I’m now at my parent’s house, a 150-year-old blacksmithy that sits at one end of a peaceful valley on the Welsh Border. No signal for my mobile phone, no broadband internet. I like it.
On Thursday morning I found myself faced with an impossibly long list of tasks to get through before evening. Looking at it, I felt worried. How would I get it all done?
As I ate my muesli, I considered how I might rid myself of this anxiety – it wasn’t very helpful, and had me feeling that I had to rush rush rush – not a good thing.
It was then that I remembered something. That something being, “I am going to get to the end of this day anyway, whether I have a lot of things to do or not. By taking one step at a time, I shall be moving towards tonight, and tonight I will have got through the day, and everything will be alright, the day will be over and I will have no cause for anxiety”
I found that tremendously helpful. Recalling the fact that the day was going to happen anyway regardless of whether or not I was busy took away from the me the responsibility of making the day happen. Without that responsibility, I was free to do the things I chose to do.
It turned out to be a mightily constructive day.
Yesterday saw me experiencing stress levels I’d forgotten actually existed.
There was a 5pm deadline for the Business Competition, and at 4.53pm I found myself scrabbling to complete our entry. I felt absolutely desperate, brain not really functioning under the extreme pressure. The situation wasn’t eased by the doorbell that was constantly ringing – my flat mate had locked himself out, but with just 7 minutes to go I couldn’t afford the minute it would take to go downstairs and let him in.
It was exactly 5pm when I clicked on ‘Send’. I’d just managed to do it (albeit with totally incorrect finances).
I could then breathe, although it took me over an hour to recover. My shoulders were incredibly tense, I was shocked – I’ve not felt that degree of stress for months, and was astonished by it’s force. Breathe, Joseph, Breathe.
It was later last night when I really went into shock though.
Skirting the south of Birmingham on the M42, we were faced with a sudden queue of vehicles on all three lanes of the motorway. We stopped, and then crawled forward about 50 metres to the scene of what was the most serious road traffic accident I’ve ever seen in real life. It had only just happened, and the emergency services yet to arrive on the scene.
There were several cars involved. A couple of them were only slightly damaged, and had come to a standstill across the two inside lanes. Another was right up the embankment, windscreen smashed in, bonnet scrunched up. The final one was on its side, sticking right out into the right-hand-lane; we had to drive around that one.
I was pretty shocked by this; seeing a group of people standing around someone lying on the tarmac. A couple of people sitting in a daze on the embankment. Tears immediately came to my eyes as I gasped for breath. I considered stopping to help, but there were a few other cars parked on the hard shoulder just after the accident scene; I decided that there were enough people there already.
A couple of miles later I felt better, just upset for those involved.
Ten minutes after that the motorway was once again lit up by slow-moving headlights, with the addition this time of a flood of flashing blue lights. The accident had occurred on the opposite side of the motorway, and had closed all three lanes. Traffic on our side slowed to a crawl as we passed the scene. It was pretty horrendous. Multiple cars had been beaten out of shape – one of them had no roof, cut off by the fire brigade. And then there were the casualties, bring strapped into stretchers, surrounded by police and ambulance staff.
We journeyed on.
It was only when we arrived home that I realised just what an impact the accidents had had upon me. I started to feel very upset; my body started shaking un-controllably.
It took me 5 hours to calm down. I watched a film – Brokeback Mountain which I’ve not seen before. That didn’t really help much – all that tension left me feeling even more wound up! At 2am I decided to listen to a relaxing audiobook and edit my Japan soc Christmas party photos – and with that, I was able to process what I’d experienced, and let go.
The thing that really struck me about the whole incident was the extent to which my body had subconsciously suppressed the state of shock, enabled me to function normally for a further 90 minutes until that time that it was free to let go. Given the signal that it was now safe to relax, it took just a couple of minutes for the impact of the two accidents to hit.
What amazing bodies we have!
Today, I’m going to visit a few friends around Herefordshire, before heading off to London tomorrow to see Tom, Miyu and baby Jay, who is here in the UK for the first time ever following his birth in August! Tanoshimi~!