By Shari Broyer
When I was a child, I was extremely accident prone. I was always falling down and hurting myself someway: banging my head against something or barking my shins, forearms, elbows… Back then, I threw myself headlong into things without any thought of the consequences and was always getting into some scrape or other. Over the years, not that much has changed. I’m still getting into some scrape or other—the difference now is that these scrapes are generally more emotional in nature than physical, and I’ve also come to realize, due to some of the outcomes, that these are no accidents.
Everything that happens, every misstep or supposedly wrong road taken, is leading us forward in this journey through life. None of us knows the full ripple effect of our actions. Even some of the most horrific instances of “evil” in history—such as the holocaust, or 9-11—have elicited bravery and goodness in the most unlikely people. The saying, “There is no such thing as an accident,” is only part of a famous quote by Napoleon Bonaparte. The entire quote is actually, “There is no such thing as an accident; it is fate misnamed.”
But Ella Wheeler Wilcox said, “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” And just this morning, well before I sat down to write this, I stumbled across a gem in the book, The Last Ride, by Nicholas Sparks, Grand Central Publishing: “Moments of circumstance, when later combined with conscious decisions and actions and a boatload of hope, can eventually forge a future that seems predestined.” (Italics mine.) The sentence struck a chord in me, so I wrote it down, completely unaware at the time that I would be using it in this piece.
What all my “accidents” and these two seemingly opposing ideas mean to me as a writer is that “EVERYTHING”, as another old adage goes, “is grist for the mill”. Or, as I wrote in a poem as a young girl, “invert and multiply”. Some of my best works have been borne of my angst over something that I’ve felt has gone wrong in my life—yet another so-called “accident”. Witness my Amazon best-selling short story, Jesus on a Park Bench, which I wrote when I was so down and out I feared ending up homeless.
And it has been no accident that all my stops and starts in life, all my detours, have led me to the place I’m in now, one that finally makes room for my long-banked embers of creativity to flare into flame.
These “accidents” have given me so much to work with when writing, even at a very young age. When I was only sixteen, a neighbor—impressed by the notebook of poetry I had shared with her—said, “You’ve already experienced more in your young years than most people do in a lifetime.”
That observation still holds true. I’m sure I’ve already experienced more lives in this one than the proverbial cat, and like the cat, I somehow still land, if not on my feet, at least where I’m supposed to, even if I don’t recognize it at the time. If I had followed my highest calling from the beginning, I might have become a famous author by the time I was twenty. Or, I might have foundered because I ran out of things to write about, perhaps have been a “one-book” sensation.
Instead, I got lost. I turned down this road and that, in search of what, I knew not, not consciously. I look back and realize that I wasn’t really lost, “I [was] exploring,” as my friend, Jana Stanfield, wrote in one of her songs. Now that I’m older and can’t physically explore as much, I’m on an inner journey, one that requires a re-examination of all my “accidents”, being grateful for both the good that’s come of them as well as the “bad”, always aware that I can use both in the pages I produce. I’ve made the conscious decision to answer the call in me to write and I’m taking deliberate action.
Right now, besides this blog, I’m writing a deeply personal story, fictionalizing a “chance encounter” with a man who was then killed in a freak “accident”. I don’t know why his life ended the way it did, but I do know that meeting him and spending the last few hours of his life with him that night affected me profoundly. I also know that I have to write his story, and I have no idea where putting it “out there” will take me. I’m simply following my inner compass, which, in the end—despite all the “accidents”—has never steered me wrong.