Daily Prompt: Renewal

When I think about the word “renewal”, I picture a flaming-red phoenix rising from its own ashes, wings lifting upward, the ruby plumage glistening while the golden gleam of rebirth courses all over its body. Its old body is destroyed, forgotten, abandoned, and so are the things that body suffered through – the days of hunger, of injury, of loneliness – all of that is left lying in a pile of ashes while the phoenix begins another life in its new, strong, youthful body.

I think this journey that the phoenix takes is one we should all take in our lives. We should remember that every day we make choices about what kind of person we want to be and show this in our actions. What are your actions saying about you? Think about what you did today. Have you said any kind words? Have you done something good for someone? Have you been pleasant and polite? Have you done something that you can be proud of today? The goal in this thought experiment is not to make you feel bad for the things you didn’t do, but to help you be more mindful of the things you can do, the small good actions you can make every day. The goal is never to be perfect because that is not realistic – we all have bad days and go through hard times which can cause us to act in negative ways towards ourselves and those around us. The goal is to make a concentrated effort to create a bit of goodness in the world as often as possible. To make sure to thank those who provide services for you, to congratulate friends on their successes, to remember to tell someone you love how much you appreciate them and the things they do for you, to make an effort to gossip less and complain less, to help those in need, and so on.

Every day, we can choose to leave the things we don’t like about ourselves, the negative things, in the ashes, and let the good rise up and fill our bodies and minds and spread to others through our actions. Every day is a fresh start, a renewal.

via Daily Prompt: Renewal

 

 

Winter Solstice

The day of the Winter Solstice started out wonderfully: I was in a happy mood, had a lovely walk outside and savored the beauty of the snowflakes dancing around me, and I was feeling optimistic, productive, and ready to do some work. But then as I was rushing to the library, I got into a car accident.

I didn’t hit anybody or any parked car. I hit a pile of snow and ice.

Basically, as I was driving through my subdivision where the roads were completely covered by snow and ice, I was driving a bit faster than usual because I was in a hurry. As I rounded a turn, my car didn’t completely turn and started heading towards the curb. I hit the brakes hard, but this did nothing, and my car smashed straight into a pile of snow and ice that was heaped up on the curb. I immediately tried to reverse, but to no use – I was stuck.

My stomach dropped and my heart started frantically beating. A rain of expletives poured out of my mouth. As I surveyed the damage to the front of my car and saw the broken plastic fragments on the ground tears began to seep out of my eyes. The bottom of my bumper had broken off.

A couple cars passed by while I desperately tried to dig out my car with my bare hands (I had no shovel or gloves with me) to at least get it unstuck, but thankfully one car stopped and a man asked me if I wanted any help. I am so, so grateful that he did. He pushed the car while I tried to reverse it and got me unstuck. He was understanding when I started crying, and kindly calmed me down telling me it was going to be okay. And when he noticed that a part of my broken bumper was still attached to the car, so if I were to drive it would be crushed under the wheels of my car, this man actually drove back to his house, got some zip ties, came back, and reattached the piece for me. I am incredibly thankful for his kindness and his help, it made the horrible experience so much better for me.

Once I got home, I still felt really awful about it though, and felt so stupid for being so careless in my driving. I felt especially terrible knowing that money was going to have to be spent to fix my car. Although my car accident wasn’t nearly as serious as many others are (or as the one I had when I first started driving), to me it was yet another proof of my failings. My feelings about the damage done to the car were less about the car, and more about myself as a person. My earlier joyful spirit had completely caved in on itself, and I felt myself starting to sink into a spiral of negative thoughts.

So I took a shower. It might sound silly, but whenever I take a shower during a stressful time I find that my mind ends up being cleansed as well. And instead of just obsessively thinking useless negative thoughts about myself I start thinking “okay, once I get out of the shower I need to take some action, what action am I going to take?”

And then and there I decided that if I’m going to beat myself up and punish myself, I might as well be productive about it. When I had been driving earlier, I had been on my way to the library to work on a job application, because I find it extremely difficult to focus at home (I’m typing this at the library right now actually 🙂 ). When I try to be productive at home I start getting anxious and end up procrastinating a bunch and not being productive at all. I had also been dreading working on this application because it was very difficult and frustrating to write. Thus, working on it would be the perfect punishment.

I decided that I was going to force myself to work on the application for an hour at least, without any distractions and procrastination. And I did it. It was actually pretty painful to stick to my task in the first half hour because when I feel anxious procrastinating helps relieve that panicked, everything-is-falling-apart-oh-my-god-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life feeling, and I wasn’t allowed to procrastinate.

But I forced myself to push through it. And to my surprise it actually became easier as time went on. Also, I actually was able to accomplish a great deal in that one hour of total concentration. That feeling of accomplishment and a more relaxed mindset also inspired me to keep working on my task once the hour was up. I felt better about myself, my situation, and I once again truly believed that everything was going to be okay.

What I learned from this is, if you are in a situation where you are beating yourself up about something and are just stuck in a spiral of thinking terrible things about yourself, use that energy instead to “punish” yourself productively. Make yourself work on something you’ve been dreading and putting off – whatever it is – but that you know will ultimately benefit you. I’m not saying you will magically feel perfectly happy again, but it cannot be denied that it feels good to be productive, and even better to accomplish a task which you truly believed you couldn’t do.

Regardless of what you did that day, I hope you all had a wonderful Winter Solstice, and that you take at least some happiness in knowing that the days are starting to get longer again. 🙂 Also, the picture at the top is a snow onion/The Hogwarts Sorting Hat I made that day (the snow wasn’t sticky enough to make a snow man). 🙂

Sinking into warmth

When I was in high school, I spent many cold mornings sitting at the kitchen table trying to stomach my food while still being half-asleep. My arms would be covered in goosebumps and I would long to return to my cozy, warm bed. At times like these, my morning tea was an indispensable comfort.

I would clasp my hands around the warm mug and imagine the heat spreading throughout the rest of my body, protecting me from the cold. I would stare into the golden depths, bringing my nose close so that the steam caressed my face, wishing I could just fall in. I imagined it would have been similar to an aromatic, warm bath.

Now I’m no longer in school, but now and then when I have my tea (especially during stressful times) I find myself staring at the center of my mug, once again longing to submerge myself into its depths. Nowadays, the color is dark red, because I drink black tea more often than green tea, and the aroma is different – more earthy – but the feelings of peace and detachment from reality are the same. My childhood habit of focusing on the thing in front of me until I lose myself in it is very much still alive and one of the ways I de-stress.

It’s also one of the ways I add beauty to my life. I absolutely love the captivating crimson color of my black tea just as I love sinking my gaze into the viridescent trees and other leafy, green plants that fill up the woods behind my house in the summer. And now that it is winter I find my mind joining the snowflakes in their waltz (and sometimes salsa) through the air. Taking a step away from the cluttered recesses of my mind and into the moment allows me to immerse myself in warmth and beauty. 🙂

Drawing my thoughts out

Every now and then, whenever I’m frustrated, or angry, or anxious, or just have an excess of energy, I will reach for a piece of paper and a pencil and just draw all my thoughts and feelings onto the page. When I’m angry I will usually scribble, pressing the point of my pencil as hard as I can, relishing at the darkness of lead on the page. When I am frustrated or anxious I just let my pencil do the thinking and blindly follow it, not caring about how ugly the resulting art is, just satisfied to be able to find release for the sputtering emotions inside of me. And when I just have an excess of energy I will usually focus on creation, making my abstract designs have purpose and beauty on the page.

There is just something so calming about the sound of a pencil point brushing against paper, something so magical in watching your brain work, seeing the results of the signals that it send to your hands. And there is something so wonderful in knowing no matter how ugly your resultant drawing is, it is yours, and only yours – it is something that never existed in this world until you made it. It is just such a pleasure, after spending most of your life consuming things (food, resources, TV, etc.) to be able to create something yourself. To be able to say: “This is mine. It may be ugly, flawed, and not liked by others, but it is mine.”

Drawing lets you escape your mind, but also see what is in your mind. It lets you see how your brain can express itself – especially when you are not drawing with a specific image in your head. When you just sit down and start drawing lines and shapes on the paper, you begin to see all the different ways those lines can twist and turn and collide, the various figures and designs they can create. Drawing allows you to see your own creativity in action and find release at the same time.

 

Cheeto Genie

I reached into a bag of Cheetos,
and pulled my hand back in surprise,
for there amidst the crunchy snack,
lay a small-handed man with scheming eyes.

“If you take me out of here,” he shouted,
“I promise to grant you a wish, no three!”
“I shall give you whatever you want,
for I am the great Cheeto genie!”

“I can get rid of those you do not like,
I can make you rich and free,
I can make you Great Again,
Only first you must free me!”

I eyed the orange man with smallish hands,
and looked into his scheming eyes,
and threw away the Cheeto bag,
for I’ve learned how to detect lies.