"I am feeling restless"
is a thought that has crossed through my mind daily over the last year. At first, it was induced via my own trials and goals. Which is fine, I can deal.
But then, the noise of the world grew from a low rumble to an outright roar.
My personal affairs were folded into the massive unrest of humanity. No one can disagree that we live in an extremely stimulating time with millions of data points flooding our already overwhelmed brains each day.
Sometimes I can't help but envy our ancestors. Make no mistake, they had their troubles. They fought bloody wars with effects that persist into our modern generations. They fought for the rights of women and colored people with effects that certainly persist into our modern generations. They fought to invent technology to improve the quality of life so that their children may have a greater chance to meet their grandchildren. But with all of this turmoil, what I envy is the buffer between the dreadful news and their personal lives. What they learned was from a newspaper, if they had access. The information seeped across the country in a seemingly more manageable manner.
Maybe they were afraid of the slow trickle of information. Maybe it caused them anxiety because they could not learn of some things before they blew up in their front yards. Maybe the catch-22 was the lack of good news traveling across the nation at lightning speed.
I wasn't there so I don't know, but what I do know is that today our use of technology and media is tilted to the negative ad nauseam. Every time I open an app (any one of them) I am pelted with news, opinions, and conspiracies. This is what sells. We are our own nightmare. It makes me feel sick. It makes me feel completely lost and sad that as a human race, we are so divided. It feels like we never will be undivided. I am uncertain about everything.
Why is it that life always feels so uncertain?
Yes, we are in the middle of both a pandemic and civil disorder burning through the world. That's the obvious answer.
I'm inspired by the human race and our insatiable desire for change. It propels us and it challenges us. I am amazed that uncertainty, something that statistically terrifies all animals alike, is the requirement for success both as individuals and as populations.
It is incredibly difficult to be a human. We may rest easy at the top of the food chain, but within those of us at the top it is CUT. THROAT. It's almost like we are all scrambling over each other, with each individual clawing their way to the top. Will there be one lucky person who gets there, and screams "I'M KING OF THE HUMANS!"?
They may be the only one left in the pile, but they're on top.
I look around and I am tired. My own bubble is about to explode with emotions strewn about untended to and threatening to overcome me. Does anyone else feel this way?
How do we endure the stress of our own lives, while juggling the stresses of the world around us?
Today, the sun is cutting through the clouds. It is a mild 65 degrees Fahrenheit. I am healthy. I have a roof over my head. My life is EXTREMELY stressful and uncertain right now. I have no idea if I will achieve the goals in which I have poured thousands of dollars. But, I have goals. I work daily to be a better person. I can only control my actions and my perspective. I refuse to let my thoughts run rampant and leave me angry and so opinionated that I cannot listen to others.
And this means tuning out the noise. Embracing the uncertainty. Things seem bad, but they have been bad before. They have been really bad.
I am a huge believer that the power of the mind can overcome all struggles. I recently learned that chronic pain is not physical, but purely mental. The brain uses pain to "alert us to danger, not torment us" (Norman Doidge, MD). After the injury is physically tended to, the brain may get stuck in the "on" position, causing "learned pain," which is the real illness. As the brain fires signals through this pathway time and time again, the nervous system becomes damaged. Plasticity of the brain allows us to overcome chronic pain by restructuring the physical synapses and building stronger pathways. It takes nothing more than the power of thought.
The word pain comes from the ancient Greek poine, meaning "penalty." When we injure our arm and proceed to move that arm our nervous system penalizes us, discouraging movement to prevent further injury.
The pain in the world around me, the pain in my own corner...gives me pause. For a few moments each day I try to stop moving. Stop trying to process the limitless information swirling about me. Stop thinking about anything other than the good in my life. I am fortunate that my list is plentiful.
Doidge, Norman. The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. Scribe, 2017.