On New Year’s Day, I realized it had been ten years since my near-fatal motorcycle accident. I threw up an old post talking about that other life-changing event (the first being my near-fatal drug addiction. Though, granted, that one crept at a slower pace). I was surprised how many people read that post, especially since, like I said, it was old. But it got about 10x the hits I usually do, even when I write something new. Of course nothing sells like death and consumption (though not necessarily in that order).
Everyone loves a good “coming back from the dead” story. How else do you explain six thousand shows about zombies and vampires?
Christ, 2006 sucked. In a life defined by bad news, underachievment, and breaking your mother’s heart, I kicked off the year by seriously underwhelming even by my own lackluster standards. I’d gotten divorced, blown five years of sobriety, and was close to pissing away my last ticket out: grad school. Sticking to my clichéd script (albeit a few years too soon), I chose to end this disastrous year by getting a motorcycle. In Miami. The city with the absolute worst drivers in America.
By the end of the year, it looked like I’d put my shit back together. I was on the straight and narrow, almost done with my thesis draft, and then … the crash.
Waking up unable to walk is a lousy way to start any New Year. Although, in all fairness, I’d woken up plenty of times in the previous decade highly immobilized. But this was worse. Despite the “freelapse” (a word I just learned from Josh Mohr’s forthcoming biography) and a steady stream of morphine (my “favorite” part of the crash was after the paramedics found me spitting up blood, I managed to mumble, “Can’t … have … morphine … I’m … a … recovering … addict,” and the paramedic took one look at me as he loaded up the shot and said, “Oh, you’re getting morphine”), I was in agonizing pain.
That older blog post details the recovery from the accident, which saw 2007 kick off in bed, then a wheelchair, walker, crutches, cane, until I was finally walking again without assistance seven months later.* If you want to read about the gruesome parts (with pictures!), just hit that link. The quick version is I almost died, and it sucked. But I got better.
During my weekly sessions with Dr. Goldberg, we frequently address my … reluctance … to accept the good. I prefer to focus on the negative. Just how I’m drawn up. I see the bad much more easily than I do the good, or to quote Mike TV, I’m the sort of guy who can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Just like fiction can’t exist without conflict, why the fuck else would I need a psychiatrist?
Likewise, I tend not to recognize all the adversity I’ve overcome. Mostly because I was the dumbass who put himself there in the first place. Overcoming a drug addiction is cool, I guess. Sort of. Except that, yeah, I probably shouldn’t have been taking drugs. Where’s the glory crawling out of the hole you dug? The crash is a little different. A lot of people ride bikes, and they are dangerous. It’s not a question of “if” (re: crashing) but “when” and “how bad?”
When I met my lovely wife, Justine, she asked why I had so many women’s names tattooed on my body. “There’s a certain kind of guy who gets a woman’s name tattooed on his body,” I said. “I’m that kind of guy.” My answer seemed to suffice. It’s less about trouble seeming to find me, and more that I drove to trouble’s house and taunted it by throwing rocks at its doors and pissing on its lawn.
But maybe I am doing it again, not accepting the good, the blessings that have been granted to me, unconditionally. Regardless of what I did to land in some pretty bad situations, I still got out of them (right?), if only by learning how to step aside, stop fighting so goddamn much, just let the good things happen. The Universe/God had been doing me a solid for a while now. And I certainly have an awful lot of good things to be happy about as 2016 kicks off. My health, (most of) my hair, the books, 13% body fat, and these guys below. They are the best part about surviving that accident. I got to see this happen. I got to meet this amazing woman. I get to see my boys grow up, and, I hope, live long enough to see them become men. Taking those two boys to see the new Star Wars (for the 3rd time!) this weekend, watching their eyes light up like mine did in ’77, was pretty fucking amazing. Life is a pretty sweet fruit.
Happy New Year from the Cliffords!