BY DANIELA NAIDU
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” ~John Wooden
We have all been there; we have all read or heard about something that happened to somebody else and thought “that couldn’t possibly happen to me.” The event was just so extraordinary that we just could not imagine how it could ever happen to us. Well, let me tell you, that person who did experience that event probably thought the exact same thing until it happened to them.
I know because I was that person. In December 2011, the week before Christmas, I had a day that started just like every other. But then it happened, and had it not been for a sheriff’s deputy who was driving right behind me on the freeway, I would have never known the full extend of what actually happened to me.
You see, I had a seizure, the first and only one I have ever had. Unfortunately it happened while I was driving during rush hour at 60 miles per hour on a Florida freeway. By some miracle, I hit no one and was physically unscathed.
According to the deputy’s description, my little sports car bounced off the center divider, went airborne, nearly flipped, landed upright, then continued on its way as if nothing had happened. You see, as far as I knew, nothing had happened because I did not come out of my seizure until after my car had righted itself. So I just kept driving to work, like on any other day.
I really only believed what the deputy described to me because of the extensive damage to my car. After an overnight stay in the hospital and countless tests, they released me with a clean bill of health. But although I was physically still the same, so much about me had forever changed.
After that day, I learned to stop saying “that could never happen to me.” After all, why couldn’t it happen to me? I am no more or less deserving of freak accidents and misfortune than anybody else.
The truth is that nothing happens to us because we “deserve” it. It just happens, period. Life is just fickle and unpredictable, and we can’t do anything about that.
As a result of my experience, I have become much more accepting of unpredictability and change. In the four and a half years since my seizure and accident, I have experienced a lot of change. Suspended driver’s licenses, deaths of loved ones, layoffs, births, financial challenges, business opportunities, reconnections with old friends; the sort of changes that happen to everybody, including me.
All the events I have been through have been much easier to deal with because I have learned to accept change as it happens. I have also learned that there is a big difference between accepting and giving up.
There are many events that will happen in our lives that are direct results of choices we have made and of the effort that we have put in. Often these events are preventable. But there are also many events that cannot be prevented, and the repercussions that follow them may not be prevented either.
What I have learned since my accident is how to differentiate between what I can change and improve, and what I must simply learn to accept and live with. By differentiating between these two, I am able to not become frustrated from trying to change things that are not under my control. And I am instead able to spend my time and energy changing and improving the ones that are.
I have also learned the importance of equanimity, and how to make it a part of my daily life. I have learned how to keep my emotions level even under situations of extreme stress. I have learned to remain calm and collected no matter what changes and events happen in my life.
I have learned that whether or not I can change my current situation, being calm, collected and in control of my emotions helps me to handle every situation more effectively. Most importantly, I am able to remain and emerge happier through the process. By accepting that unpredictability and change are a normal part of life, I can remain in control of my happiness.
I am still experiencing repercussions from my accident. Last year, when I went to renew my driver’s license, I found out that my account had been flagged “for medical reasons.” I was told to take a seat and wait.
What should have been a quick and simple renewal, turned into a long wait with an unknown outcome. While I waited for the DMV officer to call a superior at the state capital, I accepted that there was nothing else I could do at that point. In the end my license was renewed, but I had already decided to accept whatever the final result would be with equanimity.
I have accepted that my life is now forever changed because of that one incident. But rather than focus on the difficulties that I have experienced as a result of my accident, I have chosen to focus on how lucky I am.
I am lucky that I did not damage any other vehicles or injure anybody. I am lucky that the deputy was behind me to witness what happened. I am lucky that I was unharmed. I am lucky that I am alive.
Daniela Naidu is one of the authors for www.skilledatlife.com. Through her life experience, she has learned that there is at least one universal truth: we all need the same life skills in order to be happy, regardless of who we are or where we live. Her goal is to provide as many people as possible with those simple skills.