My car accident was five months and a week ago. My hand is still swollen, stiff, achy, and angry. I have about 86% strength in my right (dominant) hand. I still go to hand therapy three times a week.
I finally started driving again over Thanksgiving. I have some pretty strong Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stuff going on, which I don’t say lightly. As a neuroscientist and someone who experienced a significantly traumatic event in this accident, I fully believe in the clinical aspects of PTSD and although I don’t intend to share with you the particulars of my symptoms, let’s just say that even sitting in a car was a huge step for me during Thanksgiving. And PTSD is a real and intense disorder. Seek help if you are experiencing PTSD symptoms, which you can read about here.
Since then, I have gradually increased my driving and have done such things as driving at night and on freeways, until the grand finale of attempting to drive a stick shift a few weeks ago. I have only ever driven a stick shift, and I love driving a stick shift. I love the feeling of being in control of my car and the speed I go and the road and the world of cars. I love it. I also did not want this accident to rob me of that experience and make me remember that the last time I drove a stick shift was when my hand was mangled in a car accident at La Brea and Hollywood.
I test drove my new car two weeks ago after a session of hand therapy, with prematurely grey hand therapist waving at me from the window as I took off. I felt very emotional, and didn’t want to freak out the car salesman (also a client of my hand therapist) by sobbing hysterically. The test drive was brief, and my hand was tired, but I gave him the “ok” to finish processing the paperwork. It was delivered to me the following week to the Warner Brothers lot where we film The Big Bang Theory.
There are not many non-sports cars you can get as stick shifts, sadly. Much as I love sports cars (like, really really love them), at this stage of life, I am not ready for one. I needed something that I can shove two bulky car seats into.
So I now am the proud owner of a very reasonable delightful simple 4-door Audi sedan. I like unusual cars and I like European cars, and it’s the least expensive of the sedan stick shifts on the market. I am very uncomfortable spending money in general even on new shoes, so this kind of purchase is very difficult for me, but I am very grateful and I love it.
I want to send a shout-out to Britax for sending me car seats that are stylish, safe, and wonderful. Britax has been a fan of mine since my book came out and they sponsored an event I did with Deborah Kolben and Kveller in Manhattan, and they very kindly sent me replacement seats after this accident and I really appreciate that. My boys like “fire engine red” seats and although car seats seriously decrease the sex-appeal factor of my sleek black Audi, they are still awesome. Thank you, Britax!
Another thing about my Audi is that Audis come standard with leather. As a vegan, I thought this might be the nail in the coffin of my bliss, but my awesome car dealer found “a guy” who replaced the leather with identical “leatherette” and that made me really happy. Yay!
I was so scared about the first time my Audi would get scratched… you know that feeling of anything new: it’s so sacred and innocent, and perfect. Well, thank you, God, for humbling me yet again…
Three days after I got my car, our home heating unit motor caught fire and as the fire department barged into our home to put out the fire, their life-saving equipment scratched my 3-day-old car. Not kidding. They scratched my new car. Not horribly, but enough that you can notice it. It’s about three inches long.
I was going to get it fixed, but two things occurred to me. First, I can’t part with any more money right now. Between buying a car and being frugal, this week is too much for me; I am done done done spending money. And second, I no longer have to have the illusion of perfection with this car. Or with anything, actually.
Nothing is perfect. Nothing is forever. I don’t have to worry when my car will get scratched for the first time because it was just scratched for the first time. And it’s okay. Life is like that. We try so hard to make things perfect. We may claim we don’t seek perfection, but we really do. We want to look perfectly thin/hip/sexy/young, and we want to teach our kids perfectly, and feed them and raise them perfectly. But I guess life reminds us and God reminds us, if you will, that there is nothing predictable but the unpredictable.
And it’s okay. I used to be the kind of person to get seriously bent out of shape about these kinds of things. And when I saw the scratch, I cried. Not because my car was imperfect now, but because the fire department just had to rush into my home while my sons sat shaking on my lap. And because the thing I have spent so much time thinking about since my accident–what will I drive?–was sitting in a driveway of a home in the midst of a divorce, and everything that was so beautiful seems to not always stay that beautiful. And I think I am in control of my life, my marriage, my kids, the road… but I’m not.
I cried to the home insurance lady that I have two small boys and it is not okay for my heater to catch fire. And she said, “I know, Ma’am. I have two young boys and it’s so scary and I am so sorry.”
And there it was: BOOM. The sign from Above that we are all connected. Me and this woman answering the call of a sobbing mama with a scratched 3-day-old Audi. It’s okay. We’re okay. And the car is okay, too. In all of its imperfection and reminders, it’s okay.
When I see those scratches, I will remember that day. And how brave those men were to enter my home. And how on another day five months and two days before, two brave men pulled me off of the ground at La Brea and Hollywood. And they took an imperfect woman with a very imperfect hand and I have been fixed; fixed in a way that makes me not perfect, because I will never be and I never was: but imperfect and patient and resilient, and ever looking forward.
Forward to the next road, the next hand therapy session, and the next time I will hold my boys on my lap, shaking with tears or with laughter, who knows? All I know is that every moment will be exactly what it’s supposed to be.
For more on Mayim’s car accident, read the Jewish take on her car accident, how she hid her cast on The Big Bang Theory, and how she thanked the firefighters who saved her life.