During this weird time, I decided to try out some new things, experiments, if you will. Most of them mirror resolutions but with about 15 on my list, I’m confident they won’t all make it to 2018. However, if I can get one, maybe two, to evolve into habits, I’m in great shape. First, on the list: practiced stillness.
This morning after I had my coffee and breakfast I sat outside for 30 minutes in silence. No phone checking, no book, no notepad, just me… sitting there. I think the cool term for it is ‘meditation’, but I’m pretty sure me sitting on a porch thinking about how asymmetrical the roof’s beams are doesn’t count.
I assumed I was going to be ready to scratch my skin off within minutes since I’m sadly unfamiliar with a lack of distraction, but it wasn’t as uncomfortable as I imagined. Although I never really practiced this in particular, I used to be better at welcoming stillness. Lately I’d really gotten into this gross habit of having layers upon layers of distraction simultaneously. I would purposely turn the tv on to a show I liked just enough to be background noise while I flipped noncommitally between apps on my phone. Every night I fell asleep to the sound and almost blinding light of Frasier on repeat. If I happened to wake to Netflix asking if I was still there, I’d opt yes then immediately fall back into a restless sleep.
It’s sad, I know but at least I didn’t lie to myself about why I was doing it. About why I would check my phone before I even got out of bed in the morning. About why I didn’t want to sleep without something playing in the background. About why I had to have the perfect song playing before I even shifted my car out of park. It wasn’t because I was avoiding the silence. It was because I knew that there wasn’t going to be silence. I knew when I turned everything off, my thoughts, the ones not on autopilot, would get my undivided attention. I was terrified of the script they were ready to read so I kept my attention divided. I can’t shut my thoughts up so I created a world of noise to shut them out. I knew any type of external silence only made way for an angry internal monologue. Or so I thought.
Even preparation for this experimental silence was met with opposition from myself on whether or not I was a fool for not cheating a little bit. “Maybe I should bring a notepad or my phone in case I get a brilliant once-in-a-lifetime idea or I think of some urgent task that will never get done unless I commit to it right then.” My stubbornness came in handy this round so I didn’t bring my phone or a notepad and what do you know? There were no emergencies nor were there any lifechanging epiphanies. The world didn’t end.
When it was quiet, not counting the constant white noise of traffic or the squirrel having a manic moment in the leaves or the bird gossiping quite loudly about its neighbor, inner me wasn’t as frantic as I thought she’d be. Yes, I entertained all my worries that readily lined up to finally be heard, but in that time I let them be, they became smaller, not bigger.
What I wrongly assumed would be an aggressively one-sided lecture was actually my chance to have a front row seat to a very worthy dialogue. One between my anxiety and my rationale. Each worry stood at the mic and pleaded its emotionally-charged case as to why it was valid and had the right to take up residence in my thoughts. Then, after listening calmly and diplomatically, my logic had a well-reasoned, reality based response as to why none of it mattered, even if the facts were true.
When something popped into my head, my immediate response was stress. Stress that I would have typically avoided, but because I didn’t have anything to smother it with, I just let the tape play and it kind of shut itself down. Is everything all hunky dory? No. But is my world burning to the ground? Louder no. But with how much I was running from everything, you’d think it was.
I have a parting gift for you. A plea from me to me because I am the intended audience as much as you are. None of what I said about the condition of my minds or my experience should come as a surprise. I’m a statistic in this, but I’m still unique, as are you. So please, take this personally:
If you’re running, turning things on to tune yourself out, those smoke screens will only trigger a higher frequency alarm. These arguments and concerns are manageable obstacles that only become monsters in their distortion once you introduce them to the emotions you’re being fed through your choice of escape. They occupy a space in your mind and when you show up to collect rent, worry instead, offers a convincing justification as to why it deserves to stay. Why does this keep happening? Because you’re afraid to invite along reasoning. Anxiety met with reason inevitably births conflict and somewhere down the line you wrongly decided that conflict was the worst case scenario. How’s that working for you?”