26 April 2011

Near Death Experience

Have you ever almost died?  Or thought you were about to?

Cale tells me my car accident was pretty bad.  I'm not convinced, but then again, I don't remember much of those days.

I'm not talking about that kind of experience, the experience that leaves you scarred, but the one you jump up from exhilarated, with adrenaline rushing through your veins.

Like the one Cale had this weekend.  He (motivated by his crazy friend) decided it'd be a great idea to go kayaking during a lul in a storm.  Bad idea, especially when it started hailing golf balls and a tornado formed in front of them...

And I'm referring to the one I had last night.

I flew back from  Mississippi yesterday after being home in Minnesota for Easter.  My flights took me from Minneapolis to Atlanta, and then to Memphis where Cale would pick me up.  Unfortunately, we had to take a quick pit stop in between Atlanta and Memphis in Huntsville, AL.  We were rerouted because of bad weather because we didn't have enough fuel to take us around the storm brewing around Memphis.  Back into the air we went, and I decided to take a nap.

With forty minutes left in the flight, I was jolted awake by sickening turbulence and the sound of a woman crying somewhere behind me.  The window to my right revealed lightning and billowing clouds.  For the rest of the rocky flight my hands were clasped tightly together and I resorted to...writing.  In my mind, I watched scene's unfold of other passengers lives...

I wrote what had happened to the woman with dreads earlier in the day and why she was going to Memphis.  I jotted down notes about the woman next to me who kept turning her light out for thirty seconds, only to turn it on again to read for a few minutes, and then repeat the process.
Mental notes were jammed into folders in my head about the Asian girl who kept invading the space of the boy in front of me who wouldn't stop farting.

Ten times over, I rewrote this blog post, as if it were a prayer or mantra.

My eyeballs were literally glued to the window and was shocked when the overhead lights popped on for an instant.  When they turned back off, I returned to the window, relieved I could see the flickering lightning below us.  With the lights off, creativity flowed and an entire novel burst into existence.

Will I ever write it?  Heck no!  The idea of writing a story about people's lives before they crash in a plane is way to terrifying for me to journey there for months on end until it would be finished.

I may not write that story, but it was still amazing to experience the joy of pure creativity, even if it was inspired by the thought of something dreadful happening.

Finally, at two in the morning, I landed safely in Memphis, completely thrilled at being alive.

What did I learn?  Writing is survival.  My brain resorts to stories in times of stress and it unburdens me.

What does your brain automatically do when you are under stress?

My suggestion: turn off the lights, look out the window at the coming storm, and give your mind the freedom to do what it does best.


  1. Awwww Juliana - what a great post. Writing IS survival. In my senior thesis, I described the creation of my play as my redemption. Writing my way into healing.

  2. Thanks Sophia, writing is therapeutic :)

  3. I enjoyed that post very much. In horribly scary situations I just freak out. I FREAK! I'd be the lady crying.

    I wouldn't think to start writing in my head. BUT I will tell you, I really like that idea. I'm going to steal that idea.

  4. Amazing story! I love how a writers brain works, how it is so normal to need to capture moments in time. You may not be able to use something so scary as a story but you can always capture pieces of that into future writing, ya know.

    Very neat, thanks for sharing!

  5. Oh, I just had to say this too, I saw your pics on the side, do you have a Boston Terrier? Me too, I love them:)

    Also, I was looking for a place to follow your blog posts through feedburner where I can get emailed updates, do you not have that set up?

  6. Deana, I do have a Boston! She's the sweetest, smartest, and most stubborn dog I know, haha.

    I thought I had a way to get email updates, but I guess not. I'll get right on fixing that. Thanks!

  7. Angela, why do you have to be so darn funny?! Trust me, I was tempted to be the crying lady too.

  8. Wow, that sounds terrifying. You should write it because you can capture all that goes on in your head and around during a critical time so well.

    I never had a near-death experience, but when I thought my mother was going to die, I remember feeling like I was out of my own body and everything seemed muffled.