Now there's a loaded Talk Thursday topic if ever I heard one. What am I willing to cop to, that for the grace of somebody /something, I'm not doing/saying/being? I mean, but for the grace of an X-chromosome, I'd be male, but how exciting is that? Not very. A similar genetic coin toss gets made every two seconds and the results are all around us. No, for real blog fodder, you need the good stuff. But for the grace of Gandhi, for example, I'd be British. (Which, not being born in India, I can't lay claim to.) But for the grace of the policeman who came along at just the right moment, I'd have gotten into the big black car with the friendly stranger and who knows what would have happened. (Relax, this never actually happened to me. It's an archetypal story, and I'm just using it as an example.) But for the grace of God, I'd have fallen off the roof and become a paraplegic. Something like that. Some disaster narrowly averted, some horrible fate missed by inches.
The thing is, I don't have that many disasters narrowly averted in my life. Most of them actually happened. I mean, I guess they could have been worse, but bigger disasters narrowly averted doesn't really make up for smaller disasters that actually happened, in my humble opinion. And smaller disasters do not blog fodder make. But for the grace of my dad's amazing pilot skills, we'd have all fallen out of his airplane when the door popped open at 5,000 feet. (No, not really; we were all wearing seat belts, and there's not much suction at that altitude. Kinda rattling for a few minutes there, though.) But for the grace of my ear, nose and throat surgeon, I'd be getting a lot more sinus infections. (Not only isn't that impressive, it's kinda gross.) But for the grace of an old lawyer friend who talked me out of it, I'd have gone to law school. (Doubt it. I was pretty much dead set against going to law school. Old lawyer friend just gave me a much more persuasive argument.) Bor-ring. Pretty soon my legion of screaming fans - both of them - will be skipping past this entry to read the latest Dear Abby column over at the Chicago Tribune site.
So that leaves me with only one option. The scary option. There but for the grace of God, I didn't turn out like this lady.
This is without a doubt the scariest book I ever read. It's so scary I told Joan not to read it because it would give her nightmares. I've read it about five times and it gets scarier every darn time. Forget Stephen King, forget George Romero, forget Ben Kingsley (yes, I'm afraid of Ben Kingsley; go see Death and the Maiden and then come back here and tell me with a straight face that you're not afraid of Ben Kingsley). It ends happily, by the way, but like lots of things that end happily, you have to slog through a lot of mud to get there.
Yes, of course it could have been worse. I could have been born to strict Fundamentalist parents of the type who disown their kids for not marrying someone of the opposite sex. I could have joined the Air Force in college and found out only then how utterly unfit I was for military service. I could have stayed in music school, stubbornly retaken class piano and flunked it a few more times before getting tossed out on my ear. I could have not been wearing my seat belt when the door popped open at 5,000 feet. But frankly, what Ms. Hornbacher and I have in common is plenty bad enough, thank you. And a novel-length illustration of how bad it can get if you don't take care of it is enough to scare me straight. So to speak.
I know I've been lucky as hell that my life hasn't turned out the way Ms. Hornbacher's did. Well, half of it was luck. The other half is doing what the nice medical profession tells me to do. If I keep doing that, will everything will continue to flow along smoothly in the life of Jen? It's more likely than not, but there are no guarantees. Sometimes you can do all the right things and everything can still go wrong. Just ask Ben Kingsley. He starred in BloodRayne.