Let me be frank: I rear-ended somebody on the freeway yesterday. The morning traffic ahead of me came to an abrupt stop and I didn’t brake in time, so I swerved to avoid a full-on collision. Nobody was hurt. I put a big dent in the bumper of the Civic in front of me, but the front corner of my own Civic looks like someone stuffed it into a Vitamix.
I had just left Los Angeles, on my way back east with most of my belongings obsessively organized in bags and boxes in the backseat and trunk. Roadtrip: Canceled.
The woman in the car in front of me was very collected. Myself? Total mess. Sobbing, basically. In shock, feeling like I’d just fucked up big time, like the Universe had just bent me over its knee and given me a firm spanking.
In reality, it was just an accident, and it could have been much worse. I only have a $500 deductible, my insurance rate might increase, and I have to wait two to three weeks for my car to be restored to factory condition. The lady I hit gave me a hug and wished me a good trip, and the police officer was kind and making jokes.
Life loves an obstacle. There you are, cruising along in the morning sun, when something between the forces within you and outside of you collide and make thunder and play crack the sky.
Several people have suggested that “there’s a bigger reason.” I’m all for divine providence and grace, but couldn’t She just write the message down on some nice stationery and send it via post?
Maybe you’ve been through this before. If it wasn’t a car accident, it was saying something you regret. Maybe you were being too clingy and the person you were seeing starts slowly cutting down on the time you spend together until it all but ends. Maybe you failed to meet a certain goal, personal or professional. Maybe you stepped in dog poo while wearing your new shoes.
Whatever it was that made you shake your fist at the heavens, you’re not alone. Here’s what I suggest when we are — and will eventually be — going through what we’ve perceived as a cosmic slight on our behalves:
1. STAY FOCUSED
Yeah, this is the hardest part. Our tendency is to get down on ourselves, mope, play the victim, and let everything else happening in our lives to come to a standstill while we spend too much time focusing on what happened. Take a minute to cry, to talk to your loved ones for support, even to stomp and pout. But no more than a minute.
When I got into the accident, I screamed twenty-seven obscenities in three different languages. Then I took a breath and ran to make sure the driver in front of me was ok. Then I went back to my car and cried. Then I called my friend, AAA, my insurance company, and my roommates.
When I got finally got back to my place in LA, I took a nap. Then I took a walk. Then I took myself to an amazing solo dinner at Pura Vita (vegan Italian cuisine – blog coming soon). I almost died at 8AM but by 6PM I was making the conscious decision to keep moving forward, away from the energy and drama of the morning.
Here I am the day after, writing about my experience. I’ll do an hour of yoga after this and practice my harmonium after that. I have a lot happening in my life beyond the incident that I can’t afford to let fall by the wayside. No domino effect. Staying focused means compartmentalizing your responsibilities and leaving your baggage at the door.
2. BE GENTLE
If you’re like me, you’ve got a few voices in your mind with a few opinions about how, what, and who you are. We all do the work to quiet them down, but when we’ve gone through something that throws us temporarily off the path we thought we were supposed to be on, those voices tend to get a little louder and we, in our compromised state of mind, are way too open to their feedback.
I’m the first one to admit that I was at fault. I fucked up and I’m going to pay for it. But that’s it. I’ve taken responsibility for my actions and their consequences, but I’m not going to succumb to negative self-talk. I’m not going to punish myself. I might have to postpone my trip to Paris, but I don’t have to flagellate myself for my mistakes, or take this incident and use it to magnify the other areas in my life where I may perceive myself to be lacking. Own the mistakes or lacks, embrace them, learn from them, and be gentle with your body and mind as you recover and reorganize.
3. BE ACTIVE
Seriously that line from Legally Blonde is the best: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.”
Take a walk. Hit the gym. Get to yoga – especially if you’ll be in Provincetown this summer where I’ll be teaching ;).
As your brain and body readjust to a new situation, they’ll be relying on chemical indicators of mood in your bloodstream and nervous system. Don’t overdo it with the wine, weed, or what-have-you. Your system needs fresh air, sunlight, movement, and to sweat out all the toxins it released in your moment of regret/fear/anger/etc.
And you’re better off mulling over your situation in a fitness class than in your bed with the curtains drawn. Choose an environment that supports your recovery.
4. CONNECT TO OTHERS
It’s very helpful to glean insight and support from the people in your life, just don’t burden them with your burdens. Don’t play the role of the victim. Don’t be a drama queen. Let your friends and family know what you’re going through and accept what they are able to offer you — without having any expectations. You never know what someone else might also be going through, so while you speak, also listen.
We are all each others’ mirror walking each other home on the same boat — or whatever metaphor you care to use. Be just as caring and careful with others as you are with yourself. That’s the Golden Rule.
So there it is. Life can be sour as a lemon, but you can add sugar and sparkle to it for your own delicious limonata.