I recently attended a local StorySLAM event, hosted by The Moth. The theme was IMPOSSIBLE. Your story had to be true and showcase a time where you successfully overcame impossible odds. I immediately knew what I wanted to share.
I placed my name in the hat, but was not chosen. There was an abundance of potential storytellers that evening and there were only 10 slots. Although disappointed, the theme of the event enabled me to organize my thoughts around a scary situation that, up until then, I had stayed fairly silent. A couple of years have passed, and they’ve brought their own unique and unexpected challenges. Looking back on that night of defying the odds, however, I continue to carry relief, gratitude, and empowerment. I now realize that the experience helped me prepare for other unimaginable situations to come. I’m now ready to share this story.
Friday, December 30, 2016. Early Evening.
It was local, organic, grass-fed beef.
It had been simmering in the crockpot all day, along with turnip, carrots, onions, potato and some good red wine.
My husband is a volunteer firefighter. We had just sat down to enjoy our meal, when the fire tones went out again. It was the week between Christmas and New Year’s and, thankfully, most of the calls were false fire alarms at local businesses. He said he didn’t know how long he’d be and to go ahead and eat without him. I kissed him goodbye, wished him safe, and went into the family room.
I’d been watching a “Sex and the City” marathon throughout the day and decided to go back to that until he returned. It was the last season – the one with Mikhail Baryshnikov – so, there was nothing to complain about…
Due to an overly long bank of commercials, I decided to return to the kitchen and grab some dinner.
As I ladled the stew into a small bowl to cool, I promptly got distracted by some printed work emails on the kitchen island. Monday was coming fast and I had a few projects to review. I pierced a piece of the beef with my fork and mindlessly took a bite while reading one of the emails.
The flavor was delicious, but still too hot from being in the crockpot all day. Instead of spitting it out, however, I turned around to the sink, chewing carefully and filled a small glass with cold water. I took a sip and started to swallow. The water shot back out of my mouth. The piece of beef was stuck. I tried to swallow again. It wouldn’t budge. I placed my fingers on the back of my tongue and tried to bring it back up with a gag reflux. No movement.
Red lights bounced off the window above the kitchen sink. This window looks out onto our back yard, which has a fence that runs along a main road in our town. I watched as the lights of the fire truck approached and then whizzed by, driven by my husband. At that moment, I realized that I was in serious trouble. My husband would not be back anytime soon and I needed help fast.
I whipped around and looked across the kitchen to where our landline phone sits, thinking, “I need to call 911!”
But the landline was gone. We had gotten rid of it over a month ago. My mind began to race.
Where is my cell phone? Upstairs charging.
Can I make it up the stairs? You have to go up a flight and your oxygen is running out. You could fall down the stairs and pass out. You can’t pass out. Don’t you dare pass out!
What if I made it up the stairs? Your phone is in the back of the bedroom. If you get to it, you’ll need to unlock it with your security code and then dial 911 – and you can’t talk.
But what if I got through to 911? Maybe I could bang on something to answer them? I know they’re trained for that, to receive calls from people who can’t talk. That wouldn’t help. Your location services button is turned off. You did that after you read that article about the CIA and the Illuminati, remember?
They could look up the owner of the cell number, though, and find out where I live! Yes, but that account is under your husband’s name. If they tracked the owner of the account and checked location services for his phone, they’d find it in his locker at the fire station a mile down the road.
How about running to the cul-de-sac neighbors on either side of you? They are traveling for the holiday.
This is how you’re going out? Really? Choking on a piece of beef stew? You’ve got to be kidding me. And you were so worried about not putting enough money into your 401K? Talk about perspective. Wait, this can’t be happening. This is NOT how I’m leaving this world.
It was at this point that my Spidey senses kicked in.
I know now that it was actually the norepinephrine flooding my brain, but for a momentary period, I truly felt like a superhero.
I could see all around me, like a panoramic camera. My vision sharpened and took in tiny details of the kitchen island and hallway in front of me, curved around into the flickering white Christmas lights in the family room to my right and simultaneously took in all the items piled on the kitchen table to the left of me.
I could smell the beef stew even better than before. Ironically, the aroma was even more amazing.
I could hear Mikhail Baryshnikov talking to Sarah Jessica Parker. His character was worried about his museum show. It was so weird that I could hear them so clearly from my current location…
And then I heard a loud voice.
It was MY voice.
But, it wasn’t coming out of my head. It was coming out of my solar plexus area, right above my navel.
I literally looked down and listened to it say something calmly, yet firmly. It was:
Out from under the folds of memory emerged the knowledge from a long ago health class. I automatically placed my right hand into a fist, covered it with the left and pushed in and up. After a couple of spirited attempts, I quickly realized that I needed more force.
A black fringe slowly began to encroach my peripheral vision and narrow my focus…
I began to witness my body jumping itself up in the air and coming down over one of our round-backed black leather bar chairs. Coincidentally, the curved back happened to fit the underside of my ribcage perfectly. My shorter stature was an added benefit, as the gravitational force of jumping up and coming back down increased the impact on my solar plexus area. This was repeated multiple times until I blacked out.
The next thing I knew, I was on the ground. Sweet, delicious oxygen was filling my lungs. I gulped in deep breaths and became conscious that I was no longer in danger. I was safe, but confused. As I got my bearings, I lifted my gaze just in time to see the piece of beef sliding slowly down the kitchen wall across from me.
I had saved my own life.
As I moved through the next few days, I drank protein shakes for meals, embraced gratitude, reflected upon life’s fragility, actively chose to live each day more fully, began to reduce the scattering of my energies, pursued my desire to become certified as a health and wellness coach and brought more daily creativity back into my life. When I finally returned to eating solid food, I engaged in chewing more thoroughly and practiced eating more mindfully. I also began charging my cell phone on the same floor that I’m on and, yes, I turned location services back on. Big Brother continues to watch me through my TV, anyway.
I hope you never have a choking experience. Perhaps reading about mine will reduce the chances of you, or someone you love, being in an impossible situation. In the meantime, you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the many online articles, first aid infographics, and videos about this topic. Do it now – you’re worth it.
It’s okay that I didn’t get picked to tell my story a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed listening to others’ compelling, impossible moments of triumph. It just became clear that I needed to share this one, regardless. Launching this blog has been a long time coming. It is a purposeful step in aligning my energies of expression in a more meaningful way.
Stay tuned… there’s plenty more to come!
Geri Ann Higgins, owner of Fully Present, is a breast cancer survivor, Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, Certified Yoga4Cancer Teacher, Reiki Master, Tarot coach and Marketing & Communications professional. Learn more at www.FullyPresentWithYou.com.