My friend Sandy passed away in December of 2014 at the age of 42 while fighting lung cancer. Everyone asks, "Was she a smoker?" I knew her for 16 years and I never once saw her smoke. In fact, she hated smoking. It was the only thing I ever remember her giving her friends real hell about. I think when people ask, they want to know if the cancer was something she could have controlled.
Sandy was a huge supporter of the comic book, gaming, convention scene, and people in general. Her friends joked that she knew so many creators and awesome people that we should have a SandyCon and get them all together in the same place. I don't think we ever thought we'd be having SandyCon without her. It never occurred to me that I might not make it there either.
On April 18, 2015 my band was traveling to Wilmington, NC to play SandyCon. We piled our gear into two cars. Koby and I were in my Honda Fit with most of our gear. Our guitar player and drummer were in another car. About two hours from home, just outside of Augusta, GA, the Fit hydroplaned and Koby lost control of the car. It felt like we flew into the median wall, then spun back out onto the highway and came to an abrupt stop. Try as I might, I cannot piece together exactly the order of the spin and the impact.
When we stopped spinning, both of us jumped out of the car. We looked down to see if we were ok and then looked at each other. We were barely scratched, other than me being bruised hard by the airbag/seat belt combo. I looked back at the interstate and the pieces of the front of my car seemed so far away. But we were ok. I keep saying "we were so lucky". People tell me how safe cars are these days, but I keep thinking "we were so lucky". No other cars, no broken guitars, no broken bones. "It could have been worse, we were so lucky."
At first after the accident I thought I wasn't going to have any major epiphanies, no major life changes. Our life is pretty good and anything we have been missing we were actively working to add to our lives (a music room, another dog, more time with friends).
What I didn't anticipate was the "Post Accident Fuck it Phase".
Before the accident, we were trying to sell our condo and buy a house. The sellers of the house we wanted were not making it easy. Every interaction we had with them made us question their intent to sell. Our condo went under contract in two days, so we were soon to be without a place to live. I was under the most stress I'd felt in a long time, but after the accident I just stopped caring if we got the house. I realized I'd live under a bridge with Koby as long as we're alive and together.
As the days have gone by since Sandy's passing and since the accident, I've realized that very very little actually matters. Not in a completely nihilistic way, but in more of a "we'll figure this out" and "whatever works, man" kind of way. This is a very big change from my usual persona, which borders on control freak. We had a term in our household called "control straightening". Whenever I felt out of control I would organize things and line things up side by side. So, let that give you some indication of my need for control, it's soothing for me to be in control. Well, it used to be.
Three days before the accident we lost our band's practice space. We knew the building was being taken over by the new owners on May 10th, and we'd planned to be there through the bitter end. However the guy who signed the lease and sublet the space to us decided to not pay the final month's rent and moved out early. I called a good, long-time friend with a van so we could get our stuff out of there and explained to him just how hard I was freaking out. He told me, "Jenn, you're so good at planning and finding creative solutions. But when things don't work out as you planned, you just fall apart. I never understood why you didn't just make a new plan."
Make a new plan. How on earth did that never occur to me? Iteration. If it doesn't work the first time, try something else. Nothing has to be perfect the first time. Prototype. Experiment. See how much you can get away with. Do whatever you want. It'll either work out or you'll face the consequences. Most of the time consequences are small and easily dealt with. Do it anyway.
Other than not jumping off a building or setting myself on fire, I've realized that I don't have a lot of control over whether I live or die. I can influence, but I cannot control. I have control over what I choose to do and who I have in my life, but I can't control what other people do. If people don't follow along with what I've planned, I need to make a new plan based on their reactions. This seems reasonable, doable even. It also seems easier than chasing the control I've wanted my whole life.
It's nice to have lost a little control.
(PS - We got the house and move in on Sunday!)