Happiness Replay: “What Happens to You is Not Always About You” (from 02/04/13)

The phrase above is a lesson I learned from my friend Niki, who is a ten year survivor of a particularly aggressive type cancer that has a 5% survival rate.  (Now, we’ve always known that she was in the top 5%, but boy did she ever prove it.)

Niki is the person who taught me that sometimes what is happening to you has nothing to do with you.  You are just the conduit for the universe to send a message.

I’ve had a lot of car accidents since moving to LA.  Four to be exact, none of which were my fault, and with each one, I came out worse for wear, either in terms of injury or expense.

In the second accident, I was hurt pretty badly, and the other driver’s insurance company – Mercury Insurance – was so duplicitous and scummy that I lost four years fighting with them and it ultimately cost me thousands of dollars out of pocket (to have been sitting at a dead stop in traffic and be rear-ended by a teenager who was texting while driving herself home from her SATs).  Whatever you think I could have done differently, you’re wrong.  The courts in California have been bought and paid for by the insurance companies and the evil, career-damaging things Mercury did in the course of fighting me (they spent more than $50,000 fighting my $30,000 claim) would make you gasp in disbelief.  I’m lucky I escaped without having to declare bankruptcy.

What that led to was a very deep knowledge of dealing with insurance companies when injured in an accident that many, many, many of my friends have benefited from; friends who could not have afforded to go through the battle I went through.  I still regret that the accident ever happened, but I can at least see the good in the universe that came from it.  Just because it happened to me, that didn’t make it about me.

My last accident was at 4:00 p.m. on Halloween, 2011.  I was making a left from Sunset Blvd. onto a small side street and traffic was very, very heavy.  The nearest oncoming lane stopped, leaving the intersection clear and the driver at the front of the row motioned for me to turn, but I waited until the next lane stopped.  About five seconds later, the second lane stopped and that driver motioned me to make the left as well.  So I started to make the turn.


That’s when the motorcycle that was threading between the two stopped lanes slammed into my passenger door.  Now, lane splitting is (stupidly!) legal in California, and as it turns out, there are no regulations on it.  Yes, a motorcycle driver can pass a full line of stopped cars going more than 25 miles per hour and enter an intersection and hit a car and not be considered at fault in the accident.

Luckily, because he hit the side of my car, the insurance company determined that I was “partially” in control of the intersection and reduced the fault to 50-50 (which still kind of pisses me off), so my rates didn’t go up, but let’s think about what he was doing, and what time of day it was, and what day it was.IMG_0301

Cars were stopped – dead – at an unregulated intersection ON HALLOWEEN!  Did it ever occur to this young man that it might be because there were children in the crosswalk?  Whenever I think about that accident, I am grateful that he was the only one rolling across the hood of my car, and not a seven-year old in a Princess Leia costume.

So I like to tell myself that I ran interference that day.  The entire length of Sunset Blvd. was stopped, from Fairfax to Vine, and if he’d pulled that stunt at the next intersection, or the one after that, at 4:00 p.m. on Halloween, who knows what damage he could have done?  I also like to tell myself  that that accident changed the way he’ll drive for the rest of his motorcycling days.

So whether I will ever have proof or not, I know in my heart that the bad thing that happened to me wasn’t about me at all.  And thus, I’m glad it happened.  Nobody was seriously hurt, all it cost me was money, and a ripple was created that made the world a better place.

Whatever you are going through, try to remember that just because it’s happening to you, it might not necessarily be about you.  And whoever it is about needs it more than you do.  That’s why we’re all here.

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2 thoughts on “Happiness Replay: “What Happens to You is Not Always About You” (from 02/04/13)

  • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    I must say. Valerie: you’re good at this.

    In addition to the traditional recommendation to let things go – so they won’t continue to create acid in YOUR stomach – you turn them around into something even easier to let go, a lesson in life.

    Things can always be worse. That’s the given in life.

    But they can also be better, and we can MAKE them better by how we choose to deal with what happens.

    I worry sometimes about trying to be positive, and watch to be careful it doesn’t lead me to not speak out when I SHOULD be speaking out. But it reminds me, also, that there is only so much room in my thoughts at a time, and I can choose to live with gloomy ones – or not. And I’m the only one who suffers when I choose the gloomy ones.

    So I choose not to.

    Thanks for the continued good examples.

    • Valerie Alexander Post author

      What a wonderful comment to wake up to. Thank you!

      You will always know the difference between when it’s right to speak up and when it’s best to be sunny against the reality. You just have to trust your gut more. If a little voice in your head says, “Maybe don’t say it,” follow that. You’ll be right every time.