It was December, and my New Year calendar was already booked with cooking classes and workshops I was going to teach. Fruitful meetings with local artists and purveyors were leading to exciting collaborations, and a trip to Georgia was even in the works for February. I was feeling validated in all the work I had put into Chesnok, and the momentum had me eager to get back to it once the hustle and bustle of the holidays died down.
But then a different kind of impetus struck. I was driving into work on a bone-chilling Saturday morning, navigating unfamiliar back roads after house-sitting for friends. I turned onto a gravely way riddled with potholes and bumps and pressed the brake to slow down. Unfortunately, that moment of caution caused me to lose traction and swerve off the road. Before I knew it, I went up an embankment, and the the car flipped over. Once. Twice. A third time. One second I was comfortably sitting in my seat, the car driving its hundred-nine thousandth something mile. The next, the car and I were upside down—I, held in place by my seat belt, the car, crushed beyond repair. A heart-twisting silence began to settle in against the violence of the moments prior.
Seeing that my iPhone had miraculously landed right underneath me, my mind kicked into survival mode. Without thinking I called 911, climbed out of the window, and waited for the ambulance to arrive. Until I tuned in to my left hand, I felt completely fine. I would have walked away from that accident without a scratch or a bruise if I hadn’t put my arm out during that last flip. As I looked down at a hand that no longer resembled itself, I began crying over the phone to the operator. Not because of the mentally-scarring pain, or the shock, but because of a devastating fear that I’d no longer be able to do what I love. How was I to roll out pie dough and decorate cakes at work? Throw lavish dinner parties for my friends and family and teach all those cooking classes I had scheduled? This injury struck me, and continues to, at my core. If I no longer have that most basic tool required of a baker or cook, then I must ask myself:
Who am I?
Thankfully, after six hours in the operating room, my surgeons performed nothing short of a miracle and were able to save and reconstruct my hand, minus a couple fingers. I knew I had a long, painful road ahead of me, filled with more surgeries, countless months of rehab, and many, many therapy sessions. But, at least I had a hand that could be worked on and healed. I was slowly sorting through my thoughts, but what I wasn’t expecting, was how others would react.
It’s been a month since the accident happened, and nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming support and love I’ve been shown these past few weeks. Hundreds of messages have flooded my phone, email, social media, and mailbox. Prayers from around the world have been said on my account. My best friend secretly set up a GoFundMe account as a Christmas present and raised $5,000 within a few days. The word spread, and the fund has now reached over $16,000. Now I can finally do that Southeast Asia trip I’ve been dreaming of. Just kidding!! Stupid bills, ugh.
My pants are growing tighter by the day from all the delicious food I’ve been treated to, and the many delightful care packages I’ve received have reverted me back to a child on Christmas morning. Lastly, anyone who knows me, knows that I love orchestrating events and seeing people come together. The accident had it’s own way of doing just that, introducing my old friends to the new by my bedside. I find myself being able to bring people together in ways I could have never even managed before, and that’s something I am grateful for.
This all goes to prove that, if there’s a silver-lining to what happened, it’s that I’ve been able to experience sheer goodness in the midst of my suffering—a selfless type of love that stands in stark contrast to all the hatred and intolerance that seems to exist in today’s society. It doesn’t mean that these past few weeks haven’t been the most challenging in my life. I really am like a five-year old again: “Will you help me shower? Tie my shoes? Cut up the food on my plate for me?” Phantom limb is definitely real and my around-the-clock pain leaves me mentally and physically exhausted, only to be remedied with painkillers that come with their own side effects. To venture into the world of “whys” and “what ifs” is a scary slippery slope I don’t want to near. And even now, I try not to let myself think about what life will be like once everything heals: a Frankenstein-looking hand that, for a long time, will have very little function. But sometimes I let my mind wander, and it’s at those moments I doubt my ability to get through it all.
Then I remember all of you who have written and encouraged me. All you who have told me I am strong and brave, that I’ll overcome this misfortune, and that nothing will hold me back from all I’m meant to do. And I think to myself: if everyone else perceives these truths about me, then why not fully believe and realize them myself? It’s ironic how we are our own worst limiter sometimes.
I can’t bake or cook much these days, but I can still write. I realized that Chesnok can serve a few purposes for me: a way to continue to connect with others by way of food, as well as a way to move forward, even if other areas of my life have been paused for now. I am working out a new format for my blog posts and feel reenergized and excited to share them with you.
In writing all of this, I realize words really don’t do justice for how humbled and grateful I feel. I am inspired by everyone’s actions to be a better person and friend, and I can’t wait to get back to normal life again to put all of that into practice. So, with that, stay tuned for more from me on Chesnok and, in the meantime, thank you for making me feel like the most loved girl in the world!!