Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the astronomical start of winter. It’s not all bad though, because it’s also the start of longer days and in some cultures, the beginning of a new year. It’s one step closer to being able to say we survived 2020 and one step closer to surviving the global pandemic. That makes today a good day to remind ourselves of a few things to keep in mind as we move into 2021.
Evil exists. People do bad things and we don’t know why, and that’s just the way it is. Sometimes we do know why, or at least what they tell us is why, and it still doesn’t make any sense. Other times, they tell us why, and we can follow the logic but it seems petty or twisted. People kill over perceived insults to their honor, because they’re angry at the world that day, because they want to punish someone for a slight, because they just don’t like the way you look. And that’s just the really bad stuff. People also kill, maim, steal, and more because they’re frustrated, they’re scared, they’re desperate. We can talk all day about how they get to the point where committing crimes against others seems to make the most sense in their world but ultimately, none of that is relevant at the moment when your paths cross. All of the social services, police activity, and justice system policies in the world aren’t meaningful when you are face to face with the person intent on harming you.
Fortunately for most of us, we are unlikely to have that meeting. While crime statistics can be scary, violence tends to cluster around certain environments and relationships, and many of those are controllable or avoidable so that we can mitigate our risks. The odds of being involved in a car accident or similar sort of event are far higher than any kind of interpersonal violence. More than that, the odds of being the target of a random attack or one initiated by a stranger are extraordinarily rare for most individuals. It’s never enjoyable being the exception that proves the rule and statistics are cold comfort when you or a loved one are suffering, but they do mean that it can be counterproductive to living a full and fulfilling life to spend your time worrying about what probably won’t happen.
In the meantime, you are not helpless in the face of potential danger, no matter how remote or immediate. You don’t need to be fearful or paranoid to get your mind in the right place to believe you can prevail against an attacker, whether known or unknown to you. Or, for that matter, against any other similar (and dissimilar) difficulty. You can give a few hours or days of your life to learning relevant information like I post here on On Her Own and to taking a class or two in relevant skills. You might find that some of what you pick up is useful in other areas of your life too, like the communication and boundary-setting that keeps creeps away and tells you if the shady guy in the dark parking lot mean you harm and that also helps you build healthy and respectful personal and professional relationships. You can add small tools and habits to your life that don’t require a complete Batman Belt to carry around: a pepper spray can fit into even girl pockets (remember, you can get the OHO multipack at affiliate link http://bit.ly/OHO-POM), a tiny rechargeable flashlight can go on your keychain (here’s a fun and inexpensive one I just found, also affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3atMvVb) and calling a campus escort or a friend/coworker to walk you to your car costs you nothing at all.
Because it is within all of us to survive. No matter how long and dark the night, we can make it to day. Bad people and bad circumstances may try to bring us down, for reasons we don’t understand, but we need not be helpless before them. If they come to us, we can fight back. We can survive. Winter Solstice is not just the dark that we must acknowledge exists, but the hope that light will return.