This story begins with a short bike ride. I was a teacher in my 3rd year at Shekou International School riding to the store located just 100 meters from my house. It was a rainy afternoon at the beginning of 2015.
The tire slipped over marble inlays as I presumptuously dodged a hole in the floor wearing no helmet and looking too far ahead. I just tipped over, really, going only a few kilometres per hour.
The shock of my head slamming into the concrete wrapped me up in a daze. I vaguely recall saying to some bystanders ’I’m fine.’
I picked up my bike and walked back slowly to my apartment, where within minutes tremors overtook my body. My ear was filling up from the inside and I had a growing welt on the left side of my head that screamed out when I touched it with my finger. I suddenly burst into tears after a few minutes.
I spent hours in the local clinic, being scanned, hearing the diagnostic possibilities and being asked to make too many decisions by my insurance company.
I wished everything would be fine.
I didn’t want to tell anyone, because then things would be real. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I didn’t want to say that something had gone wrong.
Well, it had.
An initial CT scan revealed many things: Subdural hematoma. Hemotympanum. A basal skull fracture.
What that means is that I had a long hairline fracture on the left side of my skull. I had external swelling around the impact and inside my skull, a bruise was forming in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) wrapped around my brain. My temporal bone fracture was also bled into my middle ear.
7 hours later in Hong Kong, after a 2nd CAT-scan, I was told I wouldn’t need surgery. I was out of the “danger” zone.. my brain bruise hadn’t gotten bigger by that time . Luckily, the pressure on my brain hadn’t increased.
It wasn’t until the next day when I realised I almost died. It was the strangest thing, this ear doctor walked in, explaining when I would get my hearing back in my ear.. and he kind of just mentioned it in passing — almost as an afterthought. The blood in my ear luckily hadn’t reached the blood-cochlear barrier, only 1cm away, in which case I would’ve died immediately.
…and there it was. As the presumptuous feeling of courage and invincibility slowly slipped out of the room, a stern, sobering sage took its place: my Mortality.
As with any accident, there was the humility of dealing with the longer recovery.
Over the next months I suffered from bouts of depression due to hormone imbalances, as many women who often suffer head traumas experience.
I isolated myself from mostly everyone to hide my pain. I felt scared, embarrassed and ashamed of my accident.
I constantly questioned my purpose and presence on this Earth.
I was prohibited to travel for an upcoming surf trip to Spain, so I ended up having to sit alone at home recovering in the dark winter weather for several weeks while everyone disappeared into Spring Break vacations.
Honestly, before today, I’ve glossed over this story so many times. It’s still hard to digest.
I hate that pensive silence it invokes as soon as I mention that I have fallen down in my life… You know, the one that somehow sucks the air out of the room like a vacuum?
But this time, today, I tell this story to explain how - in fact - these months were the best things that could’ve possibly happened to me.
Those 2 weeks off and alone at home with nothing to do meant I had just enough time to create 3 charcoal pieces for a group exhibition I was unexpectedly invited to join two weeks after I cancelled my flight.
My insurance signed off on me going to see a therapist who helped me unmask some of my negative inner voices and I was able to find a more loving side of me that embraced my deeper injuries.
At the end of the school year, I immediately flew back to my previous home in Ecuador. I completed my fourth and final year of a vision quest where I re-regained a sense of ‘One’ness with the world. There, I allowed myself to surrender to the infinite currents and events transpiring around me. I sent my questions off into the endless corners of existence and a voice from deep within echoed back to me: “Just do art.”
So I let go of finding any other answers to “how” or “why”. I unclenched my hold onto the future.
I re-entered my last year of teaching assuredly: this would be my last one - and the best, yet.
I looked around at my life with a renewed sense of wonder. Somehow, knowing it would all be ending soon let me savour everything that much more!
Three months into the academic year, when I signed my non-renewal contract, everyone (as usual) was asking: What are you going to do? Where are you going to go? Are you still going to be a teacher?
All I could answer was with a shrug: “I’m just gonna do art.”
A month later, I met my current boss who invited me to join the Jardin Orange Artist residency project, where I have lived and worked as a resident artist ever since.
So in summary, how do we feel a sense of control within this chaotic, ever-shifting and grandiose matrix of events called life? Keep perspective.
Every event in our life we can perceive both from a positive or negative light. For me personally, hindsight has helped me see the synchronicity of events — where from a low trough, a new wave of season of creativity and inspiration has begun to peak.
I can not feel sorry or regret about anything that has happened to me, nor the mistakes I’ve made along the way. Each and every one has brought me to this moment. Constant revisions are an inevitable and necessary response to flux of Life —- especially when holding on to things can be painful and the act of letting them go, scary.
A swami I know once said, [like an EKG heart monitor in a hospital] “Life isn’t about making everything flat and even all the time… The art of living is learning how to ride the ups and downs, the waves, of life.”
“It’s just a ride!” my friends. Sometimes its part of the journey that you slip and fall.