Does nearly being murdered change your life forever?
If being stabbed in the throat doesn’t change your life forever, what will?
The knife sunk in two millimeters from his carotid artery — which he describes as the difference between being “flown home in the cargo hold instead of in coach.”
Writer and cartoonist Tim Kreider had been stabbed in the throat.
What is life like after it comes so close to ending?
Except for the ten or fifteen minutes during which it looked like I was about to die, which I would prefer not to relive, getting stabbed wasn’t even among the worst experiences of my life. In fact it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. After my unsuccessful murder I wasn’t unhappy for an entire year. Winston Churchill’s aphorism about the exhilaration of being shot at without result is verifiably true.
You’re so grateful to be alive, nothing can get you down.
Being stabbed in the throat turns the volume down on everything negative. “That’s supposed to bother me? I’ve been stabbed in the throat!”
I can’t claim to have been continuously euphoric the whole time; it’s just that, during that grace period, nothing much could bother me or get me down. The horrible thing that I’d always dreaded was going to happen to me had finally happened. I figured I was off the hook for a while… I wish I could recommend the experience of not being killed to everyone. It’s a truism that this is why people enjoy thrill-seeking pastimes, ranging from harmless adrenaline fixes like horror movies and roller coasters to what are essentially suicide attempts with safety nets, like bungee jumping and skydiving. The trick is that to get the full effect you have to be genuinely uncertain that you’re going to survive. The best approximation would be to hire an incompetent, Clouseauesque hit man to assassinate you. It’s one of the maddening perversities of human psychology that we only notice we’re alive when we’re reminded we’re going to die, the same way some of us appreciate our girlfriends only after they’ve become exes.
But, like all feelings, it ends.
You just can’t keep that giddy, thankful attitude forever.
Eventually life gets frustrating again. The volume gets turned back up.
You can’t feel crazily grateful to be alive your whole life any more than you can stay passionately in love forever— or grieve forever, for that matter. Time makes us all betray ourselves and get back to the busywork of living. Before a year had gone by, the same everyday anxieties and frustrations began creeping back. I was disgusted to catch myself yelling in traffic, pounding on my computer, lying awake at night worrying about what was to become of me. I can’t recapture that feeling of euphoric gratitude any more than I can really remember the mortal terror I felt when I was pretty sure I had about four minutes to live.
On the day Tim refers to as his “stabbiversary”, he makes a point to remember how lucky he is and what’s really important.
But that doesn’t make him immune to the maddening annoyances of day-to-day life, the way he was when the wound was still fresh.
Once a year on my stabbiversary, I remind myself that this is still my bonus life, a round on the house. But now that I’m back in the slog of everyday life, I have to struggle to keep things in what I still insist is their true perspective. I know intellectually that all the urgently pressing items on our mental lists— our careers, car repairs, the daily headlines, the goddamned taxes— are just so much noise, that what matters is spending time with the people you love. It’s just hard to bear in mind when the hard drive crashes or the shower drain clogs first thing in the day. Apparently I can only ever attain that God’s-eye view in the grip of the talons.
Even a moment that nearly ends your life does not permanently alter it.
You’d like to think that nearly getting killed would be a permanently life-altering experience, but in truth it was less painful, and occasioned less serious reflection, than certain breakups I’ve gone through. I’ve demonstrated an impressive resilience in the face of valuable life lessons, and the main thing I seem to have learned from this one is that I am capable of learning nothing from almost any experience, no matter how profound.
But it woke him up.
It’s easy now to dismiss that year as nothing more than the same sort of shaky, hysterical high you’d feel after getting clipped by a taxi. But you could also try to think of it as a glimpse of reality, being jolted out of a lifelong stupor.
So what happens when you’re almost murdered?
It doesn’t completely change your life forever. Nothing does.
No one minute, no matter how strong, can outweigh the combined effect of the other million minutes.
But it can give you perspective.
It’s what you do with that perspective after the minute is over that counts.
Join over 185,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.