No one asks about my weekend anymore. They’ve all stopped asking if I have plans for the weekend. They know I do but they’ve stopped asking what those plans might be. They already know what the plans will be. From April to October the answer is always the same. And it irritates them.
The answer is yard work. It isn’t because I give a rat’s ass what people think of my yard. It isn’t because I have any goal whatsoever associated with the work. It’s for sanity. Although it is hard physical work it is the only time my brain gets to rest. It’s the only time left my brain isn’t subject to digital input. It’s the only time of the week I am not being told what to think or what to feel or how to act. I sweat in the heat. I get cut, scratched, bitten, burned, and filthy. But from sunup to noon I have mercy on my brain.
No screen. No phone. No feed. No voices. No words. It’s the only time my brain gets to disconnect from the constant manipulation. Because let’s not kid ourselves here, folks, every bit of data we absorb these days is generated by someone who crafted that data to make us think, feel, and react in a certain way. The overwhelming majority of messages I receive each day are designed to make me feel angry. To make me share the message which sparked the anger so other people will feel angry too. Or desperate. Or frightened. Or buy something. Or fund something. When I change the channel the messages are designed to make me feel good so I’ll share to make other people feel good too. Or hopeful. Or empowered. Or buy something. Or fund something.
Every moment of the day my brain is being directed.
Care about this. Look at this. Listen to this. Buy this. Do this work. Go here. Tell people. Cry about this. Clap for that. Hear this now. Remember when. Walk this way. Follow them. Run away from that. Scream now. Watch her. Ask him. Fund it. Free them. Capture them. Change this. Preserve this. Speak up. Speak louder. Reach out. Reach for more. Work harder. Work smarter. Evolve already. Tolerate this. Expose that. Stand up now. Dig deep now. Turn this way. Do all the things. Be the one. Choose again. Start again. Pay attention. Pay respect. Mourn out loud. Copy cat. Defeat them. Support them. Resist, resist, resist.
All day. Every day. My brain never gets to be quiet enough to imagine anything other than doom.
Why does the brain default to doom when it is overwhelmed? We used to recognize this as a warning sign from our nervous system. But the makers of the noise now exploit this natural alert system and induce perpetual brain crisis to make us believe the doom is real. They choose the doom. You fear the doom you are told to fear. All day. Every day. And some of the doom is real but what we do about it or want to do about is still the result of programming. Feel this. Say this. Do this. See what they did? Do more of that! And tell your friends. And we’ve made it easy for you; just push this button. Click here. Accept our terms. Prove you’re not a robot. Prove you are an automaton.
And while it is important to be informed and be involved, the brain must have rest. It can’t rest by reading a book. That’s still input. It can’t rest by watching Netflix. It’s still input. Our brains are ill. The little amount of sleep we get each night is not enough antidote. We pump the brain full hour after hour, day after day, and never let it rest. The first thing activated each morning is a TV, radio, or handheld feed. The last thing each night is a TV or handheld feed. Radio on in the car. Screens everywhere we go. Messages emblazoned on every surface. Inbox full. Mailbox full. Notification after notification. Breaking news. New episodes. Now streaming. Have you heard? In case you missed it …
Even when I think I’m curating my own input by choosing who I follow and what I read I’m still being fed a constant diet of directives. When I opened up my Instagram feed this morning the first image is an artist reading in bed. She’s reading Yoga Journal and The Art of Money. The message: Read Yoga Journal and The Art of Money.
The second image is a selfie of a couple in an embrace. The message: Couple up and love each other.
The third image was an ad for a vacation property. The message: Consume.
Next is a shot of peach margaritas proudly crafted by an influencer. The message: Make margaritas. Drink margaritas.
Next message was an ad; go see this band in concert.
String of images after that with messages: Go on vacation. Take selfies. Admire this mountaintop view. Go to the beach. Jump on the beach. Buy these yoga leggings. Read tarot cards with a dog. Make funny expressions with eyebrows. Go see this band in concert (different band than the first one). Take a black and white selfie. Buy this app. Buy Pepto Bismol. Take a reclining selfie. Bake this bread. Get justice for Nia. Get justice for Nia. Stay at Holiday Inn Express. Get justice for Nia. Be a minimalist. Read this article about this politician. Read The Story of a Regiment. Create an art journal. Drink Teavana. Read The Art of Yoga. Buy this necklace. Make this pineapple cucumber slushie. Make this tea blend.
Open up Twitter: Be angry. Be outraged. Vote. Call him a liar. Boycott this. Protest this. Be frightened. Demand justice for this. Be sad. March for this. Fuck him. Watch this video. Convict them. Laugh at this joke. Clap for this comeback. Buy this art. Think about this quote. Vote differently. Fund music education. Shop Amazon. Don’t read this book written by this jerk. Cheer this activist. Retweet this. Stop that. Curse them.
It makes me question my own content. What am I telling people to do every time I post? How to think. How to feel. How to live. Even with this blog.
So yes, the only time my brain get a rest from all of it is when I’m toiling in the soil. Even with all my so-called privilege. Dirt is still my solace.
We walk around stymied as to why we are all so mentally ill yet we do nothing to become or stay mentally well until we are already sick and broken. We are very well informed when it comes to recognizing and admitting we are mentally ill. But mentally well? Emotionally well? Not a priority. And when it becomes a priority — because we are in crisis — we are desperate to seek help outside ourselves; it’s something we pay other people to administer. It’s always treatment after the fact and never prevention.
The split-second we hit puberty we are subject to programming to prevent the signs of aging, skin damage, etc. Look at how much programming we absorb regarding skin care. But brain care? Emotional care? Can’t risk getting a wrinkle but practice any kind of prevention of mental illness or maintenance of mental wellness? Nope. It’s simply not important until we are sick and scared.
And treatment is important. Treatment is vitally important. Everyone who needs it should have it, but why wait until we are ill? Why believe we are helpless to prevent mental/emotional illness? Why ignore brain care until it’s too late? Is this by design? Is this deliberate? Are we being programmed to believe we are not capable of affecting our own mental wellness? We are allowed to embrace knowledge which enables us to prevent disease and injury and stay physically well everywhere except the brain. For that we must seek professional help and only then after we’ve become ill. Providing we can afford it, of course.
I can see for myself that being told what to think and feel and do every second of the day makes me sick in the brain and heart. Having my emotions manipulated every second of the day makes me unwell. Anger in, anger out, fear in, fear out, disgust, disdain, dis-ease, all day, all night, all week. When the weekend comes the onslaught stops because I walk away from the mind assault and seek shelter. So that I can have the space and time and silence to decide FOR MYSELF how I feel, what I believe, and what I should do about the evils and the perils and the devils. Not to escape. Not to pretend things aren’t shitty and don’t need to change. So that I can think for myself. Feel for myself. Choose my own reaction. Direct my own action.
Wash your hands so you don’t put germs in your head. Wash your food so you don’t put germs in your belly. Wash your skin, your clothes, your utensils, your spaces. Protect. Prevent. Fortify. Nourish. Treat.
Wash your damn brains, people. Use dirt if you have to.