I am powerless

Yesterday in my parents’ hometown, I was in a car accident.

Short version: nobody was hurt; my car was smashed up. Longer, self-justifying version:   at a stop sign, an older woman in a SUV pulled out to make a left turn and then changed her mind. She stopped suddenly and I hit her. According to the police, it was my fault: I was following too close. Personally, I don’t think she should have halted midway through a turn onto a busy highway. But there you go; can’t argue physics with a cop.

The damage to her SUV was negligible. I took photos with my iPhone and showed them to my Dad. He said, “Where’s the damage?” Exactly.

The damage to my car was shocking:   the hood is crumpled, the headlights busted out…it looks like my car was crunched hard. Neither of us were hurt, thankfully, but I’m pretty sure my car is beyond repair. Even if it’s only 2K, the insurance company will deign it unworthy of saving.

I spent most of Saturday reliving the accident, alternating between wishing it didn’t happen and being furious. Furious with me, furious with her, furious with the universe, followed by more pointless wishing it had never happened. Thursday, I finished a work contract (i.e. mostly unemployed again) and Saturday, I have to think about buying a new car. Insert many, colorful expletives here, strung together like old-fashioned Christmas tree garland.

But beyond the obvious financial pains in the ass, I was surprised at how furious I was at…well, I couldn’t figure it out. Sure, I hate anything bad happening to this car I love. That’s one layer. Of course, I hate the financial dents and possible ramifications for insurance. But beyond that I felt a surge of rage that gnawed on every breath until I finally recognized it:   I am powerless.

I am visiting my folks this week, and while I love them dearly, I need to escape. I had been headed to Chicago to visit Alesia when the accident occurred; I missed seeing her. I missed the chance to visit Chicago. I was now powerless to leave.

And beyond Saturday and weekend plans, I was powerless to leave the state and return home. I was powerless to drive my beloved car with the top open, singing at the top of my lungs. That may never happen again.

As I reflected (i.e. seethed) all afternoon, I kept thinking of all the ways that I am powerless and how I HATE being reminded of that essential fact. I cannot control my health. (I may influence it, but controlling it is beyond me.) I can barely control my career, and really, how much control do I think I have? I couldn’t control that the housing market plummeted the same week I put my house up for sale in 2007, and I could not do anything, not a damn thing, about my father having cancer and not wanting him to go through that.


I am powerless.

I decided to meditate, not out of some Buddha-like inspiration, but because I wanted to punch my head through a window, or go yell at my Mom (on Mother’s Day eve), and decided those were not wise courses of action. I could not think of anything else to do.

So I sat and said the words aloud, during each exhale of breath, “I am powerless.” Breathed in, and then exhaled, “I am powerless.”Breathed in…

I will not pretend that great insight arrived, or that I suddenly found Nirvana in accepting my fate in the universe, a human being with little or no power. At the end of the meditation, I was still powerless.

But I will admit that saying this aloud did something for me, created a little more space inside me for something besides seething resentment. This space was filled with sadness. I am not sure I was hoping for that exactly, rage replaced by grief, but I have to admit that grief is easier to bear than anger.

Doesn’t everyone hate being powerless?

Yet don’t we all cling to the illusion that I have power, that I create power in my life? I felt sad to be so wrong, sad that such a trivial incident like a fender bender was necessary to lift up a big rock and see the truth squirming like earthworms, and me so disgusted to see something true.

I am powerless.

I don’t love it.

I’m not thrilled about this.

I’ll keep doing my best to not get into car accidents and figure out what shit is mine to own. But in the end, the power I do have is pretty bug-like. I’m pretty awful at small talk; I keep trying to invent better ways to get to know someone than to begin with “How are you?” Ugh. I hate that opening. I think it could be more interesting to say, “Hi, I’m Edmond. Where are you powerless in your life?”

If we both answered honestly, at least we know we’d have some common ground for discussion.

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