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). 🙂