Someone I don’t know
has just received
“the yummiest homemade all natural peanut butter”.
(I can order a jar for thirty rand.)
Sam Harris (a neuroscientist)
has selected twelve books that everyone should read.
(I haven’t read any of them.)
Someone has shared a map of the world
showing “who every country thinks is most dangerous”.
A lot of the world is covered
in American flags.
Most of Africa is blank.
(Did someone forget to ask them?)
Bookstreet wants to know if I can pass
the Hogwarts Defence Against the Dark Arts Exam.
The Old Farmers Almanac
(there’s a missing apostrophe there)
has a list of common cooking mistakes.
Apparently J.K.Rowling has apologized for “Anti-Trump Tweets”.
(She’d reacted to a fake news report.)
Someone says vaccines are dangerous.
Musi says the parliament needs dissolving.
but the Horse Hippie reminds me that
“This Too Shall Pass”.
Positively Positive wants me to know that the way I make a fist
reveals my leadership style.
Do I love Elephants enough to sign this petition?
What do I think of this Bronco Riding Disaster?
And I need to celebrate #International Day of Friendship
by reading this article
on the 5 Types of Friendships You Need in Your Life
Time for the back button.
I’d rather write a poem.
I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and started writing down what came up. It was quite an eye-opener, seeing the posts ranged next to one another like that, in black and white. I wondered why I spend time allowing my mind to jump from one (mostly) meaningless piece of information to another. I thought about the evenings I’ve spent reading, with my cell phone off, challenging myself to focus on one thread of ideas, choosing to move deeply into words that require effort and concentration. I thought about how satisfying it is, and how the words and thoughts of others help me to reflect on my own life more clearly. Reading, writing, reflecting…these pursuits add texture and depth; they keep me from becoming lazy in my thinking.
But it’s not just Facebook. There’s Netflix, TedTalks, Whatsapp groups and a whole lot of other excuses to avoid engaging with meaningful work or real re-creation. I often find that it takes genuine mental effort to pick up a book (or tackle something that I’ve been avoiding) rather than hit the button for an app, check my mails (another distraction) or open Accuweather (because of course it’s necessary to know the exact temperature every hour).
I guess it’s unrealistic to expect that I will forgo these distractions completely, but perhaps I could make some rules for how and when to allow myself a trip down the rabbit hole. And I could think about how to use the technology more intelligently, rather than just falling into undetermined periods of time in which my mind goes into neutral.
I find that I am often anxious about the things I need to do, and diving into distraction is a way to escape that unease. But when I do what I must and get on with the scary things, I feel better. This has been a surprise. Fear is a good salesperson, telling me that if I do what I fear, that I will feel worse, or that something terrible will happen to me. Fear sells inertia, a promise that if I just bury myself in meaningless distraction or hide away from my life, the terror will go away. It’s a lie, but a convincing one. Only as I move into my life, through the discomfort and messiness, do I feel stronger and more empowered. I also experience more joy, and a capacity to see and love others. (Fear and anxiety will keep you trapped in your own mind.)
This is where distractions like Facebook become more insidious for me. They feed that lie. Every time I reach for my phone instead of doing the hard things, I am reinforcing the notion that whatever it is that I fear, is too much for me. I fall for the idea that I am not enough, that I am alone, that I should just give up and go home.
But I have been given capacities and gifts. I have work to do in the world. It helps to know that I am not the only who wrestles with uncertainty and the little voice that says I am wasting my time. Great men and women have battled anxiety, as have friends and family. I am not alone. I am not unique in this struggle.
So today I will get out of bed, open up my laptop, make some calls and venture into the tasks that seem overwhelming. And at the end of the day, I will curl up on the couch with a good book, and feel stronger.