The Strange Calm of Car Crash Compilation Videos

I have been watching a lot of very easily bingeable media and one thing I really like are compilation videos: they can be hours long and I don’t have to skip around and they provide consistent noise; something I need while working either at my day job or the myriad of other projects I’m a part of. What I didn’t expect was that I’d find a very strange sort of serenity in watching the world at its most chaotic: during car crashes.

There are countless hours of dashcam footage from cars all over the world. Some of it records aliens, meteors, space launches, ghosts and most importantly: car crashes. Car crashes scare the hell out of me; like most people, realistically. I’ve been in a few accidents but very few actual crashes, to which I know I am quite fortunate but my anxiety around cars has stemmed from a pretty nasty accident I got into when I was just starting to drive. I’ve never felt entirely safe or secure in the car, especially if I’m driving; it’s still one of my least favorite things to do. I much rather be a passenger and let someone else do the driving. I never found it freeing, relaxing or anything; it’s always been a chore to take up with a sacred solidarity because as someone operating a car, you are in fact in control of a two-ton death cage careening at high speed. When I was in driver’s education, the deadly aspect of driving was really hammered home and that’s a fear I’ve taken with me some 15 years later. And to be perfectly honest, dash cam culture is a fascinating look into people who trust no one (valid) and record everything; sparking some interesting conversations about surveillance culture, consent to be filmed and just what is one to do with literal hours of footage.

But in my hunt for content that I rarely need to engage with as a means to minimize distractions in a world full of them, I’ve found dashcam footage from car crashes, brake checks, road ragers and more and; well, let’s talk about it. 

Car crashes are horrifying but much like train crashes; it’s hard to look away. A mangle of metal, a tangle of tires, a barrage of bumpers. It’s all a horrid and profane symphony and honestly, some of them are just beautiful. The force required to turn a car into a crushed soda can is immense but also can be so random. I’ve watched hours of crash content and the things that have caused accidents are vast and capricious: just like the things that can endanger real human life as well. 

I noticed something odd, though, when I would watch these crashes often during hours-long segments as some means of horrible crunching white noise: I would relax. My body would ease, sag into the sofa, I would become at ease and let out a held breath. I could finally be rid of the tension held in my shoulders and just let a small wave of endorphins and calm crash over me. I could finally relax and it immediately caused a dissonant type of concern for my brain chemistry and my sanity once I came back to my senses. When I realized that such a thought process was not only not normal but also a little worrying, I started to examine just what about literal disasters was so damn soothing to my anxious brain. And that was the key; there it was: my anxious brain. 

Anxiety is a perversion of the brain’s typical defense system and desire to shield our flesh prisons from danger. The world is a scary place and if you think of our ancient ancestors, the upright apes, they were surrounded by threats to their lives from literal giant eagles to sabertooth cats and direwolves. Being anxious and weary of the world around them was a vital aspect to survival; it was the unwise that ran ahead into the option field that got yoinked out of existence by a giant bird. Anxiety is a fear of the unknown in every facet of the word and a sense of dread about a threat that one cannot see or feel yet. It’s being on edge about the car that could hit you or the person that could kidnap you. It’s the call that might be about the death of yet another family member or the fear that one mistake at work will end your entire career and leave you homeless and destitute. That’s what it’s like living with anxiety; it’s all build up with no climax, it’s constantly living on a razor’s edge waiting to finally fall and never actually falling. 

I’ve been honest about my struggle with depression and generalized anxiety and I realize now, I’ve had this condition for most of my life. There’s something about facing loss and grief so early in your years and experiencing trauma that leaves the mind on edge and hypervigilant. My mind is always assuming that if only and if I had just would be enough and could have in fact changed the directory of my existence despite the futility of such thinking.  

That’s why car crash videos felt so good to my brain that is already constantly braced for impact and prepared for the collision of metal and flesh. My brain finally registers that the crash has happened and I can finally let go of my breath and relax. Once I’m free from the fear of the crash coming I can then move on and process the rest of the trauma. In this instance, with just videos, I can come back down and recognize the damage done and gawk or gasp accordingly. 

I did talk to my therapist about this and he mentioned wanting to see the dopamine release that clearly I’m getting from this via MRI and I agree with him. I’d also love to see the obvious chemical reaction I’m getting from watching literal car crashes. I’m sure it’s likely a little scary to admit but so is living with general anxiety. 

On Seeing Miyavi Live for the First Time

I have a slightly hoarse voice, I’m pretty sure I still have on the remnants last night’s makeup, my feet hurt and I have never been more thrilled by the sight or prospect of water in my entire life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What lead up to me deciding to wear highlight, two colors of eyeshadow, a shirt with a cute demon in 106 degree weather?

Last night I went to a concert; so, let’s talk about it. 


Miyavi is a Japanese rockstar who I have had the pleasure of following since I was a wee young demon angsting around my high school with an iPod full of music in different languages. Now, I don’t go to many concerts and this concert was truly something special and in a special circumstance: I was going alone.

Long time readers will know that I suffer from social anxiety and the mere thought of going to a place alone was daunting. There are plenty of things I do alone but this was akin to going to the movies alone, a barrier I have yet to fully cross. The thought was made even more daunting by the recent mass shootings that have happened around the country: one happening in my home state. Social anxiety is a funny thing that hyper-inflates usually paranoid ideas about tragedy happening at events but when those primal crazy lizard thoughts seem less crazy, that’s truly a scary thing and quite the hurdle to jump over.

But Miyavi was coming to San Antonio and the tickets weren’t expensive. I waffled for a day or two about going before taking the leap and purchasing exactly one ticket. I spent the week trying to find a “logical” reason to back out of the show. The show was on Sunday, I had work in the morning, what if it’s too hot, and other reasons that had varying levels of validity. I spent Sunday mostly unenthusiastic about the concert and did my best to muster enthusiasm as I put on my makeup and scheduled my Uber ride to the venue. None of that is Miyavi’s fault, it’s just my dumb, mean brain’s fault. The Uber ride to the venue was short, my driver was nice and when I arrived about twenty minutes before the doors opened and the line wasn’t too long which was a relief. It was still unbearably hot even though it was past 6 PM. I chatted with a few folks in line, got many compliments on my makeup and one that stuck with me: the woman who patted me down and checked my idea said I was “so sweet and so pretty” and that warmed my cold dead heart for some reason. 

I entered the venue and had about an hour to kill before curtain. I ordered one cocktail (a Sprite and Deep Eddy’s Cranberry vodka) before promptly discarding it because it tasted like miserable old-timey medicine for questionably sick children and I figured vodka would only continue to dehydrate me. 

Being alone was nearly maddening as I waited for curtain to rise. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, I worried about draining my phone battery and I was already starting to get sore and cranky. 

I did make a few friends talking to people around me but it was mostly me trying to not linger on any one person’s conversation for too long.

That, of course, all changed when the curtain rose. 


Miyavi is an electrifying performer. He is hot, he is talented, he is brilliant. He is a charismatic showman and from the opening number I was just hooked. Without speaking hyperbolically, Miyavi may be the best guitarists I have ever seen perform live. I was so happy to be close to the stage in such an intimate venue. I could ignore the heat and the pain in my feet; I was too busy dancing. Miyavi is just pure hot electric sex on stage; an attractive and stunning man who is talented beyond belief and compare. Each song blended so seamlessly into the next and just being so close to someone I have followed for years was so moving. There was also a pretty good balance of new songs and old classics and really, whether the song was in Japanese or English, the whole crowd sang along with him.

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SEEING MIYAVI WAS AMAZING! 💖

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Miyavi spent a good amount of the concert just talking with us as an audience. I learned a lot about Miyavi as a human person and not just the idol I follow on Twitter. He’s never had Whataburger despite several visits to Texas, he’s currently Paleo and he loves Buc-ee’s. He also talked a lot about his work as an activist and advocate for those in refugee camps. Hell, he opened the show by talking about the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. I think if any other artist had been so topical, I would have been more cynical about such conversation but from Miyavi it felt more genuine since it’s backed up by actual work towards the greater good. It was a little distracting to me personally because honestly, that misery was the part reason I wanted to go to this concert: I wanted an escape. El Paso is literally too close to home and with my day gig, I am constantly reminded of the fact that there are terrors happening everywhere and all the time. I wanted to just have a good time, wear too much makeup and sweat in a tiny venue. 

The show did wrap up about an hour earlier than I was expecting. In the moment, I was thrilled and happy to be returning home and to the sanctity and cool embrace of air conditioning but in the cold (this is San Antonio, the day is not cold, it is still 100+ degrees) light of day, I do wish the show went on a little longer. Another slight ding on the experience has nothing to do with Miyavi. There was a show happening in the venue next door and oftentimes the two concerts were in competition with each other as far as noise went. It seemed like the other band ramped up in volume just as soon as Miyavi was going for a ballad or slower song: that’s just poor planning on the venue’s part. Miyavi even told the other band to stop playing once and encouraged us as an audience to out yell the rival band. It was sort of distracting but far from a serious neg.

With the concert ending earlier than expected, I hailed another Uber and headed home. I relished in the car’s air conditioning and chatted with another driver, mostly talking about video games and comic books. I came home, took off my makeup, sang Reflection from Mulan as per tradition and ate popcorn on my sofa. I checked in with my friends so they know I made it home safely and went to bed cooler, happier and still electrified by the power music and bonding. 


I learned so much about myself going to this show alone. I would likely not have gone at all if I had to rely on someone else going with me. However, I will say that going alone was a bit of a challenge; those negative voices in my mind were the only thing I could focus on. There wasn’t anyone there to distract me from my aching feet and damn near heatstroke.

Almost all of that negativity was mitigated once the show started. As a performer, Miyavi is one of the best I have ever seen. He is magnetic, charming and so eloquent and just…oh god, the show was so good. Miyavi is amazing at putting his body in a position that just made every photo amazing. He was so athletic and energetic and just watching him command the entire stage was mesmerizing.  

I am still a little sore and still a little tired. I am still a little anxious and still a little starstruck. But that night was such a blast and seeing Miyavi is for sure a memory I’ll keep for the remainder of my days. I took so many photos, talked to so many people, got to see people all share in an experience of seeing someone they love so up close.

It was glorious and grand and I’m so glad I went.

Taking Care of and Treating the Self

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your your spirit it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” -Eleanor Brownn.png

This has been a difficult small eternity, hasn’t it been? And I don’t say that to make light of the serious nonsense that’s been going on in the U.S. and abroad I say that to tell all of you that I am just as stressed out as many of you are.

But with that in mind, I wanted to talk about self-care and how I do my best to manage our current garbage fire of a world.

For those unaware: self-care is a series of actions, rituals and practices that help improve one’s own mental health. It’s become quite the buzzword recently and with the rise of “treat yo self” culture, it’s one of many things appropriated from those with chronic mental illness and conflated with simply being immature, irresponsible, selfish  and reckless. True self-care shouldn’t be damaging, put you in a financial lurch or be entirely disastrous to one’s health or usual routine and it isn’t an excuse to be a jerk and shun personal responsibilities to oneself and to others.

I’m far from a paragon of mental health, longtime readers I’m sure are aware with my struggles with depression, anxiety and more. But I offer these tips as:

  1. An insight into my semi-chaotic mind and world.
  2. Genuine advice for those curious about the world of self-care.

Here are a few of the ways I take care of myself after a long day, week, month or year.


I Get Witchy

Many readers have noticed my predilection towards the supernatural. I can’t help it, I was born Roman Catholic. But I’ve always been vaguely magical. From ghosts to hauntings to ritual, I’ve been drawn to the world of magic and spirituality for years now. I found crystals recently and while I’m far from a basic witch who thinks crystals can cure cancer (they cannot, please see actual doctors) I do take some solace in my crystals. I know it’s psychosomatic, but so is aromatherapy so don’t come @ me. I’ve always enjoyed rituals so lighting some incense, wafting over my crystals and myself and doing a little tarot is a lovely way to unwind: I still walk into Catholic churches and still do at times take in the eucharist but I have never seen Catholicism as a religious entirely separate from paganism. My Catholicism is at home with tarot, incense, crystals.


I Get Beautiful

I have very low self-esteem despite being strangely vain and concerned about my looks. I have pores you could land a plane on. I have acne scars because of self-mutilation behaviors and eczema. I am chubby and short and I am unhappy with my body. But I am still incredibly vain. And in that displeasure with my cursed meat shell, I do what I can to make myself feel pretty. I love masks, I love serums, I love makeup. I love my fit and flare dresses and my dusty pink wardrobe. I do things that help me feel a little bit prettier.


I Enjoy Something Wholesome

Every Saturday morning for the past several months, I wake up early (well, I’m always up early) and I spend an hour in the morning before I get up and leave to start my day watching a magpie and her owner on Periscope. It’s wholesome, relaxing, funny and sweet. The bird is adorable, her owner is attentive and answers all the questions the folks in the livestream have about his beautiful bird and the weather in England and which biscuits are the best (we disagree on Oreos). The world for many of us is a hot garbage fire and social media is hard to do. The 24-hour news cycle is exhausting and it seems like everything is awful everywhere. But for an hour every Saturday, I get to watch things be okay for an hour. I have an entire list of videos and television shows I can watch to avoid feeling anything too much. I try to, during the darker times, to watch things that I know may trigger an emotional episode (something a few friends of mine have lovingly called “dead parent approved” or “not dead parent approved”). Wholesome things include, kittens, sloths, The Mameshiba theme song and the like. Not to say I don’t still watch things that challenge me (see my long post about watching BoJack Horseman despite it hurting me emotionally every single time I watch it) but if I’ve already had a rough week, there’s no point in making things worse needlessly by opting to watch something stressful.


I Do Something (Important)

The world is a hot dumpster fire in many places and that is overwhelming and exhausting, but it’s important to turn disillusion into action. I do what I can when I can. I educate those who wish to listen. I vote on matters that are pressing to me. I continue to express what I feel and educate myself when needed.


I Do Something (Frivolous)

There are plenty of instances where doing something big just isn’t appropriate or needed but that doesn’t mean I like to stay inactive. Especially considering how insidious the negative voices in your head can be, it’s important to seek out others. I sit on calls, I go out to the mall, I go for a walk in the park. I do my best to do something. Many will recall how I use Pokemon Go to sometimes help me get out of my apartment and get some air.


I Indulge (Unfortunately)

A friend remarked that my self-care began with cake and ended with frosting. She wasn’t entirely wrong with that assessment. Remember that remark I made earlier about self-care not being something that should totally derail you? Well, I occasionally lie. I bake, I love sweets and sometimes I buy dumb things on Amazon. It isn’t self-care but it does sometimes happen and sometimes I do feel better after making a meal of two cakes.


I’m far from a mental health expert. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who are genuinely invested in my mental health and a therapist who is loving, empathetic and understanding. These are simply a few of the ways I cope with a stressful world. That does not mean I am always successful in my attempts at taking care of myself. I still have bad days but they are likely reduced when I do what I can to take care of myself. Again, none of these things are a substitute for actual mental health care. That’s always been my ire with the modern use of the term “self-care”. I work hard to be the best version of me and spending hundreds of dollars in cakes and lipsticks are not ways to be my best self.  It’s effort, it’s crying, it’s stressing out over panels and how to get paint out of things. It’s calling friends tirelessly and in tears and arranging to meet over late night coffees to rant about failed first dates. It’s lapsing and trying your very best to be better next time.

That’s self-care.

Be kind to yourself and others, dear readership.

 

Why I’m On My Phone While On The Bus

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ― Albert Einstein.png
There’s a woman on the bus route I take into work because I refuse to drive and face the evils that is downtown traffic. She’s an older woman and she’s very nice. When she catches me before the sun rises on my way to work, I’m normally on my phone, with my headphones on. She usually compliments my dress: I have to pause my music to address her and we smile and nod and go about our day. One day as she praised one of my many dresses, she said something that stuck with me.
“Go back to your little world.”
That phrase hit me like a ton of bricks and not just because it was dismissive. It did so because if you were anything like me as a teenager: you’ve heard this before. My aunt would often chastise me for being on my phone or listening to music (then with the help of an iPod or CD player, yes I know I’m old) in car rides or during any time of stress. There was a lot for me to tune out back then.
So hearing that from another person honestly was emotionally hurtful. I never mean to appear aloof (except for all the times I do). And in that spirit of explaining myself because this blog is where I air my laundry, Here are a few of the reasons if you see me in public that I may be on my phone.


I’m Avoiding Unwanted Attention
I’m fortunately enough to be only passably attractive which means I do not get catcalled often but the times that I have were exhausting, demeaning and tiresome. If I’m on the bus early in the morning, I do not have the time or energy to deal with a man who wants to chat with me or a woman who wishes to chat about the wonders of a certain flavor of Jesus.


The World is Loud
There is a certain social contract that reads if the sun is not up, thou must not rant about thine boyfriend’s sister’s hairdresser. The world is noisy and loud and by the time I lug my undead corpse from my apartment, I do not want to deal with such things. I face enough noise in an open office: my morning and evening bus rides are a great time to decompress and get ready for the day or for bed.


I Am Anxious
I’ve joked about getting one of those little vests that some small dogs get that say “I am Anxious”. I would love one of these. I’ve been very candid about having anxiety and the world is terrifying. The noise is scary, my own thoughts are scary, existence is scary: Swedish EDM and Pokemon Go make the world a little less scary. It gives me something to do. I can sync my heart to the beat of the drums and I can focus on catching Pidgey rather than did all my bills get out okay or if my parents are resting comfortably in the afterlife.


As a social media manager, I’m always worried that I am not present enough. I worry that I’m too attached to my phone because I know proper etiquette means not being on my phone all the time. I give my little cousin a hard time for being on his phone while also swiping messages away from my smart watch. I want to make memories that last and sear images into my mind that will remain with me for the rest of my days. I also want to play Jurassic World Alive and save the dankest of memes.
I will continue to try and find a balance between staying alert and protecting my mental health. In so many ways, the screen is just another buffer. One of the last arguments a former friend and I had was over the fact that I was active on Twitter while I didn’t talk to him. I flat out had to say it didn’t take effort to post on Twitter while it did to speak to him. Introverts like me do not gain a ton of power from people and noise is exhausting and takes up a huge amount of my energy. I regain some of that power by disengaging via podcasts, audiobooks, writing, reading or playing games on my phone.
Escapism isn’t new but that doesn’t mean I will be rude. If someone does address me, I speak to them. I remove my headphones. I make good eye contact and I do all I can to keep my phone off while at meals, especially if I am with someone else. I don’t play Pokemon Go unless I am with someone else who is playing or I am by myself and I tend to only reply to messages and then promptly turn my phone face down on the table again. It’s a good compromise just in case I need to answer a call or message urgently (a hangover from having chronically sick family members all my life) while also forcing myself to be present in the moment.
So, to the woman on the bus who told me to “go back to my world”; I will, happily. Like Alice in her return to Wonderland, I will return to a world that is more comforting than the one I currently face. Like the teen I was who used music to hide cruel things said by family, I used a tool to help ease some of the pain of my current reality.
There’s a little bit of insight as to why, if you ever catch me out in public, I may be on my cell phone if you do.