It Hit Me In A Traffic Jam

Life provides sudden and unexpected reasons to feel lucky, my family has just been reminded.

I’m writing this post whilst sat in a traffic jam, having just witnessed what can only be described as ‘the parting of a metal sea’ by a police car which decided the hard shoulder (if you aren’t British and have no idea which part of the road I’m talking about, ask your search engine) was clearly too mainstream for it to drive upon. Somewhere a mile or two in front of us, a lorry and a car did a deadly dance in the middle of the road a little while ago, leading to an overturned vehicle, the closure of the road, and the arrival of emergency service vehicles like florescent ants swarming a nest. With each passing vehicle, my heart sank a little lower as I worried about the wellbeing of people I will never meet. In other words, my humanity kicked in. We pulled as far off of the carriageway as we could get, to let various emergency service vehicles pass, and like the various dog walkers and people in desperate need of emptying their bladders that wandered past us along the road, I got out of the car and set my feet down on the tarmac that, a few minutes earlier, we had been travelling along at 70mph.

The parting of a metal sea. The view of the other side of the road from where I stood. My feet on tarmac. These are the sort of photos that happen when I am ridiculously bored in a traffic jam – I’m sorry.

As cars sped in the opposite direction just a few feet from where I stood by the central reservation, and the air they displaced punched me over and over again, I (suddenly, finally) felt safe within my body, and overwhelmingly grateful. I’m alive. I thought, as the emotional aftermath of the past few weeks finally surfaced. I don’t care about the current state of my health, there is probably someone currently dying on this road and I. Am. Alive. Damn I’m lucky. For starters, at least my world was still the right way up. As my 13 year old brother started to moan about the delay, and reminded us all of his reluctance to come to Ipswich with us in the first place (luckily I don’t think he realised that we are still 50 miles away), my mum summed up my general feeling towards the whole thing.

“Hey, we’re lucky it wasn’t us, it could just as easily have been our car.” At which point everyone in our 4×4 felt incredibly lucky.

Unfortunately, this has not been the type of traffic jam where people wander between cars sharing out their biscuits, everyone decides to have picnics in the middle of the motorway, and people are civilized enough to form two separate queues (one for men, one for women) as they wait to use the designated bathroom/ pee under a motorway bridge (as happened one time before when they shut the road we were on due to an accident during the summer). It was however, the kind of traffic jam where the joy and relief of being alive hit you harder than a speeding car.

We’re all at least a little guilty of abusing our lives, of taking our pulse for granted. As I stood on the hot tarmac, leaning against the car to keep myself upright, with my heart skipping beats and generally having a little bit of a rave within my chest, I decided that it can continue to do that all that it wants. I don’t even need a regular heartbeat, I am now even more appreciative of the occasionally confused one I’ve got – low blood pressure or normal blood pressure, normal P waves,  no P waves or inverted P waves; PVCs or junctional rhythms or SVT or atrial fibrillation… As long as my heart is actually doing something, I have more than enough.

This is going to be ok. You are going to be ok. It already is, you already are. And I nearly laughed, I nearly cried. Another car went past, and as the air tore through my hair (which in response to the deterioration in my health has decided to fall out in clumps like rats fleeing a sinking ship) I had another thought, don’t waste this. Do not screw it up. You’ve had your wobble, you’ve fallen apart, but this time is clearly different and if you don’t take advantage of that you’re an idiot. No feeling sorry for yourself. You have a life – live it. Even when you feel like the living dead.

Yesterday I mentioned that I wanted to start living my life a little differently, a little more for myself. Last night, I finally said yes. I’m now in the process of writing an article for an online magazine. Right now, I’m very glad I bit the bullet and went for it – especially as I managed to keep all of my teeth.

(I’m actually having to post this from an Audi dealership in Ipswich – Padge is buying one of the cars they use for test drives at a discounted price. He seems to have the whole me first sometimes because I occasionally deserve nice things mindset totally under wraps)


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