The One with the F Word

My friends, wellness isn’t just food, rest, and movement. It’s not just a list of rules. We call it a practice because we bring ourselves into closer alignment with health and vitality and then we drift out of that alignment. Then we come back. We do this over and over again, returning to better alignment. We go for long stretches during which we maintain alignment and then we lose it. We fall off the wagon. We backslide. We find ourselves feeling shitty and acting shitty and we flounder around in the muck. We come back to the practice wiser for it, ideally.

The longer I’m away from social media the more I become aware of the ways we compromise our wellness by believing we deserve to be informed about things that are none of our business. In this age of oversharing we’ve adopted the practice of over-consuming shared information that shouldn’t be ours. For example, the juicy details of a celebrity divorce. The fact that the media wants to share this story doesn’t mean we should be consuming it. It serves no practical purpose whatsoever. It represents nothing useful or relevant to the average person. We’ve grown accustomed to having this information thrust upon us by the media, we’ve readily consumed it, and over time we’ve forgotten that it was ever inappropriate to know things like this. It feels normal because everyone is doing it and no one thinks there’s anything wrong with it.

Here’s the rub. It creates an unhealthy preoccupation with useless information and it slowly conditions us to think we have a right to know the intimate once-private details of the lives of strangers. Conversely, it slowly conditions us to think we should share the intimate once-private details of our own lives and post it on social media. How exactly does this compromise wellness? Well, it’s one of those things we don’t realize is hindering us until it’s gone–again, because it feels normal and no one thinks there’s any harm. In short, it lulls us into a psychological survival stupor and cripples our ability to respond when society breaks down. We become Walking Dead zombies feeding on useless information. We find ourselves ignoring things like bombs, homicide, marginalization of race/gender/religion, immigration reform that would require rewriting the Constitution and the threat of the fall of our nation.

Oh that? Yes, that. Notice how we can’t handle that so we downgrade to dulling our senses with a celebrity divorce? The Ambivalent American casts some knee-jerk blame on the Beleaguered Leader Du Jour and tweets, then gets back to the latest social drama. Or Netflix original series. Or the latest sports scandal that cost someone a shit-ton of endorsements. Someone’s inappropriate outfit. Someone’s break-up. Someone’s affair. Amazing weight gain or loss story complete with tips and a makeover. Somebody’s cute video playing with her dog. Someone’s decision to change into a different gender. Folks, the fall of our nation is our business. This other shit? Not. I did not appreciate the seriousness of this until I backed out of my own slack-jawed brain coma. And it troubles me deeply.

Our nervous systems are not designed to handle social input every single minute of the day and night. Remember when our grandmothers used to admonish us that too much television would turn our brains to mush? We are also not designed to be entertained every single minute of the day and night. Grandma was right. Energetically we take a daily beating from an onslaught of forced social input. Science tells us that we are amazingly adaptable lifeforms. This adaptation to overload is turning us into the walking shell-shocked. In crisis from the constant blitz we slip into survival mode, which compromises our ability to respond to the truly horrifying degradation of our national wellness.

National wellness. Yeah. How ’bout global wellness? Oof. The overwhelm of that. It’s like that first stirring deep in the intestines when for half a second you imagine that you are not going to have diarrhea. And then the half second that follows when you become desperately better informed. You know, the intestinal call to action–if you don’t want to shit your pants you’d better get on your feet. These must be withdrawal symptoms of breaking the addiction to social media. The real world with all it’s real-world, real-time reality comes flooding back in and I’ve got to deal with it. And the horror that it’s all gotten so much worse while I’ve not been dealing with it, and then multiplied by 300 million people.

So I am aware now. I am compelled. I am on my feet. Diarrhea flushed. Hands washed. Ready to change. One step now, in which direction? First step–the divorce of total strangers is none of my goddamn business. This. Is. Not. News. It is certainly not information that I need to consume. The relative health of a presidential candidate? Fuck off with that. This country elected a disabled American as leader of the free world in 1933. Stop it. Unless I can help with some chicken soup or a research grant, this is not my business.

These are the first steps. One choice at a time. One invasive dump of data at a time. I’ve got border guards now on wellness watch, keeping that shit from cluttering up my mind. Maybe someday history will not document that live-tweeting is what passes for revolution these days. (Or blogging; yes, I see the irony.) We post blame. We riot. That’s pretty much all we’ve got. It’s just not working, my friends.

For followers who have been reading my online novel, I’ve been forced to take it offline. I’ll be working on it the old-fashioned way now, as novelists of yore did it for eons. I do intend to publish it in some way on some future day. Those of you who were actively following the story line, not to worry. It’ll be there. It’s just not safe to keep it online in blog form anymore. To take anecdotal license with another author’s ominous words, the internet is dark and full of terrors.

I’m less worried that hackers, trolls, and thieves will steal my words of wellness here. No one seems to be breaking in to purloin opinions on yoga, mental health, ayurveda, body image, and the like. Hell, if the web crawlers of the world were interested in wellness they’d spend their time getting well and being well instead of peepin’ and creepin’ on unfinished novels.

As for my own wellness, that novel is part of my practice. My business. It has become my primary creative outlet now that I’ve winnowed my creations down to the bare essentials. So I’m not giving it up. I just won’t be hanging it out on the clothesline anymore. I realize, of course, that it was never safe online–that it never should have been online at all–but for a time I needed a way to foist my creativity upon the world at large. I couldn’t just create. I had to create and then send. I’ve made peace that I’ll send it in book form once it is complete.

Taking my own medicine, these are the things I did not tweet this week:

Disregard any advice that begins “never let…”

and

Think of these as kryptonite:

  • “I can’t wait.”  Yes you can.

  • “I can’t imagine.”  Yes you can

  • “I can’t.”  Yes you can.

And of course, the Tinas:

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— Ani Bagger

(garbage in)

Oh, and lest I be the American Hypocrite, I like Netflix. Sometimes I love Netflix. I have designated Netflix time penciled into my week. But my perspective on it has changed. I’m more mindful of why and how much and when. I grouped it with all the rest because when we are not mindful of the whys and whens and how muches, we abuse it like all the rest. But otherwise, much love for Netflix.

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