One of the best things a therapist told me to do a number of years ago was to stop watching the news. It’s overwhelming and depressing and not usually anything you have control over, though it may affect you directly: the very definition of stress.
It also directs your attention away from where you are in the present moment, and flings you headlong into a faraway place in the past. The news has already happened. It’s not now. It was then, even if that then was 10 minutes ago. It’s over. And it’s there, not here. Not right in front of you in this present moment, where you should be focusing your attention. Be here now. Not there then.
What I did, actually, was stop watching TV altogether for the most part. I watched hockey (Go Wings!) and cycling fairly often, and I loved Big Bang Theory, reruns of which my local CBS affiliate played during dinner time on weeknights. After dinner, if there wasn’t a hockey game I cared about I turned off the TV. I read, or wrote, or went for a bike ride or a walk, or something. I never lacked for things to do.
Now, living with my mother, I don’t watch TV much at all. We watch DVDs mostly, of old British mysteries, and old US detective shows like NYPD Blue or Homicide: Life on the Street. She likes Naked and Afraid, and we watch that on Sundays. Sometimes movies or a series like Outlander on one of the premium channels. That’s it. No news, no reality shows. No current weekly comedies or dramas.
I don’t have a moral objection to TV nor do I judge people who watch and enjoy a lot of TV. Whatever floats your boat is fine by me – your business.
I simply discovered that I felt better about myself if I wasn’t comparing myself and my life to people on TV, and that I worried less about what was going on in the world if I didn’t know about it every minute of every single day. It’s really that simple. Self-preservation. I also found that I liked other people more, and was more tolerant and less likely to judge if I took them at face value and wasn’t influenced by the ways in which certain people are demonized on TV.
So now I’m feeling the same way about social media. It’s partly what I do for a living, so I’m on FB alot during the day for work, but as for my personal feed, I pay less and less attention to it, for the same reasons that I don’t watch TV. Ditto Instagram. Everyone on my Friends list is someone I know and most are people I’ve known a long time and really care about. Some live far away, so I’m happy for the opportunity to connect with them easily.
I find, though, that if I spend a lot of time watching everyone else’s life scroll by, I feel worse about mine. I celebrate their successes and mourn their losses, and I’m genuinely happy for all the bright and shiny fun things my friends and family are experiencing in their lives. However, I’m not experiencing a lot of that in my life lately and haven’t actually much of my life, so I feel left out, or like I’m not doing it right, or that there’s something wrong with me. Honestly, I don’t need that.
I do better if I’m just in my head, in my body, doing my thing. Here. Now. In this moment. My moment. Not someone else’s.
My life. Not someone else’s.
Not self-centered or self-absorbed – just self-contained. Not comparing my unique life, my unique path, so someone else’s singular walk in this world. I’m not like anyone else, so I don’t need to live like anyone else; to have the things they have, or to do the things they do. So it’s easier for me not to be distracted a million times a day by the shiny happy pictures scrolling past all day long.
Having said that, I also have to say: I love to read blogs, and I love Twitter. I think the difference is that I don’t know any of the people who write the blogs I read, nor do I know any of the people I follow on Twitter, which are for the most part publications and organizations that post great content that teaches me things. I love to know about people’s experience of life on this planet, and when I don’t know the writer I’m less likely to compare myself to them; I can just take in what they have to teach me (or be entertained) without feeling bad about myself and my life.
So, whatever. Just my thing. Your mileage may vary. Life is big and there’s room for everyone.
I love the video above, though, cuz I am a little lost in the world. (And I love Moby and I think Steve Cutts is a genius.) I’ve always felt a little out of sync, really, and for a lot of my life I felt like I didn’t belong here at all – that there was nothing here for me. That my presence here was a mistake.
I’m grateful I don’t feel that way anymore. It was a long, painful struggle to get past that feeling. But I do still feel a little lost quite often. There is just so much I don’t understand about life and people and why things happen the way they do. But I’m pretty sure about who I am these days, and what I’m up to, so that’s all I need to keep track of, really: that I’m where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing.
Here. Now. Watching the rest of the world flow by, without getting caught up in the undertow.