I am sitting on my bed, with the bedroom door shut, hiding from, but also listening to, the Insurance Adjuster Outside talking to my husband about the damage I caused to the garage and most of its contents. I sit ignoring the glorious honey rays of sun as it gently slips away and instead I am consumed with a burning sense of shame.
The day before, after I drove my son back from his piano lesson, I pulled into the drive and coasted slowly down its slope towards the garage. Something I have done hundreds of times: over my 30 years of driving probably hundreds of thousands of times. Then something happened I just can’t explain. I got confused, feeling car not stopping as it reached the end of the drive, I stamped on the accelerator rather than the brake and sent the car surging at speed through the central brick pillar taking out both garage doors and plowing through the contents of the garage until the car stopped pushed up against the mound of stuff at the back of the garage.
I don’t remember the noise. But my husband says there was a massive bang and the house shook. Our neighbors came running, and my daughters friend heard it half way down the street.
All I feel on that bed, is that I want to go home. Home which right at that moment, in my mind, is a mountain top in Wales far way from anyone. Not this beautiful house overlooking a wood with its swimming pool and double height ceilings over 4000 miles from there in Texas. I am feeling sick to my stomach. The boarded up garage at the front of the house is a massive sign to the outside world of my failure. I think ‘no one will ever trust me in a car again’ ‘they will think I am a dangerous mad woman’. My life is ruined.
It’s hard sometimes to focus on the white rather than the black, the good than the bad, hope rather than fear, to be positive in a world that can seem full of negative things.
But I know from experience it is as simple and hard as a choice of focus. To take active control of our mental gaze and turn towards the light. To dwell not on the fact that my mum is dead but on how lucky I was to have the supportive, loving , fun relationship with her that I did. To think, not that I am miles from friends and family, but I am here – being given the privilege of seeing a whole different mode of life in the wonderfully green, slightly weird, energetic, hi-tech, multi-cultural, mostly sun drenched city of Austin Texas.
The amazing thing about this simple switch is it changes not only how you feel now, but what you do and the things that happen to you next. This is the central tenant of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. If you think on the negative things you act negatively in response. A man being handed his resignation letter thinks ‘I am worthless’, ‘my life is over’, breaks down in tears and rushes home to hide. A different man same letter thinks ‘at last I am free of this job’, ‘this gives me a chance to take a whole different direction’ and picks up the phone to talk to people about what he can do next.
In my case. I work to change my thoughts. Its not easy. At first I keep thinking about what the neighbors will think, how will I ever trust myself to drive again and the terrible damage and mess I have made. But I persist and I look hard for the positive and eventually I realize that in fact I am lucky. Lucky that my son and I got up and walked out of that car without a scratch or a bruise on us.
That the collapsing pillar and crushed stuff was like a giant crash barrier protecting the one irreplaceable thing, my beloved son. This thought makes me get up off the bed, go out of the room, climb the stairs to find my son sitting happily in the games room playing GTA on his Xbox and give him a long hard hug.
Later I find myself going back to the garage to survey the damage. But I make myself turn around. I seek my son out again and find him playing piano. Music fills the room, notes sweetly rise and fall in ripples of sound that just seem to flow from him in and the evening sun reaches in through the window to spotlight his fingers moving across the keys. I stand transfixed with tears of joy in my eyes. A moment of bliss I would have missed had I walked in the other direction.