared, I grabbed my robe and ran out the front door to look for the bastard who I then computed to know, was the boyfriend of my upstairs neighbor. How did I know this? My other neighbor had reported to me that she caught him looking into her windows in much the same way a couple months ago and I remembered it in that split second and so went after him to try and catch him running away.

I. Was. PISSED. I screamed his name and yelled for him to get back here, which did not happen. I went back inside, put my Ugg boots on, grabbed my key and locked the door (in case he came back and hid in my apartment?) and marched upstairs to confront the girlfriend, my neighbor. I was yelling. I was shaking. I was breathing hard, near asthma attack levels, being out of shape from no running. It was 7:15 in the morning.

The confrontation with the neighbor/girlfriend did NOT go well, in that she was in full denial that this was really happening, and basically started to sass me, and gaslight me, telling me I was over-reacting, imagining it, and oh, by the way, he’s moving in here over the weekend.

Oh no you didn’t.

This whole situation WAS full movie scene, from that pervie punk skulking around to peek into my window, to my blood-curdling scream and running outside after him, to the bitchy, reality-show cast member finger-wagging of the 21 year-old girl accusing me of having an “erratic” personality. Are you FKM as they say?

He then CAME BACK to admit he did it and apologize to me, to which I said directly to his face, “You violated my privacy and my personal space. There is nothing normal about what you did. You have a problem. You are not welcome here. I never want to see you again.” Holy shit did that feel good.

The only thing missing was me calling the cops right then and there, which, thankyouverymuch, I did later in the day. He packed his shit and is not moving in. She’s leaving within weeks. If he shows up here, I will call the police again.

Calling on my inner-Taratino, one more flashback, but this time, to a few weeks ago, at an intersection while stopping for a red light.

I was rear-ended by man driving a Range Rover. Totally low speed, a couple scratches to my bumper, but definitely, his fault. We pulled over to check on each other’s well-being and to exchange information. I was shaky from the adrenaline spike and trying to calm my breathing and gather my thoughts. He immediately started telling me the whole accident was my fault and that as such, I should “be reasonable” about the repair issue. “Which means what?” I asked. Did he think I would take less than the full amount for the repair for damage HE caused? Apparently he did. He started to tell me that my car was not in pristine condition anyway, so why should I even care? “Look at this, this dent on your front bumper,” he said, “are you telling me that you drive around with this, but that you expect me to pay for this tiny scratch that my car only caused because you did not go through the yellow light?” Oh my f-ing God. That is how this arrogant, Range Rover driving a-hole was speaking to me. Was I suddenly caught in a hidden-camera stereotype experiment?? I could feel myself crumbling a bit, feeling like maybe he was right, I did have to stop fast, but wait, the light was turning and I was not going to run it… UGH, I was drifting a bit down that hole of not thinking my feelings let alone the truth mattered.

After I reached out to a friend who calmly reminded me to call my insurance, especially since this guy was such a jerk, I did just that. I was thrilled to find out that he was as consistent an asshole with them as he was with me, and that I was not just some special weakling  in a sensible compact car he chose to harangue. He was an equal opportunity ass. (Oh and his insurance accepted liability and car will be getting repaired shortly. Front bumper I have to save up for!)

Back to the scene in December.

I would not change it. Because if I had not calmly walked the hell out of that house with my dignity intact, then had the emotional breakdown even as messy and hurtful as it was and then recovered from that, I would not have gone after this creepy spying schmuck and his abusive girlfriend for violating my home and privacy and sense of security AND been right about it.

I’d likely not have stood up to the jerk who hit my car either.

Superhuman strength, or what we call the fight or flight response is autonomic. We cannot control it. Not even Oscar winning screenwriters can control it, so that is why everyone is always lifting cars and saying awesome shit. But, we have powers beyond a witty line. When we pay attention to how we react, and understand that the only thing we can control is how we react and deeper still how we THINK about how we react, that’s when we do become heroes.

PS,

Dear Universe,

I am pretty sure I get it now. So that thing how you split the ass out of my pants on Friday, I mean, really was that necessary? I totally laughed, because split pants, like unintended loud farts, are totally funny. But Universe… really? You’ve read my Life List right? Please get back to work on that. I promise, I am in good humor. I just would like a nice boyfriend (#59) and a bit more financial freedom too (#14) would be great! Thanks! ;-)

Kermit: Part I.(V)

(Work went sideways today and into this evening.  Don’t know if I will finish the rest of this tonight, so here is the in between.)

Kermit the 2nd went into service about a month after the accident, which at that time was about a month prior to the wedding we were about to host.  We were already married, but were finally getting around to having the big celebration, and if you have ever hosted a wedding, you can understand that having a colossal car accident which requires replacing the car via car insurance claims and attorneys and a car dealer two months before you are inundated with family and guests and a weekend filled with highly coordinated events and logistics, well, yeah, it was a bit of added stress that I did not need.  (Oh, and my caterer died.  Literally dropped dead and I just happened to read his OBITUARY in the LA Times while drinking my morning tea a short time before the accident.  Again, pay attention to the signs people!!  The answers are always there. )

Annnnyhoodle, getting my new Kermit was a welcome calm in the chaos and we bonded instantly.  One of the only places I ever felt safe emotionally was during my drive time.  Even if I was headed home, the place where all the hurt and yet unknown dramas were waiting for me, I would float along in my big steel cage on wheels signing songs with all the windows down like I had not a care in the world.

Right at the very height of our relationship’s demise, he took my car to Utah for a ski vacation.  The ski vacation of course that we took together every year, but he announced he was going alone and he took my car since it was four-wheel drive.  I did not like this one bit.  Not only was I pretty well wrecked at that point because we had not yet made The Decision (even though we both knew it was coming and frankly, had not figured out how to get there sooner), all I wanted to do was get in MY car and drive drive drive away to get my head cleared.  When he came back, there was a big white chunky stain on the driver’s side floor mat.  It was from road salt that he must have tracked into the car on his boots from the snowy roads.  Even months after we split I used to sit and look at that stain and seethe that he didn’t place the all-weather mats properly, and that he didn’t clack his boots together to get off the excess salted snow and so every time I looked at that damn stain I thought, “What kind of a jerk leaves his wife he’s about to divorce alone for two weeks but takes HER car to do it?”  An asshole that’s who.

When he got back, he moved out.  Double good news:  I was going to be freed from the mismatch that had temporarily turned me into a shadow of myself, AND I got to keep my car.  It was on to the next part of the journey for me and Kermit.

Kermit: Part I

Last Thursday night I ended my day in an unusual way.  I went and got a new car.  New car getting is terribly exciting and I have been very lucky to have had this experience many times in my life.  If I count just brand spanking new cars with less than 20 miles on the odometer, that’s four times including Thursday night.  I have also had two private owner cash purchases and one “pre-owned dealer-certified” experience as well.  It should be noted that this covers nearly 25 years of car getting.

I am of course very happy about the new car with its distinct new car smells and fuel efficiency and shininess and practicality.  But I am sad too.  I am missing my Kermit, my four-wheeled companion for the last nine years.  A lot has happened in the past nine years, but one constant has always been me and my big green Audi Allroad who faithfully carried me and my life in and out far and near and always through everything/everywhere/everyway I wanted to go.  And yes, I am crying buckets of wistful tears over my time spent with this hunk of metal.

Kermit actually existed in two versions of itself.  The first generation joined me in 2002 fairly soon after I was engaged and moved in with my fiancé.  I was driving another beloved Audi at the time, Ruby the A4, but she was too sporty for all the schlepping that I was needing to manage with my two new charges, my soon-to-be-step-daughters not to mention the plan to get a dog, (which then became two dogs).   She was a manual transmission too, so fun to drive, but again, not so practical.  His Land Cruiser, while bitchen, was just too huge, so I suggested the Allroads, being an ardent Audi fan.  (Including my three, there have been a total of seven Audis in my immediate family, one still being thoroughly enjoyed by my brother.)  He found one that was a year old, had 17,000 miles on it and every single solitary option you can think of as it was owned by a full-on Audi geek.  The geek man loved it, but wanted a new Audi toy, so we lucked out and got it for a great price with all the tricked out features to boot.  Plus, it could handle the amount of gear and sports equipment we were about to foist upon it.

My love for that car was immediate and intense.  I would read the manuals before bed until I understood all the specs; I would get it washed once a week; I would snuggle into the heated seats if it was anything below 70 degrees outside.  And it could pass going 80 uphill!  And it could take a corner like a Porsche!  And it could 4-wheel drive romp through mud and snow!  And the stereo was a private front row concert to all my favorite tunes every day!  Plus, it felt like it was all happening while riding on a cloud.

Then, one morning while driving along in a 40 MPH zone on the now almost auto-pilot route to work, a kid pulled a U-turn from a parked spot right in front of me and I crashed into her left front axle, thankfully not her door or I would have killed or maimed her. There was smoke and screeches and airbags and broken glass and adrenaline and when I could see again a few moments after impact, I unlatched my seat belt and walked away from my car that was now, as they say, totaled.  When my then-husband arrived at the scene and I burst into tears at the sight of him, he was apparently so comforted that I was up and walking around with no visible signs of injury, he dismissed me, and instead went over to the car as it was getting loaded up on the flatbed tow truck and sighed perhaps too heavy and sad a sigh over a hunk of metal in the face of my obvious shock and oncoming bruises and pains.  (That should have been the final straw for me that the marriage was not going to make it, but it took a few more car-crash like events to really get it through my head.  Live and learn, and please, just listen to your gut every single time!  An important digression…)   He came back over to me and said with utter exasperation he didn’t know what he was going to do now, and I said, through more tears, “All I know is, I want the exact same kind of car.”

And so, the 2nd generation Kermit came into my life. 

More on him and me tomorrow.  I need to back away from the keyboard, wipe these tears and go for a run!

Saturday. Not Over So Easy

My Saturday started with this:

Mmmmm.

The provenance of this nitrate-free bacon, walnut/wheat bread toast, two eggs overeasy breakfast o’mine is probably 97.3% local, but definitely all organic, including the butter, salt and pepper and yes, in the case of eggs, the closer the farm to your house the egg-yolkier your eggs taste.  Yummmmm.

Unfortunately, this happened later:

:-(

On my way to meet my friend for a drink and shenanigans in the city, all dressed up in a short skirt and brand new gray suede 4″ booties, a tourist in a rental car opened their driver door right into my traffic lane and I hit it.  He flung that door open like he was getting ejected it happened so fast.  We were both completely unharmed, which is all that matters.  With that established, we got to the business of exchanging info and having a nervous, awkward conversation.  Turns out he and his wife are from North Dakota and had just arrived to their hotel that moment for a six day vacation.  The most telling thing he said was, “Wow, I mean look at all this traffic!”  Well no, there actually wasn’t any.

The dent in the wheel well obstructed my tire, and I only discovered that when I left after we were done exchanging.  I had to pull back over and decided to call my insurance and get a tow truck called to at least pull the crap out of the wheel well enough so that I could drive.

I will not write about the two hours and forty minutes that then ensued trying to make that happen.

Oh and it started to rain.  And yes, eventually, I started to cry.  Just like a bad visual metaphor.

I am actually the one person you want with you in a crisis.  I never panic.  I am focused and calm and immediately start to triage the situation.  I know how to just get ‘er done.  I may not know much with perfect certainty, but I can guarantee that 100% of my friends would be happy to have me with them when dumb/unexpected/accidental/emergency stuff goes down.  (It’s a blessing and a curse that I have these skills.)

I was thwarted at every moment trying to deal with this very simple, totally fixable, systems-already-in-place mini motor crash.  And most of all, it made me realize how slim my margin for error is…

That is what I may end up writing about more later.  Figured that out on my 3-miles tonight.