Stick Together: Staying Balanced When Everything is Up in the Air

If you spend a lot of time online, (or at least paying attention to the news) you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. On one hand, the news is terrible: Ecological nightmares happening in slow motion, wars across the globe, economy in turmoil, inflation, infowars, 30% of the population in the US duped into thinking the election was stolen, your neighbors fighting over science and vaccines, etc. On the other hand, your Instagram feed is a steady stream of gauzy filters, happy overload, best lives, extreme positivity, hope, hustle, ambition.

Yet, we’re stuck in the middle trying to get through the day, and figure out post-pandemic norms. We’re languishing.

American culture seems to be driven by extrinsic validation. We like nice cars (because they signal success), expensive clothes (because they signal taste, style), big job titles, the right zip code, the vacations, the right causes, etc. We love likes, so we perform online to get the validation.

But, when the world is going nuts, when chaos seems right around the corner, when your planned path isn’t an option anymore, how do we stay balanced, centered, tethered, steady?

I’m struggling with this right now. I don’t have good answers, but i’m compulsively clicking on the links in twitter hoping to find an article to help me. I’m getting distracted by alerts from the folks barking for my attention. This guru wants me to take a class. That other one wants me to go to their seminar. No app will ever really help me get clear, despite what the ads say.

There are days when I feel like a Kurtz, who went up the river, leaving with optimism, now stuck in the wild, overwhelmed at what the Internet has done to us all. The horror. What has replaced all that hope?

So, I’m working at staying upright. A little yoga, a little meditation. More exercise, better sleep. You know its bad when i’m taking advice from Radiohead:

Fitter happier
More productive
Comfortable
Not drinking too much

I’m one of those guys that always put their head down and tried hard to do the work. I was never the smartest, I have been lazy, but i thought i could endure more work than others.

That approach is making this period of languishing worse, this acedia harder.

I want to be centered, I want to be still. But, my reptile brain is winning and I’m pretty sure my dopamine receptors are burned out.

I think the answer is pretty obvious, but hard for me to see sometimes: Stick together. Find your people, listen carefully, be of service, offer support, ideas and generosity. Be useful. Seek ways to help move something forward. Find ways to connect, even over zoom.

I was listening to the Ezra Klein podcast and the guest was talking about the way profound loneliness – feeling apart, being isolated emotionally, not necessarily just being physically apart – drives people crazy and makes them susceptible to crazy ideas (like QAnon, the Big Lie, conspiracy theories about vaccines, etc). This recalls the book Vivek Murthy wrote a couple years ago, where he made the argument there’s an epidemic of loneliness. Of course we’re all lonely. It’s part of what’s making us nuts.

So, let’s try to stick together. Let’s help each other get out of this bog of ennui and listlessness. Let’s help each other find a sense of balance in a destabilizing world. Let’s hang onto each other when everything seems up in the air.

Time is of the Essence

Tempus fugit. Every knows that in their head, but for some of us it creates a distinct, deep feeling. It’s January 1, 2022. Another year. Another clean slate, in a lot of ways. I can feel it in my body and in my gut that I’m not getting younger, that time is slipping away. I’m proud of what i’ve done with the time I’ve been given, but I want to make sure I make the most of the time I have left.

2021 was a shitshow in a lot of ways. People I love who died way too early, people i know and admire dealing with significant mental health issues, planetary crisis, democracy in peril, etc. I don’t have to list it out. We all experienced it.

I’ve got no new insight into time, but I do have a newfound sense of urgency, a new mindfulness about potential distractions.

Resolution #1 for 2021: Avoid distractions that take my time away from me.