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The Midlife Sage Says: Fight Tragedy With Tenacity

Twenty years ago an uninsured punk ran a stop sign and crashed into me as I cheerfully drove up 5 Mile Road in my new car.

I regained consciousness in the hospital and had broken bones, multiple contusions, and a damaged occipital nerve that continues to pester me with debilitating headaches. It’s a good thing the jerk ran away because I was eager to return the favor.

During one of my rehabilitation appointments, I showed the photo of my wrecked car to the physical therapist and bemoaned the fact that my new car was a total loss. She studied the photo and then said, “One second saved your life.” That comment interrupted my self-pity.

“The photo proves the other car slammed into the front of your car and then it spun around and smashed into the passenger door behind you,” she said. “One more second and he would have hit you with full force in the driver’s door. Then you wouldn’t be here to complain about your headaches.”

Sometimes, we need to put things into perspective.

This week’s events have been emotionally draining as we watch and read the news about terrorist bombings, poison letters, massive explosions, and shootouts in the street. I continue to worry about my children and grandchildren because the best helmets, seatbelts, and anti-bacterial soap can’t protect them from the new realities of life: There are evil monsters packing nails into pressure cookers with the sole intent of causing death and destruction to innocent people.

Some of us remember when our childhood security was shattered almost fifty years ago: Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was a young schoolgirl, but I remember the helpless, fearful feeling as I watched my teacher cry and listened to the news broadcasts over the speakers in our classroom. Then our teacher stood to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and somehow the familiar words brought comfort.

The best way for me to survive the tragedies of life is to balance them with memories of the triumphs. I was in the Tuscany region of Italy on September 11, 2001, and the horrors of that experience were tempered by the loving Italians who surrounded us with comfort, food, and songs. Several years later, the personal pain of divorce was softened as I assisted with the glorious birth of my first grandchild and the publication of my book Menopause Sucks.

Monday afternoon as I watched the news about the bombing in Boston, I cradled another granddaughter in my arms. I felt myself sinking into despair about her future, so I turned off the news and sang her a lullaby. I vow that my granddaughters will know laughter and music and love. Those strengths will sustain them over the sounds of bombs and crying.

Twenty years ago a mere second made a profound difference in why I’m still here to annoy and humor people. I’ve been given another chance to appreciate every delightful breath of life, to survive the bullshit, and to savor a world full of daily miracles. And, in unison with the resilient people of New York, Boston, and other targeted areas, I proclaim to the terrorists: “You made us stronger, and we will survive!”

Read more posts by Elaine Ambrose, award-winning author. Elaine is a blogger for JenningsWire.