Early Saturday morning, I was almost struck by lighting.
I don’t mean to say that I was afraid of getting struck by lightning, or that I thought I might be struck by lightning. I mean that I was almost struck by lightning.
I slept in. Abruptly, I was awakened by the first nearing clap of thunder. Almost simultaneously, the rain came. To say it was a deluge would not be stretching it. My first thought was, Oh no – did I leave my car windows down? I jumped out of bed and donned a nearby swimsuit that was hanging over the edge of my laundry basket. Clad only in the bright orange trunks, I grabbed my umbrella and charged down the stairs and out the back door to the lot.
Wowzers! I do love a good storm, and this was a doozy.
I splashed barefoot through the water flooding across the walkway, head down and charging in to the driving rain. It was exhilarating. Finally, I reached the car. The windows were up. But I was not sorry I’d made the trip out.
Suddenly, lightning was all around. I don’t mean off in the distance. All around. This and the unearthly BOOM! of the next thunderclap overhead were enough to set my feet to bounding. Just a few feet from the propped door, it happened.
The lights in the building browned. In an instant, I became aware that a charge was moving up my body. It was like getting pelted by a barrage of tacks and pins. I could almost hear the crackling in my ears, my fillings, my hair. There I was, all but naked. Ankle deep in water. In the dead center of an electrical storm. Holding a metal umbrella. This was it. I was actually going to be struck by lightning.
I don’t quite now how I had the presence of mind, but my thought as I charged the remaining yard to the door was to throw the umbrella away from me. Thing is, when I opened my hand and thrust outward – the umbrella stuck. Just like a magnet. It was only for a second, but I had to shake it loose, just before diving through the door and kicking it shut in a roll. The charge died down, like taking the sizzling, buttered pan off of the heat after frying an egg. My heart beat so strongly, I could feel it swelling uncomfortably in my throat.
Aha! Once more, I had cheated death.
Back in the days when the Internet was shiny and new, and Forwards were cool, I used to get those questionnaires from friends. You know the ones. They had 50 to 100 questions (why so many, I’ll never understand), asking such insightful things as “Peanut butter or bologna?” or “If you could only wear one color ever again, what would it be?” And, of course, you’d wind up getting a whole slew of these questionnaires from the dozens of other people who received it and spent good chunks of their day answering in detail.
Well, a variant of the questionnaire was the online quiz. You’d go to a website, make up 10 questions about yourself with multiple-choice answers, and then send the link around to your friends, to see who really knew you well. Of course, this was always fodder for much interpersonal drama when people who fancied themselves your “bestest bud” would get a 20% and then claim that you somehow cheated.
Well, I caved in and made one such quiz. I don’t remember all of the questions I posed, but this was among them:
I have befriended all of the following except:
A. a porn star
B. a deaf-blind Indian boy
C. a nun
D. a serial killer
And, of course, at the time, the correct answer was C. a nun. (For those who don’t know the back stories on some of these, it’s probably best that you don’t start jumping to conclusions.)
I’m happy to report that I have also since befriended nuns (though I frisked them for rulers first).
The bigger question on everyone’s mind, I imagine, is Who lives like this?
In addition to the tales I’ve told in this blog, I’ve also:
been hospitalized with complete amnesia for days.
chased a six-foot snake into an abandoned mine shaft.
bought groceries for a prostitute.
sung for dignitaries on the Great Wall of China.
had a carpenter’s nail driven through my foot.
tamed an actual shrew.
I could go on (and likely will in future posts). And I’m very aware how all of this sounds. I get the feeling that people expect most of my stories to conclude with “… and then I sprouted wings and flew off to Bora Bora.” In other words, I realize that my life sounds like a big, fat lie.
Only it isn’t.
I do understand how you might be incredulous. How could this much weird or far-fetched stuff happen to one person? you ask.
I actually have an answer. Don’t shrug it off. Think about it.
The reason I have so many interesting experiences is that I am an active participant in my life. I am not treading the same path day after day. I meet new people. I’m not playing it safe. I take risks.
Life is not happening to me. I am happening to life.
Those who stay indoors, safe under the covers during a storm, don’t have brushes with lightning strikes. But they also don’t know the freedom and childhood joy of splashing through rain barefoot on a summer day without a care.
Those who avoid strangers preclude themselves from having unique experiences, and encounters with interesting and wonderful new people.
Those who never board a plane for fear it will go down never get to Beijing in springtime and Paris in the fall.
I would not consider myself reckless or thrill-seeking by any means. But truly living life is in and of itself a risk.
Consider your own life. Is it mundane? Predictable? When someone asks what’s new, do you have trouble coming up with an answer?
You don’t have to be a dare-devil to have exceptional experiences.
Talk to an old woman feeding the birds in a park – and really listen to her stories.
Try a new restaurant with ethnic food outside your usual fare.
Learn not to squash those little you urges you have to save the snapping turtle in the road, or see what phase the moon is in out there, or catch fireflies again in a jar with holes in the lid.
That is life. That is living. It’s an adventure.
Make your own new tales to tell.