When I was 12 years old, I fell out of a big tree and sprained my ankle. I was sitting up there thinking about a song I liked, imagining it was actually my song, and that I was a famous singer, when I just slipped off the branch. After a moment of reflecting that I was actually falling out of a tree, right now, I had time to think: ‘here comes pain.’
People talk about time slowing down when something like that happens, but I think you just become more aware of time. It’s like meditating in a way, because you’re completely in the moment. Being fully aware of what is happening in a moment and how different that moment is to the moments surrounding it is actually quite interesting and rare. You could be present in every moment, but you’re usually just thinking about something else.
When I was 32, I got hit by a van and was nearly killed. I was skating down a hill trying not to get speed wobbles, when I noticed there was a busy intersection at the base of the hill and I was probably fucked. I took the corner and, while avoiding the oncoming traffic, I looked behind me and realised I was about to get hit by a big white van. Again, there was a moment of acceptance of what was about to happen, then time to think: ‘here comes pain.’
I don’t remember the point of impact, but I very clearly remember lying there a minute later, telling myself not to move, watching a lot of blood running out of my head on the road. My friend Pete wrapped his hoodie around my head and called an ambulance, and I just lay there thinking.
It wasn’t so bad. There was no pain because the injuries were so serious, but I didn’t feel panic either. I wasn’t freaking out; I was just trying to keep still. My breathing sounded loud, as if I was snorkelling. A girl walked past with her dog and paused for a moment to stare at me curiously, the way everyone does when they see something freaky. I looked back at her and thought: ‘fair enough’. I didn’t reflect on what I had or hadn’t done with my life, or my family, or anything. Looking back, I was in shock, but I’m thankful for the way my brain processed that moment, because all that emotional stuff wouldn’t have helped me at all in that situation. I just needed to lie there quietly.
You’d think that I would’ve learned a lot from those experiences, particularly the last one. You’d think it would put everything in focus and I would embrace life in a way that wasn’t imaginable before it happened. Well, I broke up with my girlfriend, I had to stop working for a while, and I had a brain injury that gave me terrible headaches and occasional panic attacks. I still let people push me around and I still spend a lot of my time doing dumb stuff I have no interest in. All I’ve really learned is to try and avoid the kind of situations that could end up with me falling through the air thinking: ‘here comes pain’. I’m still as confused as ever.