Friday, March 09, 2012

The Clarity of Sudden Death

Weather in the South West is a hodgepodge during the spring. As March peeks its head out of the bleary Winter ground, we are often treated to a split personality of temperatures. Hot. Cold. Spring. Snow. That variance can run all the way into April. Even May some years.

Tuesday was no exception. I saw the sun was out and my iPhone Notifications screen told me it was over 50°F outside. "Spring!" I thought. I made plans for a bike ride to the library. I was looking forward to writing my novel in the back of the library at the secret table everybody ignores. Unfortunately, the temperature had dropped to 43°F by 4:30pm, and I had a feeling riding my bike would be a bad idea.

Soon there was snow. Then there was lots of snow. Then there was a storm of it. I am so glad I didn't head out on my bike in nothing but a Spring jacket.

The snow continued to fall all night—so much so that each time I ran an errand I'd have to unbury my minivan before driving away. As I headed home after some midnight grocery shopping, I drove up the hill to my apartment. The road was white with Winter, and I was traveling at around 25mph and sliding.

Perhaps less than 75 feet from the TRAX crossing the lights began to flash red and the gates came down. I applied my breaks and was alarmed when my wheels stopped moving but my minivan didn't. As I slid towards the train tracks time slowed down for me. I knew that I would roll through the gates and onto the tracks in time to be hit if I didn't do something.

And I knew what to do.

I needed to crash my minivan before the tracks. I knew as sure as my name is Douglas that if I turned sharply left, then turned sharply right, I would fishtail sideways into the median strip. Then I did it exactly as I knew I could do. I stopped without damage to my minivan 15 feet from the tracks. Then I snapped a shot of the train as it passed by. I wanted to remember that moment.

What is remarkable to me about that moment is not that I almost died. My heart wasn't even racing. I was strangely calm about the entire experience. What is remarkable is that I had absolute faith in myself and my abilities. I'm a good driver and I handle myself well in the snow. I always have. I suppose I have good instincts for it. But I couldn't help but wonder why I wasn't like that in everything else.

Divorced. Laid off from two jobs. Hocking memories to make ends meet. Shocked by the death of Andrew Breitbart last week and how little I have accomplished in my 45 years on this Earth compared to his 43. And now faced with my own imminent death. As I've written before, traumatic moments have a way of shocking the mind into focus.

That's when I realized that I am far more depressed than I have allowed myself to admit. I may be fighting to survive, but it is an anemic effort fought with tired, half-formed fists and unenergetic swings. I am losing the battle.

I am lonely. I am dejected. And I have lost faith in myself. Faith in my art. Faith in my writing. Faith in me. I put on a brave face, but that's all it is: a veneer of a smile hiding my sadness. If I could write the way I saved my life, I would be a mighty writer, indeed. If I could have absolute faith in my drawing skills as I did in my driving skills, I would be a mighty artist. And yet I putter along without faith.

And so I write this on a cold, wintery night with not so much snow, and I am daring myself to think bigger. I am daring myself to stoke the fires of faith in myself where they have been snuffed out. I am daring myself to believe I deserve to be happy. I am daring myself to believe in the works of my own hands. If I can trust in myself to drive a minivan in snow, surely I can trust myself to drive my interests forward towards success.

Hey, all I need is absolute faith.

It is too soon to make predictions about myself. I am as volatile as Utah weather. Hot. Cold. Spring. Snow. I do not know how this is going to play out or whether something has changed inside me or not. I can be certain of one thing, however. Avoiding the accident as I did has planted a seed of faith in myself—a seed I am anxious to nurture and help flourish. If I have God to thank for this new epiphany, then I pray I am capable to handle the task. Learning to have faith in myself will be no easy undertaking. But avoiding the undertaker has helped me start down a different path than I was on Monday.

I've finally begun to believe it is going to be an early Spring.