I was in a car accident May 24th on I-170. You know that section of highway heading south that's 2 lanes, no shoulder, and WALLS on either side? And you have to choose between 40 E or 40 W? Right there.
I was chugging along at 60 MPH getting ready to head west on 40 when I realized, up ahead, the left lane heading east was at a complete standstill and the guy in the lane next to me, about a car-and-a-half length ahead, was plowing full steam ahead right for the standstill.
"Ohshitohshitohshitohshit," Do I punch the gas? Or hit the brakes? I started to hit the brakes, but didn't want to hit them so hard that the cars behind me piled into my back-end.
Then, finally, he hit his brakes, but it was way too late. He hit the brakes so hard the back-end of his SUV lifted, and smoke billowed from his front tires. He swerved into the wall on the left, over-corrected, and came flying at me: hitting my front end and slamming me into the wall on the right. His car then spun around and the back end hit me again near my fuel door cover.
The impact pushed my vehicle off its front tire.
I truly thought I was going to die.
My 1-year-old, not-cheap-car was totaled.
What happened is all such a blur, but I do know I was flung around so much that the sunglasses on my face ended up in the back of the car, I had burns from the seat belt, and my foot hurt. Still can't figure out, for the life of me, how my foot was sprained.
BUT I WAS ALIVE!!!
I looked behind me and traffic was stopped, thank G. And then I saw my kids' empty car seats and boosters in the back rows...and started to cry.
At this point the other guy was pinned against the left wall and had to climb out the passenger side. He came hobbling across the highway and kept repeating, "Are you OK?"
I motioned to him, from behind my closed window, what I thought was the universal sign for, "I DO NOT want to talk right now," but could see how he could have interpreted it as, "Nope, not okay."
Things like car accidents are what our fight or flight response is made for. It kicked in when I needed to react and drive defensively, and it was still pumping as this guy was bumbling around wondering if I was ok...even though he was clearly not a threat. That's how it works. Physiologically, it takes time to calm down...sometimes lots of time.
Here's my Bitmoji reinacting how I felt as he was at my window asking repeatedly if I was OK:
Lucky for him I teach this stuff and instead of acting out on him repeated, "I don't want to talk and I need you to walk away."
An ambulance ride and some x-rays later I was home and in bed. Strange symptoms started the following week. The strangest was a complete sense of I-don't-give-AF accompanied with a side of I-don't-give-AF-about-not-giving-AF."
I didn't want to do anything except see my clients (that has always energized me) and hang out with friends and family.
-I could not want to contact the insurance company or the chiropractor.
-I could not want to do yard work or house projects.
-I could not want to write articles or blogs, create videos, or send out newsletters to keep in touch with you.
-I could not want to go car shopping.
-I could not want to host events that I was previously excited about: I cancelled my Moms' Retreat for the Fall.
-I could not, for the life of me, want to make a list of business goals (was asked to do that in a meeting)
Side note: If you attended my June Date Night Workshop for couples and want your $$ back, seriously, just email. It was not my best performance. I think that night was what made this case of I-don't-give-AFs crystal clear.
Afterwards, I looked at my husband and quietly said, "I don't think that went very well..... And....... the weird thing is..... I don't care," with a completely flat affect. And it was true. I really didn't.
I didn't even recognize myself.
And it was interesting, because I still cared about and had energy for SOME things, but other things - I just didn't.
If I had any give-AFs left I think I would have been kicking my own ass for *not doing more*, *not doing enough*, *procrastinating*, and generally *being a slacker*.
One day, while wondering if perhaps I should be beating myself up a little more, I thought, "Ok, am I procrastinating? Is that what this is?" I wasn't really clear that the I-don't-give-AFs were correlated with the accident. But here's what I know about procrastination:
Procrastination isn't about laziness; it's about fear, perfectionism, and overwhelm.
In that moment I didn't feel afraid, like I was (in any way, shape, or form) trying to project a perfect image, or like I was overwhelmed.
I thought, "If this isn't procrastination...maybe it's percolation?" and decided that I was just gonna go with it and not waste time kicking my own ass.
One day, a contact I have, who I think was trying to be helpful, was listening to me as I told her about the car accident and my case of the I-don't-give-AFs and said, "Well, it all does feel overwhelming when that's the story we tell ourselves, doesn't it?"
What? I didn't say I was overwhelmed, I said I CAN'T WANT TO DO CERTAIN THINGS.
I didn't try to make that moment less awkward like the usual me would have by agreeing or even smiling. I didn't give AF. I met that comment with a blank stare and silence.
And, as it turns out, my chiropractor (Dr. Cam...in case you need one) looked at me in our first meeting and said, "The things you're describing are all symptoms of a mild concussion."
Huh. At lease there was some explanation.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I'm sitting across from a couple who's a little over a month into navigating the most horrific of all things to grieve: the loss of a child.
The loss of a lifetime of birthdays and laughs. The loss of a lifetime of kisses & hugs. And she's describing to me her case of the I-don't-give-AFs; worried about who she's become, terrified she'll never get back to who she was, wondering if she should be doing more of the things she doesn't want to do, and hanging out with the people she doesn't want to see, and hosting a memorial for her son that she can't bear to host right now. And then wondering out-loud if exercise might help.
And it all sounds strangely familiar, completely different scale, but still familiar.
There are things, many things, she can't want to do....that she used to have no problem doing. And in that moment I was able to give her the biggest, boldest-fonted permission slip of all time.
I said, Ok. I hear you're wondering if you should be doing more, if you're not feeling this right, and if you'll ever feel like doing the things you used to do. But the truth is, right now, you CANNOT want to do certain things and expecting yourself to do the things you CANNOT want to do is disrespectful to yourself and I won't help berate you or tell you to start exercising tomorrow.
How about we start just remembering to breathe. And water. Remembering to get a dang glass of water every once in a while. THAT's IT. I'm not even putting showering on this list and it looks like you've done that today so you are WAY ahead of the game.
Listen, this sounds completely unrelated, but I promise it isn't. I was in a car accident a few weeks ago. Turns out I have a MILD concussion. You know what they call concussions? Traumatic brain injuries. It turns out traumatic brain injuries can cause serious cases of the I-don't-give-AFs.
I then rattled off the list of all the things I could not want to do and watched her eyes well up with tears of compassion for herself.
You have been through and are going through a HUGELY tortuous and traumatic time. OF COURSE you can't care about some things you used to care about.
And I've been thinking about this for myself. How does this make sense? How is this healing and/or adaptive?
It's like your brain is telling you, "YOU DO NOT HAVE ROOM RIGHT NOW FOR ANYTHING THAT DRAINS YOU....EVEN A LITTLE BIT. WE ARE HEALING. HEALING IN PROGRESS."
I asked her, What would you say to your son... fast-forward 30 years... if he were in your exact position, feeling the way you're feeling?
Would you say, "You should be doing more! You're not doing enough! You're a terrible person for not getting back to all the people who are reaching out, even though you're 99% certain they'll say stupid things to you in your grief that you just don't have room for!"?
She laughed.... and cried some more.
Nooooooo. You'd say, "Son, do whatever you need to do. If it makes your heart sink, don't do it. Be easy on you. And when the day comes when the thought of doing something or being with someone feels equally as good as it does terrifying...give it a whirl. But please, at all costs, avoid the things that feel completely dreadful and draining. There's just no room for that right now. Ok? Take a breath. Can I get you a glass of water?
And that's how you know if you're procrastinating, lazy, fearful, and/or avoiding versus percolating and/or healing.
Percolating means to filter gradually, and I totally feel like that's what I've been doing. I've gotten really clear about what energizes me, and, what a shocker, it's all relationship related: friends, connecting, community, gathering...And it's all I've had energy for.
So, it's funny, because since May 24th I haven't had the energy to really pick out a new car (riding my bike everywhere...whole other post), but I did have the energy to build 2 picnic tables recently so that I could host a dinner party for more people than I can fit in my house.
Building (literally) connection & community is in the coffee cup, and picking out a new car is in the grinds...it just didn't make it through the filter.
If you would have told me I could live 4.5 months without a car 4.5 months ago, I would have told you you were completely bonkers.
I also have taken 2 trips to see friends (with unused car payment $$), that I haven't visited in years :)
This time of gradually refocusing and realigning my life with this new filter has been interesting, to say the least. I've been busy filling up my energetic cup and getting really clear about who and what actually fills that up....and suddenly, today, my itch to write is back.
So, friend, maybe you're just percolating. And maybe it's just temporary. And if you need some tools, hardware or not, you know where to find me.