Besides sleeping, reading, blowing my nose, and making requests for glasses of water from my family, my main occupation when down with the flu is watching movies. I was ill last week and actually enjoyed the chance to gear down to the minimum speed required to do not much of anything for a few days. I haven't had that kind of break for quite a while.
A couple of evenings ago, feeling fairly recovered, but still in movie mode I disappeared downstairs to my bedroom to watch a film I saw years ago, but always wanted to watch again. Love Actually is one of those films that is actually several short films, shown in pieces, and all on the theme of love during the weeks leading up to Christmas in London (yes, I'm aware it is still June). It is chock-a-block full of fantastic actors and genuinely funny and/or hearwrenching scenes of what one of the young characters calls 'the total agony of love'. I thoroughly enjoyed this re-viewing while various family members watched Indiana Jones do his thing upstairs on the bigger tv.
This morning, I started thinking about movies and books on the theme of love, and wondered why the human race continues to love stories about love. We root for love to conquer all, for the characters who can't seem to get past their first impressions to finally figure things out, or for the true colours of the romantic underdog to be revealed to the heroine. When love triumphs, we celebrate, and when love is taken over by less honorable states of mind, we sorrow. I think that love is such a universal thing that when it wins we feel like we win also. Sometimes, it is really the only thing we get right on this earth, and as the narrator says at the beginning of the movie, love actually is all around us.
Then again, so is fear and foolishness. Just as most of us triumph in love to some degree, most of us falter in fear or foolishness to some degree. I thought I was ready to face a shopping trip to the city yesterday, only I wasn't. I was still very tired and a bit foggy with my cold-in-the-head but the fridge was nearly empty and I had supplies to buy for my upcoming event. My daughter, Emma and I set off in the mid-morning to face the summer traffic. Even as I pulled into the parking lot of my first stop, I knew I should not have attempted the shopping, but I gave myself a pep talk and off we went. After one mall, we had to drive to another, and after that to the office supply store. I pulled into the turning lane in the worst intersection in this particular suburban city. I looked all around and then focussed my energies on timing my entry into the turn. I was just starting to pull slowly into the turn, looking mainly to the left into the oncoming traffic when I felt a rubbing sensation on the front bumper. I looked up and there he was, a young teenager on a bike, wearing a baseball cap and the everpresent earphones of that agegroup. I put on the brakes and within seconds the lad was free of my bumper (his pedal was stuck in the hole I found later that he had punctured in my bumper) and riding off across the intersection. He wasn't injured, hadn't been knocked off his bike at all. He didn't even look back. I, on the other hand made a tight turn into a fast food restaurant parking lot, lept out of the car and started making my way toward him to make sure he was okay (and perhaps to lecture him on the foolishness of jumping out in front of cars in the middle of the turning lane of a busy intersection) but it was too late. He was gone.
I got back into my car, and tried to collect myself, wondering how such a thing could have happened. I asked my daughter to tell me what she saw. "Well, Mom, all I saw was this kid playing with his ipod on the curb - then he jumped right in front of you without even looking."
"Was it my fault at all?" I asked.
"If you had twelve eyes, it might have been your fault," she said with typical Emma practicality. I was not convinced, in typical Rebecca self-doubt.
By the time we got to the office supply store I was feeling my shock and started to cry a little. Scenes of what 'might have happened' were filling my head. What if I had been going faster? What if the boy had been knocked off his bike and sent flying onto his un-helmeted head? What if his parents sued me? What if my license were taken away? What was I doing driving anyway - I was obviously a terrible driver to have let this kind of thing happen. The fact that the boy was not at all visibly shaken by what had occurred, however, enabled me to keep my nerves at bay enough to finish my shopping and get home as quickly as possible.
I found myself telling my tale to five or six people over the course of the day, and I found much comfort in the fact that they all had a similar story to tell. At least two friends admitted they felt they were taking their life in their hands every time they attempted a journey into traffic. One friend even said what I have often thought myself (thinking I was the only one), that more than once, when back home after a trip to the city she had sunk into a chair gratefully saying to herself, "I made it home one more day." The truth is, none of us has control over everything that goes on around us, even when we are being as careful and aware as we possibly can. Yesterday, that fact scared the heck out of me. I felt like I never wanted to get behind the wheel again. This morning, however, after a decent night's sleep, and the encouragement I found in sharing stories with others, I was okay with driving, just a little more aware of the tenuous nature of life.