Saturday, November 19, 2016

Self-care inside a context of general sickness

Every day when you're not on the gurney is a good day, I say to my Human Anatomy students. There's something about working with cadavers that lends perspective.

There are a lot of re-framing perspectives that I have been using lately. For example, a buddy of mine at my AA home group tipped me off to an app that tracks your meditation-- Insight Meditation Timer. Their slogan: Peace in Our Timer. Now I know it's somewhat contrary to the spirit of meditation to want to measure it or track it, but I'm a middle aged white guy with type A tendencies, so I've gotten motivated by exactly that. It turns out it works-- I have done at least 1 ten minute Vipassana silent meditation a day for the past 122 days. 1,222 minutes of meditation. 20 hours. In silence.

It's impossible to relate here the reliably positive effects of this practice. Let's just say that, in general, in the midst of anxiety, worry, doubt, fear, anger, frustration, loneliness or whatever emotional weather, the practice has made a still point available. I might be all over the map, but there's a sense of a starting and ending, central home point.

Ye OLDE serenity prayer has been helpful as well, which isn't bad for an atheist. When I say "God" I'm not saying anything, really. But that's true also for the most ardent believer, in my opinion. Mystery-- whatever is-- reality. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference. This is often misinterpreted as a movement toward infinite resignation and passivity. On the contrary, my experience of this reframing is that it assists me in sorting out where I can assertively and effectively take action. Courage is part of it, after all. The more courageous action I take that has an effect in the world, the more serenity I can find in accepting whatever is out of my circle of influence.

A gigantic portion of my experience of the sickness of the world right now lies in this distinction. Because the forces of ugliness and stupidity are overwhelming. And the once-entertaining or even inspiring realms of social media have now become a hair-raising dumpster fire of panic and despair.

It's also been grounding and helpful to eat real food, sleep, work out and get out and see real people or go into the desert. So much of our experience now is mediated. Direct contact with experience is salutary. The problem with banding together in mediated spaces isn't really the echo chamber effect these days, as much as it's the amplifying of despair. I'm not interested in a stadium full of people wailing and gnashing their teeth. Of course, part of self care is finding one's people and finding ways to be mutually supportive. But when the mutual support gives way to mob panic, it's time for a breather.

I'm grateful to be sober especially during these times. Even when things were relatively stable, alcohol had become a source of tremendous anxiety for me. My hangovers in later stage alcoholism were no longer nausea or headaches, but daily mild DTs, "the jitters," including extremely disturbing visions of doom and apocalypse, etc. The combination of benzos and booze was really destroying my sanity. Cigarettes were increasing the anxiety by an order of magnitude. So it's good to be free of those things. Coffee is still working for me, mostly.

Music. Hope is in music. Not hare-brained idiot hope that deceives. But substance. In particular, the music made by outsiders who have ever lived under the shadow of power. I hear a coded rebellion in all of it.

What are you doing to stay up and strong in the face of lunacy?


Creoliana said...

Sage, sensible words. Thank you.

Joseph Griffo said...

I dunno. I spent so much time during the war on drugs Reagan/Bush days in such a state of panic and trauma, that right now almost feels like it's bringing up not only present panic, but an awful ptsd. The only thing that seems to give me any comfort is working out the logistics to bring the family to Mexico. To keep us safe maybe. Might figure out a preliminary trip in the next couple months come February. Maybe it sounds weak like I'm not going to fight. Guess I know my history too well.

Peter Breslin said...

I totally understand the impulse to get out. I hope you find peace one way or the other. Creoliana, thanks.