If you could fast forward to a specific date in the future, when would it be?
Having effectively experienced a two-year fast forward in my life, I promise you, there is no date in the future I ever want to rush to.
I believe that the future is constructed by the steps we take in that direction, and when some day you have been looking forward to arrives, the pleasure or joy in it stems from the preparation and the anticipation leading up to it. It you just land there, unprepared and unaware of the circumstances that would surround you when you arrive – will the day really be what you want it to be? Or will it be a disaster? Imagine, for instance, picking a date in the future and finding yourself in the middle of a war, or a natural disaster, or some other horror that couldn’t be predicted today? Depending on what science fiction scenario applies, you will either meet your future self, or will have fallen out of existence between the here and now and your future (which will become your here and now – very confusing).
Let me explain before you think I’ve lost my marbles (although this is a story about when I actually did). I loved horses from a very young age, probably beginning with Arkle who I wrote about earlier this week. I started out like many horse-made youngsters by hanging round a stables doing odd jobs in exchange for riding lessons, and became a reasonably proficient weekend cross-country rider. I was lucky enough to only have three falls over the years, and never broke more than a tooth. My time-warp experience is tied to the last fall, which back in May 1995. Some people may recognise that this is the same month that Christopher Reeve fell from his mount at an event in Culpepper, Virginia.
Anyhow, during that same week, I cycled out to my local stables and to my delight was given the opportunity to take a new, green, mare through her paces in the arena. All went well until she spooked coming up to a 5 foot spread. I got her under control while being exhorted by her trainer to “not let her away with it” – and committed to the jump. Unfortunately the skittish young mare decided she was going to get away with it, which resulted in an emphatic refusal at the last minute – and muggins here went half-way over the obstacle by herself. I landed backwards across the bars then fell backwards and head first onto the ground. I remember that very well, and can feel a little seasick when I visualise the roof and the ground appearing to rotate for what seemed like forever while actually taking a second or two at most.
The next thing I remember is sitting at the side of the arena, trying very hard to tell the trainer what day it was (I eventually figured it was Wednesday) but couldn’t for the life of me tell him where I worked. He looked very concerned, but I still clearly recall thinking that I must have concussion and that minor memory loss was to be expected, temporary, no problem.
To cut a long story short, there was a trip to A & E, my head got examined (brain still existed) and there was no apparent damage. I was really pissed, because this was several hours after the accident, and my boyfriend hadn’t turned up. I was also quite hurt that my dad did not arrive to pick me up – the trainer drove me home. More insult, when I got home, my dog did not come out to greet me. What the heck was wrong with everybody?
I lost no time complaining to mum about the feckless boyfriend, the useless dad and the unfaithful dog. I proceeded into the kitchen to make coffee and found myself switching the tap to high power instead of off when the kettle was full. I pulled doors instead of pushed them. My hapless mother was stumbling to tell me something, but I proceeded with wreaking my backwards havoc on the kitchen, and grumbling about the lack of support from boyfriends, fathers, dogs… until she finally managed to point out that my dad had died two years ago, the loyal old dog followed him less than a week later and I had subsequently broken up with the boyfriend, who had proved himself to be quite feckless.
I don’t know if you can imagine what it was like to suddenly be thrown back into the grief of losing a father and a well-loved pet, almost simultaneously, when you have already gone through all the stages of mourning, but I promise you faithfully, such things should be a one-time experience only. To go through it all a second time, without the buffer of time, is almost unbearable.
Fortunately for me, I walked away from that accident, shaken up, emotionally upset, but physically whole. My colleague’s sister had a similar fall that month, and did not survive it. Christopher Reeve, as we all know, became a quadreplegic for the rest of his life. Whatever last decision they made, and I made, at the crucial moment when the fall became inevitable, led to each individual outcome. Had I been in a different frame of mind, had been more, or less, relaxed enough not to land so badly, maybe I would have been dead, or quadreplegic. Who knows? What if I hadn’t lived out the two years that led up to that moment?
So, if the offer ever comes up to fast forward, I’ll be staying in the here and now, thank you very much. But if you decide to make the trip, I’d love to know how you get along.