Friday, January 10, 2014


I am an irrational being. Of course I am: I am a human, an organic life form with a form produced through the messy iterations of evolution and a mind constantly struggling to interface with the outside world. However, I am a human, a species of animal that has made immense advances in knowledge, a species capable, evidently, of reason.

So when I do something completely irrational, I pay attention.


Yesterday I broke down. Crying, stress eating, punching pillows and then hugging them. Even as I gave over to my infantile urges, one part of my mind held apart, protesting, But you don't do this!

I was clearly overreacting: I was upset because, a causa di--pick one, me not checking rules thoroughly enough, my driving instructor forgetting to send me the certificate saying that I'd completed my six hours of training, the DMV having rigid bureaucratic procedures, or the DMV website not letting me reschedule--I was unable to take my driving test as had been scheduled, and the next available appointment is only three weeks before my permit runs out. Frustrating, yes, but not really breakdown-worthy.

And yet there I was, getting tears on my cat.


This is the first actual breakdown I've had in...years. I have only this one experience, and memory of middle school misery, to back me up. So take the procedure outlined below with a mole of grains of salt.

How to Deal with Breakdowns

1. Let it out. Repressing emotions is unhealthy. Besides which, having a good cry every once in a while is cathartic. I know there's a limit to how much you should indulge yourself, but I will say that after eating my way through half of a bag of Fritos and a packet of instant noodles, I felt a whole lot better.

2. Deal with the situation. Or try. The DMV website as of Thursday night still wasn't letting me make appointments.

3. Ask: "What's the worst that could happen?" For me: you fail your newly scheduled driving test, your permit runs out, you sulk for a long time and feel like a failure, you wish you could punch the DMV in the face with a chair, you hate yourself for not planning ahead better, you wait until you're 18 and then go through the permit process again (so you don't have to retake driver's ed), you schedule a drive test and take it and pass. Hopefully. It's an outlay of $33 more (application fee) and an undetermined amount of miserable waiting time, but it wouldn't be the end of the world.

4. Listen to angry music. Hopefully after the first three steps you feel calmer, but you may still need catharsis. I save "Had Enough" by Breaking Benjamin for when I'm furious.

5. Get your work done. Working on a draft for my senior inquiry project proposal distracted me for a good two hours. (Incidentally, I'm really excited about the topic: the mind. I don't care if it's cliche--I believe in myself and my ability to make something good out of it anyway.) Besides which, as I tell myself when tempted to procrastinate on something, Later, are you going to wish you'd done this earlier? Not doing what you need to do would compound the misery. (NB: I use this method consistently for school, but I actually really dropped the ball on the driving stuff.)

6. Examine what made you upset. Find both proximate and ultimate causes. Proximate cause: my permit might run out. I was supposed to get the drive test done today. I was stressing about the actual content. Instead, I got myself DQed because of a paperwork issue, a totally avoidable and stupid mistake. As I alluded to above, I dropped the ball.

What upset me was the possibility of wasting time/money and losing face. What upset me beyond that was that I've suffered setbacks because I was not responsible. In other words--it's not that something bad happened to me, it's that something bad happened to me and it was my fault and I could have done something to avoid it. Ultimate cause: I failed myself.

Noted. Now try not to do that.

7. Do no harm. This is a reactionary post. However, I'm writing it several hours after the breakdown, and I'm doing my best not to make it a rant. Reading over it, it still sounds almost too personal, and I'm tempted to edit things out ("you wish you could punch the DMV in the face with a chair"). But that would be dishonest.

The above paragraph was a caveat--to return to the idea "do no harm," I mean that I'm not going to post on Facebook or speak publicly about my frustrations. I've already done harm to my self-respect by breaking down in the first place, but making a big deal about it in a way that does not lead to personal growth would harm my self-respect even more.

I did send a rather hysterical text to my best friend right after I got home, but if I say anything about it to people in person I will do my best to stay calm. In exercise, the recovery time is what's most important; if I've broken down already, I can still pick myself up and do better from now on.


Calma e Sangue Freddo - Luca Dirisio


I was going to write about my current WIP today, as part of my efforts to incorporate Austin Kleon's Show Your Work mentality into this blog more. That post will have to wait for next week.

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