I choked on a burrito.
Not the “pat her on the back” kind of choking. The “I can’t breath, call an ambulance” choking. The having a stranger perform the Heimlich maneuver on me in the middle of the store choking. The being picked up by paramedics and having an incident report the size of my dinner table choking.
Yes, the word “burrito” is on my medical record. I’m not even joking.
It happened so quickly that I barely had the time to think about what was actually going on.
And it was fucking scary.
Did I see my entire life flash in front of my eyes? No. But a handful of thoughts went through my mind while I was gasping for air.
- When was the last time I told my family that I love them?
- I can’t die now. I’m too young. What about all the things I was planning to do with my life?
- I can’t die now. I can’t be the girl who choked on a burrito during her lunch break and died.
- This is not the kind of bonding experience I had in mind. [Survivor’s note: I was out on my lunch break with a new colleague; I respect her greatly and appreciate her company even more. Eternally grateful, A.]
It was one of these experience that you never expect. I went back to the office (to my colleagues’ despair, without the cute paramedic’s number), sat down on my desk and thought “What the fuck did just happen?”. How lucky had I been?
The first two thoughts came back to mind again and again, especially during my late afternoon yoga class. They came back during upward facing dog when I had prickly feeling at the bottom of my neck, they came back when the yoga instructor said “now move up to warrior two”. “Yes, I am a warrior”, I thought to myself. And as a warrior, I silently vowed to do the following:
Tell my family that I love them more often. Same goes for friends. There’s this weird thing: I can tolerate people doing me wrong, bad-mouthing me, neglecting me, hurting me but I turn into a Cerberus (cute but feisty one) when someone even attempts to do the same to my family and friends. I love them unconditionally. Now, love is a wonderful thing. But unless we express it – may that be with words and/or with actions, it’s not tangible. So I vowed to go ahead and express it as often as I
get the create for myself the chance.
Be more present. I can be very absent-minded. I check my social media mid-conversation. I have lunch in front of my computer screen and barely chew it sometimes (and we all saw where that took me). I skim emails. I stick my nose in my book in the tube every morning and barely look around. I wonder through the city with my headphones constantly on. I feel like I’m in a hurry all the time but languishing constantly too.
There’s so much around us that we barely notice. Sometimes we do not even take the time to notice things that are happening in our bodies and minds. We listen to friends talk, only thinking of how we’re going to respond, refusing to grasp what they’re trying to communicate. We fail to “read” moods or facial expressions. So I vowed to pay more attention and see how it feels.
Just do it. Do as much as you can and then some more.
The idea of “fulfilling our true potential” is the most vague and brutal kind of torture one could inflict on our generation. I don’t know neither what my true potential or my purpose on this planet is, nor whether I will ever achieve it. All I know that I am potential; I am a work in progress. And so is you and you and you. (And that annoying cousin of yours who you thought was good for nothing.) So I vowed to keep doing, creating, saying “yes”, taking chances, worrying a bit less, writing, trying to improve, working both on my strengths and limitations, telling it like it ισ, making that inappropriate joke, doing some more, preferably now and not later or tomorrow. In the Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes, a greatly talented and now also a very successful TV writer and producer, said that when she started writing she didn’t know where this would take her. But she kept writing nevertheless. We do not know where doing more can lead us but I’ll bet that, unlike doing nothing, it can at least lead us somewhere.
There was a fifth thought that crossed my mind while I was gasping for air that leads to my last resolution, if we can use this word to describe them. The first paramedic who arrived on site asked A. whether I had turned blue or white when I started choking. I couldn’t talk at the time but, if I could, I wanted to say the following: “I’m so tan right now that I blush and it doesn’t show. Do you think that she could tell if I turned pale?” So I vowed to stay true to my quintessential sense of humour, may that be perceived as silly, sardonic, self-deprecating, perverted or weird. I think that it’s what gets me through the day. Sometimes literally.
Glad to not be remembered as the girl who choked on her burrito and died (as always),