Yes, I Have Regrets: Part 3 (Fini … Encore) #MondayBlogs

Here is an old post from May 26, 2013.  I’m reposting it because today, February 9th, is a very important date.  I do a kind “reckoning” whenever this day approaches, especially if it falls on a Monday.  I had planned to wallow in my darkest thoughts, until I chanced upon this poem by Belinda from busymindthinking.com.  Read her poem, then come back here.

These lines in particular moved me to reassess February 9th:

I would have endured
Much more and far worse
I would have declined
Any opportunity to re-write

I won’t be having a dark day.  I won’t curl up with dark thoughts.  But I will share my story again because it does reflect the long, long journey I’ve been on.  It is part of who of I am and I’m finally accepting the “valuable gift wrapped” within.

***

“We all have our baggage, and I think the trick is not resisting it but accepting it, understanding that the worst experience has a valuable gift wrapped inside if you’re willing to receive it.”  -Jeanette Walls as quoted in “Mommy Nearest,”  The New York Times Magazine, May 26, 2013, pp. 18-21.

How odd, I thought, that I should come across this quote while considering another blog post on my many regrets.  As I’ve said in earlier posts, those events and deeds I feel obliged to regret are the ones I could have avoided, those decisions in which the “free will” I exercised should have / could have been different.  (You can find my earlier posts here and here.)  These range from the mundane (gaining weight) to, for this post, a fateful decision to go into work when I should have stayed home.  That last decision still haunts me even though it’s been 32 years, 3 months, 17 days, and 22.5 hours after the fact.

Even though that one fateful decision eventually led to getting a job in an office where I met my future husband, I take no comfort in it.  I tell my husband that we were fated to meet.  I find it hard to see the “valuable gift wrapped” in this particular baggage and so, I argue, it’s a decision that I regret.  I wonder, would you feel the same way if it had happened to you?

Here’s my story:

It was 1981.  I was 23 and living in a California town, nearly 3000 miles from my family home.  I was barely employed, at the time working a few hours a week as a janitor at a candle-making factory.  I had only an AA degree, no skills other than typing, and I had never worked in an office in my short life.  All I wanted to do was go back to college.  I was on the bus on my way to work, after having a disappointing interview with a financial officer at a local private women’s college.  She told me that I had made too much money the year before and they wouldn’t give me financial aid.  I didn’t want to go to work.  I felt depressed and wanted to be alone.  But now I needed money even more so I swallowed my tears and got off within a block of the factory.

I clocked in at 1:00 pm.  By 1:30 pm, I was hanging upside down in the shaft of a freight elevator.  Just a few minutes before, I had rolled a large trash bin onto the freight elevator and was going up to the third floor.  The factory has three floors and my routine was to go to the top floor and work my way down.  The freight elevator had gates on the floors but not on the elevator itself.  It’s like an open, wood and metal, free-standing platform that went up and down.  I had been facing the wall as the elevator went up, distracted by the accumulation of wax and dirt and grease on the wall.  I turned around and saw, as a floor came into view, a man coming out of the stairwell and onto the floor.  It was Ted.  Ted, who worked on the third floor.  Ted, who I only ever saw on the third floor.  I must be at the third floor, I thought.  But the elevator didn’t stop.  It kept moving up.  To my horror, it kept moving up.  I screamed Ted’s name.  I screamed “It won’t stop.”  I reached out and grabbed onto the gates that were affixed to the floor.  I pulled my body through the slowly narrowing gap.  I was nearly free when I felt something catch my right foot and then a burning sensation as my leg was pulled upwards.

I had to flip myself around as the elevator pulled me up and grab onto pipes that lined the bottom of the elevator platform.  I felt hands on me and then someone’s back pressed against mine.  I learned later that one of my favorite people at the factory–Martha Coyote–stood on a box and extended her torso out into space to keep me supported.  I tried to grab her, but panicked cries sent me back to the pipes.  Martha was being held in place and if I had grabbed her, I might have sent her falling down the shaft.

I was told to hang on, they were going to lower the elevator and pull me through.  I had to tell them when to stop, which happened to be the moment when the edge of the metal plate that hung from the platform hit my groin.  They carried me out and laid me down on the floor.  Over and over I said that I just wanted to go to sleep and that my leg burned and felt like it would burst.  They asked me where my purse was, and I said downstairs on the 2nd floor.  And Martha held my hands and I heard someone say that it was just superficial.  Firemen showed up and then the ambulance came and they put me on a stretcher.  When they said they had to take me on the elevator, I cried and begged them not to.

I would be in hospital for the next six weeks, undergoing three “debridement and irrigation” procedures (where they cleaned my right leg and removed more dead skin and muscle) and one 7-hour skin graft surgery.  After I had been there two weeks, my doctors informed me that they had come very close to amputating my leg.  The first complication was apparent lack of circulation.  By the time I arrived in surgery, my foot was alabaster white and ice cold.  By the end of that surgery, some color had crept into my toes so they decided to wait.  The next complication would have been infection.  My leg had been covered with a thick layer of hair, wax, dirt and grease.  It was a mess and everyone expected it to become infected.  But no one was in a hurry to amputate as long as I seemed OK.

I was young and I was willful: two key characteristics for a swift recovery.  My leg didn’t get infected and eventually I was able to move my foot.  I had the luxury of a private room and a long line of friends who frequently visited.  My mom and brother and aunt flew out to see me.  Eventually I got strong enough to move about and make my own bed by resting my leg on a chair or the bed and pivoting around the small room.  My nurses loved me.  For six weeks it was home.

Because I was working at the time, Worker’s Compensation insurance paid for EveryThing: hospital bills, outpatient physical therapy, and mental health counseling.  They even sent me to a training school to learn word processing and a job-search workshop.  They gave me a clothing allowance so I could be presentable at my interviews.  That private women’s college relented and offered me financial support if I enrolled as a part-time student.  And one year and one month later, I was gainfully employed as a word processing operator in an office where my future husband also worked.

But here’s the thing, the rub, the darkness that covers it all.  As I write this, my heart races, my blood gets hotter, my throat constricts.  When I remember that day, I relive the fear, the terror.  But worse than that is the memory, the knowledge of what really happened, the real decision that set it all into motion.  My second day in ICU, the owner of the factory came to visit.  She was, understandably, worried not just about me but also about how my accident might affect her business.  In an accident like this, who is at fault?  The factory owner, the freight elevator company, or me?  She felt compelled to tell me that it was me.  She presented as thinking that I already knew this, that I already knew that I had actually been at the 2nd floor when I saw Ted and panicked.  I hadn’t been at the 3rd floor.  The elevator had not been malfunctioning.  I had been malfunctioning.  I had said I left my purse downstairs, on the 2nd floor.  At the moment I said that, I was lying down on the 2nd floor, my purse only a few yards away.

From that moment, I lost trust in myself.  I could have died.  I could have had a worse injury.  Someone (Martha) could have died trying to save me.  And it was all my fault.

Isn’t the reason why I regret what happened because I still believe that it was my fault?  That in exercising my free will, I made a very bad decision and now have to pay for it the rest of my life.  Is there a “valuable gift wrapped” in this experience that I’ve yet to learn to receive?

If you’ve made it this far in my story, then thank you for staying with me and I will receive that valuable gift.

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About 1WriteWay

Writer, blogger, knitter, and cat lover.
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29 Responses to Yes, I Have Regrets: Part 3 (Fini … Encore) #MondayBlogs

  1. I did make it to the end, and I am grateful. Not for the way it troubles you, but that a gift, wrapped in you story, was given to me. I think often about the life-events that shape me, and continue to, and I think about all the people I hurt. AI also think about the popular saying, “no regrets” and how silly that is is the face of the regrettable things we do.

    I also see a sensitive heart that does not take the particulars lightly. But I already knew that about you. 😉 ty Marie.

    Jim

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1WriteWay says:

      Gift received and accepted. My heart aches but with happiness, if that makes sense. I’m learning that to admit regrets is fine but it is what I do forward that makes the difference. Namaste and thank you Jim.

      Like

      • namaste. And I cannot agree more. In my own way I have painted my life in a corner. I have choices to make, and this post was poignant in light of those regrets and opportunities. 😉

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  2. Tucson Blonde says:

    Sensitive people often just take on responsibility for things they are not at all, or only minimally responsible for, because we are all too aware of the role we play in the “grander scheme” of life! What your boss did to you is called gaslighting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting). Gaslighting is not “just” a tactic that narcissists use… people in power generally apply the “blaming the victim” tactic to get out of their own responsibility for something! (Tobacco industry knew about the dangers of cigarettes and how addictive they were, then spent millions on lawyers and blamed the victims! Now the Fast Food industry, who pump sugar (supposedly more addicting than cocaine!) and MSG salt into their food products to make them tastier and cheaper are also blaming the victim for their unhealthy food addictions… it’s SO common that we all seem to forget that it has become an American culture–the thing to do–place the blame on the person(s) with the least power to change the circumstances!)

    It is such a miracle that nothing more serious came out of the accident! You got to keep your leg, and you subsequently met your husband at your next job!

    We all make decision that *turn out* some how. Whether these decisions end up being good or bad decisions is often only based on how others want to see us, how we want to see us, in terms of what others think we should have/be…

    I say, as long as I am alive, and can make another human being smile… I have fulfilled my purpose in life. Nothing else matters. And of course I regret when I cannot make the life of another human being better…

    From the sounds of your “decision” (if that’s what you can *really* call a snap judgement based on your reaction in that moment… it was more autonomic than pre-frontal based–with some intended outcome!) it was just plain unfortunate, cost you several weeks of your young life and not only lingering physical pain, but the grief I hear in your post above that you carry with you to this day! I would hope that you morn for all that loss, but not a moment for the woman, who so obviously had a responsibility to take care of you, to take care of your well-being as her employee–in her factory!

    You would feel responsible if someone got caught in the door at your home and injured themselves as severely as you did… she just didn’t seem to even care, let alone show compassion for your situation, to then go on and make YOU feel responsible is deplorable!

    As a “sensitive” too, I can only say, maybe we shouldn’t be *hogging* all our sensitivity! Maybe, because we are so much more sensitive than others (like you former boss) there just isn’t enough left to go around… ;}

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    • 1WriteWay says:

      My husband feels much as you do, that the fault was in a freight elevator that was not up to code, that although I was distracted, it should not have been possible for me to jump out, and that the “corporation” I worked for was only watching out for their own skin. Only one person seemed to want me to take responsibility for what happened, well, two people if you include me 😉 I often forget that nearly everyone else I knew, in particular the people who were there that day, never seemed to hold me accountable.

      This is the valuable gift that you give to me and that I will receive: “I say, as long as I am alive, and can make another human being smile… I have fulfilled my purpose in life.” Thank you so so much. Namaste.

      Like

  3. Wow, what a compelling story! Guilt is a terrible thing, and I suspect that everyone suffers from some version of “What if” when they contemplate decisions made or the road they didn’t take. Your “gift” is that this incident sent you on a trajectory toward becoming the caring, thoughtful, sensitive person and writer you are; sometimes (many times?) we can’t see how a bad decision is actually a catalyst for the good things that follow. Your ordeal was horrific, and certainly not one you would choose again, but I’m a believer in “everything happens for a reason” and wonder if you would be a writer today if the accident had not happened? You must forgive yourself for your decision and celebrate who you became because of it.

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    • 1WriteWay says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Candace. I felt somewhat selfish for posting my story but it was cathartic and now I’m getting such wonderful, supportive responses. I think that after all these years, I just want to put it to rest. The accident has had such an impact on my life, and it still does on a daily basis in the way I walk, the disfigurement of my leg, etc. But, yes, it is part of who I am and, even though I was writing before I got hurt, that experience has changed the way I write, the way I see the world. Thank you again for the gift you’ve given me with your comment 🙂

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    • 1WriteWay says:

      Oh, and thank you for tweeting my post 🙂

      Like

  4. Marie, I’m not going to tell you how often I read and re-read this. Your purpose I believe has long been fulfilled…in helping others. I cannot read it without tearing up. I believe we are drawn to people for a reason; in many ways, I am so thankful you share what you do and in how you choose to share it. Love, Belinda. xo

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  5. ShannonRaelynn says:

    I certainly subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason, but I would not presume to know the reason in your life.

    About twenty years ago my husband was in a work related accident that almost cost him his foot. He had several surgeries, a re-breaking of the foot, and a bone graft. He spent fifteen months in a cast, followed by three more months on crutches before he accidently broke his toe trying to play baseball too soon and was back in a cast and on crutches for six more weeks. He thankfully has a fully functioning leg and foot but he had some limits on his range of mobility, and he lives with chronic pain.

    This accident changed the course of his life, our life. He went from being an incredibly active young man, to someone who would battle with weight for the rest of his life. He was no longer the baseball, hockey and volleyball player.

    Just before his accident we had our first child and I began my first year of university. Half a year after we had our wedding. It was a difficult time that challenged us both and tested our relationship. He was a physical young man who had no physical outlet and he had to adapt and change. In other ways it brought us closer together. I remember him in a full waist to toe cast, 3 months after his injury, standing at the kitchen sink, doing dishes, close to passing out from the pain, but determined to do what he could to contribute to our family, while I cared for our daughter and went to university. That memory defines my husband sharply. He was in that moment my hero. And he has been every since.

    I would not wish what he went through, or what you went through on anyone. And in all honesty I have never even come close to such a shattering experience and so can not even say I know how you feel. I do not. Can’t even imagine.

    And I do not know what good you can take away but I know my husband and I would not be who we are without that change in trajectory. Maya Angelou says “wouldn’t take nothing from my journey” and so often I agree with this saying, but when it comes to such a painful event, I can’t help but think this might be a do-over most people in that situation would want to take.

    In so far as assigning blame… in my husband’s situation he and his employer were both at fault. He went through the exact WCB procedures as you in recovery and retraining. He is pretty philosophical, more so than I would be. But no one ever blamed him for his own injury. He took responsibility for his own share and no more. He felt there were lessons he needed to learn from the experience and he learned them. I don’t think he would ever be grateful for the experience but he understand the role it played in giving him the life he has now (which really is full of great things).

    I hope you can let go of your feeling of fault. Even if you hold some responsibility (I don’t see how) it was not your intent to be careless and cause injury to yourself. And that one person who blamed you should be set aside, and those who risked themselves and stepped up to help you are the shinning examples off the good in this world.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

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    • 1WriteWay says:

      Shannon, thank you so much for sharing your and your husband’s story. He definitely went through a much longer and more difficult recovery than me, and I’m so sorry to hear that he still has chronic pain. Has your husband tried yoga? I have a bit of a disability in that I can’t flex my right foot completely, and yoga has really helped me with staying fit and developing better balance. I can’t do every pose that everyone else does because of my injury, but there’s always a modification that is attainable. I’ve found it to be a great program for overall fitness as well as mental health.
      Thank you too for your thoughts on how these experiences can shape us for the better and the importance of letting go of the sense of blame. The latter has actually been the hardest for me to deal with, but after 32+ years, I’m more than ready to let go 🙂

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  6. Oh my gosh, Marie, what a frightening experience. I’m glad you re-posted this, I had no idea. You are not to blame and the important thing is you are alive and well today. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1WriteWay says:

      Thanks, Jill! I also often lose sight of the fact that I’m very physically active with hiking, walking, and yoga. My husband says it has made me a “superior woman” 😉

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  7. Holy crap! I must have missed this post last year for some reason. I can see why an experience like that is rooted so deeply in your psyche now. I just wish the factory owner could be made aware of the ripple effect she caused by manipulating you that way. She needs a lingering guilt complex!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1WriteWay says:

      Thanks, Kevin. I don’t know if you and I had met yet. The post was published in May 2013. I think the factory owner did feel very bad once she realized I was clueless. Apparently I’m the one still harboring some bitter feelings 😉

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  8. Marie, as you might know, I have been taking a break from blogging, only dipping in and out of special people’s blogs. (Just lately) What made me look at your blog today? What a nightmare. In your tender youth and state of shock, that woman planted horrible things in your head. To the point where you regret so much and carry the burden as if it was your fault. A trauma indeed. Unbelievable. So lucky you were, through all of it.

    I have had some trauma in my life. And I never have thought to look for the gift in those times. I guess I should. I do think, though, that these experiences make us better artists. I don’t know why. Drawing on a reserve source of strength? Seeing deeper than most? I don’t know. But I think my ability as an artist might stem from some of this stuff. Although, Marie, nothing as traumatic as your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1WriteWay says:

      Oh, let’s not compare traumatic experiences 😉 Mine could have ended so much worse than it did. I saw plenty of amputees on my side of the hospital. That definitely would have been worse. And I think my boss would have liked to take back her words once they were out of her mouth. It’s up to me to let it go. We are greater than the sum of our experiences, and I do think what I’ve gone through has made me a better writer, a better interpreter of the human condition. And my bonus is my husband. He indeed is worth all of it. Thank you so much for coming by. I am very sorry for the sadness and loss you’re experiencing. I hope you can find comfort in your art and your friends, of which I know there are many 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yolanda M. says:

    Phew Marie! what a horrible, terrible experience and then to still have ‘higher ups’ try to convince you that you were at fault 😦 aaargh! I was trapped in an elevator for six hours once and I thought that was traumatic! Thank you for reposting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. BerLinda says:

    Wow, I was panicking right along with you. That could have been so much worse! What a story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1WriteWay says:

      You know, when I first read your comment, I thought you were saying you were “right alone with” me and how THAT could have been so much worse! LOL! I’m like, “Yup, Linda probably wouldn’t have helped much if she had been panicking too.” So much for speed reading comments 😉 I have to admit, when I reread the post this weekend, after not having read it for over a year, my heart started racing and it all came back. Yes, the ending could have been far, far worse. I am, truly, very lucky 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I came back to read this again and yes, cried all over again. I love you my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

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