Friday, April 16, 2010

The Problem with Peacefulness

I had a thought-provoking talk with my spiritual advisor yesterday. I realized that there is a worry balloon in my mind and I tend to prefer it inflated. As I have alluded to ad nauseum already, certain events of the recent past did in fact merit an all-out orange alert. But now that things have settled down, I find that I am still dutifully inflating the worry balloon, only with things that probably don't merit all that real estate. It's like I have one of those cartoon accordion puffer thingies for fireplaces, and I'm just puffing away, trying to keep the logs blazing: Taxes! Work! Money! Apartment! Car! Medecines!Bug bite! Rash! Roof leak! Big worry, little worry, I don't discriminate, just as long as I can keep the home fire burning.

Because in a certain sense, a state of constant worry has come to feel like home. I'm not saying the year of bad luck like traumatized me for life or anything, but yeah, it did scare me. I mean sh*t got scary, and we did the human thing - we started running screaming.

It was like "AAAAAhhhhhhhhhh!!!! Arterycancerdespairbrokencolon Monster!!! RUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN!!!"

Which was totally the reasonable, evolutionarily-programmed thing to do. The issue is that now, there have been no signs of the monster behind me, but I am continuing to run, scared by every rustle I hear.

Now it's like "AAAAAAhhhhhhhh!!!!! A cockroach! And my taxes are due! RUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN!!!!!"

And eventually you get to this panting, bent over position, and maybe you recognize that those things can't hurt you the way the monster can, but the thing is now you know what's out there in the forest. You've seen it up close and smelled its breath and you know the way he pops out at you out of nowhere, without even the courtesy of sinister cello music, you could just be minding your own business riding the bus.

And now that you know, you don't want to let your guard down. The monster could come back at any time. You know this.

And so it seems reasonable to try to keep the adrenaline up, keep the proverbial baseball bat by the bed, as it were. What it comes down to is, you've had quite a scare and you want to protect yourself.

So in fact it's peacefulness and relaxation that feels dangerous, because you've let your guard down, exposed your soft underbelly to any passing predator.

Now, I understand that being constantly on an adrenaline buzz has its drawbacks. I still maintain that having a constant barrage of stress hormones coursing through me contributed to my ulcerative colitis. As someone, I forget who, maybe Martha Beck, pointed out, we don't really need the same equipment to fight today's modern-day foes as we did in the days when we had to run from charging mastodons. Today poise and clear-headedness and keen problem-solving techniques are more likely to rescue you.

Unfortunately, my body has not caught up yet with my big ole' brain, and my body still says "Run!!! Bad stuff out there! Get the hell out of Dodge!"

I think there's a reason I've been sleeping at Spangles' house so much lately, why I started needing to turn on fans for background noise to fall asleep, why, when I am home alone I have keep the mental decibel level fairly high with movies or dumb internet gossip sites or overblown anxieties. It's because I don't feel safe in my own home - it's like, listen guys, the ceiling fell down . That sh*t can happen.

And is it Jungians who believe that the house is symbolic of the self? Because I'll be honest, I don't feel safe here, in my own life. What a sad thing to hear myself say.

Perhaps this explains my recent obsession with interior design (interior design) and my obsessive apartment hunting and my recent subscription to Country Living. I do want to rebuild, remodel, redecorate. I want to start again.

All this is to say, I have a problem with being peaceful. In my pursuit of happyishness, this is probably something to think about. I read a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh in my high school soul searching days, and even though I knew that the whole peace-is-every-step, smile gently at the universe thing was what I was supposed to want, there was a voice in me that said "Thich, my man, this all sounds really groovy and everything, but isn't kind of...boring?"

I wanted, and I still want, passion, whitewater, fireworks, windswept adventure. I want to be ravished and tossed out of airplanes and to be clinging to sides of Six Flags rides. I want rush, and thrill, and drama. By comparison, my idea of peacefulness and contentment - puttering around the house like a retiree, watering plants, gazing with Buddha-like serenity at a blade of grass - I mean, isn't that all a little anti-climactic?

I mean what's wrong with the inside of my brain being like a cracked out illegal rave?

I guess the thing is, as tumultous as it sometimes is inside my head, it's not like I'm actually on safari or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or anything. I'm getting my panties all in a twist about like, paperwork and home (dis)repair.

Perhaps if I could get my insides to be more peaceful, I could direct some of that penchant for drama toward something more fun - like writing a sweeping, passionate book, for example. Maybe it's not a matter of giving up excitement for a life of staid flower-watering and contentment, but choosing whether the excitement will come from chasing big dreams and taking on ambitious projects and doing works of daring and creativity - or from chewing my fingernails to the nubs over the cable bill and a traffic ticket and the exorbitant price of soy nuggets.

Maybe I can serve the world with my desire for excitement and liveliness, rather than my fear of bad things happening.

The truth is, bad things do happen, they happen all the time. But in my experience, whatever it is will probably be far more f*ed up than your tiny little anxious imagination could've come up with, and if it does hit, it'll happen whenever it happens, whether you're cowering in fear or not. So when the giant meteor hits, you might as well be reclined on a chaise lounge sipping a margarita.

1 comment:

Oscar said...

Yes! Yes to margaritas and chaise lounges - down with cowering! Thank you so much for the balloon in your head analogy. That is going to be very useful! My job has lots of RUUUUUUUUUUNNNNN moments in it, but if I can remember to let the air out of the balloon, most of them will actually pass with just an 'oh shit.' Onward! xxoo AJ