In pauses, we rest, we clear our minds, we think and slow down. Only when we slow down can we start to see, smell, hear, and experience everything we’ve been missing. This, dearest reader, this is where happiness awaits. It is in the silence. It is in the calm. It is in the moment that you stop and enjoy the experience.
This is something you can’t do when desensitized. Don’t think you’re desensitized? Let’s think about this, shall we?
***WARNING DISTURBING IMAGES AND TOPICS***
Last Sunday I watched a man smash a baseball bat wrapped in barb wire into a man’s skull. Blood, gore, and smashed brains were everywhere. I twitched. I felt sick. I listened to the emotions arise within me. I felt nauseous. I looked away. I was disgusted. Not just at the gore, but the violence. The concept of what was laid out before me. The shock factor. I watched the baseball bat come down on another man’s head. Blood dripped down his face. His eye bulged out as he gurgled a name. I wanted it to be over. I watched the man with the bat, tie a belt around a child’s arm. I watched him shove this child to the ground and tell his father to cut off his arm.
It’s not real? You think it’s okay to watch? You think it’s fine because it’s fiction? Try this.
Did you know that Vlad the Impaler literally killed and cooked children then made parents each their own children? Did you know that there was a man on America’s Most Wanted who is wanted for raping a two month old. He recorded the rape.
Disturbed yet? YOU SHOULD BE!
How bad does it have to get before you listen?
I told my husband last Monday that I am done watching The Walking Dead. I said, “They crossed the line this time.”
“This time?” he answered. “They crossed that line a long time ago.”
I thought back through all the episodes. Terminus came to mind. Now why wasn’t that the line? Why was chopping off a man’s leg and eating it in front of him not the line? Apparently, something in my desensitized brain felt that that was acceptable. What the hell is wrong with us that we can look upon some of the things we see on television and not be disturbed?
Nothing screams “I feel vulnerable, but I am going to show you, the world, and myself that I am strong” more than bullying, inflicting self-harm, and continuously subjecting one’s own mind to horror. I’ll say it again. Be honest with yourself. Accept that you are wrong. That you are feel vulnerable, and that you are strong. Notice how I said, “feel vulnerable.” Not that you are vulnerable. You only feel this way. In truth, you are strong. You survived your own traumas. It’s time to heal.
A year ago, my therapist told me to give up my war films. She prescribed chick flicks. I screamed in terror, but did it anyway. Looking back, I understand now why she did this. She was working to desensitize my mind. Only then, could I begin to reverse the PTSD I clung so desperately to. “I need that! My PTSD keeps me safe!”
No. That is the illusion my dear reader.
I am reminded of a movie—I can’t recall the name of this movie—but there was a bad guy…let’s call him Voldemort. Voldemort took a marine—a good man—and injected him with a serum that transformed him physically into a monster. But the serum only transformed his body. Voldemort had enslaved a doctor who was forced to transform the marine’s mind into the mind of a killer. How the doctor was forced to do this…simply amazing…insightful…I feel like an idiot for not seeing it sooner.
The doctor was forced to show the marine a series of war films, horror images, and terror films: Clock Work Orange style. The doctor and Voldemort could see the mental “progress” of the marine’s mind as it changed from good to killer.
“Why is it taking so long!?” Voldemort screamed.
“Because he isn’t a monster like you,” the doctor said.
Voldemort left, leaving the doctor with the marine. In his absence, the doctor discretely flipped a switch and the movies changed from horror films to wedding videos, children playing, and cute puppies and kittens.
It’s not possible to find the calm in our lives when we fill it so dutifully with horror, gore, and terror. You aren’t bothered, because you are desensitized. You have to be to watch it what we watch today.
Nightmares aren’t normal. This was one of the biggest eye openers I learned in therapy. Nightmares are not normal. Nightmares are a symptom of PTSD. I had such horrific nightmares for so long, that I had to one up my description to Night Terrors. I take medication to prevent nightmares. That is how not normal they are. I would watch The Walking Dead. Oh, I was fine. I would come off the adrenaline rush, go to bed, then dream about being chased and hunted by zombies. I was so used to being on edge and ready for war, that I didn’t even notice the tension. I was quick to yell. Fast to discipline. Aggressive. Stressed. Tired. Rinse and repeat.
Nothing makes you slow down more than mediation. Actually…there is. Nothing makes you slow down more than Tai Chi. The art of slow. I one-upped my challenge. I took Tai Chi for arthritis. It’s Tai Chi—the art of slow movement—with elderly people. I walked into my first class and went, Ah! Slow! I can do this! By the end of the lesson I wanted to rip my eyeballs out. This is good for me, I told myself over and over again. And I stuck with it.
This isn’t about Tai Chi. This is about patience. In learning patience, we find calm. I stopped rushing—I am a New Yorker who thrives on the New York Minute—I slowed down. Do you remember when I said a few articles ago that the hardest part about happiness was accepting you’re wrong and being honest with yourself? I lied. Slowing down in New York is the hardest part about happiness. Learning to stop and take a breath. Learning to not allow anyone else to create urgency. Own urgency. Only you can create it. Only you can allow it. The place to start is sleep.
I did all of my best writing while I laid in bed staring at the ceiling, thinking…It would take hours to slow down and clear the mind. I couldn’t sleep unless I was so tired, I would pass out from Doctor Who.
Stress is a lot like pain. Pain comes and it goes like waves. If you suppress pain, it builds. But if you welcome pain and permit it to ebb and flow, it will pass quickly. Stress is just like this. If you stop and rest throughout the day, let stress come and go as a wave, if you permit the stress to ebb and flow, it will pass. if you fight stress all day, never permitting a break, then, by the time you put your head down at night, you won’t be able to sleep. Relaxation is a debt that is owed to stress. And you will pay it whether by force, or by choice. When paid by choice, you break up the stress. You take it in smaller doses. You can better manage it. When you lay down at night, you have paid your dues and you can close your eyes and rest well. If paid by force, stress will takes the relaxation that is owed to it at night, keeping you awake for hours on end.
Sleep is meditation. It is one of the most important things we can do for our health and our bodies. Sleep determines our moods, our health, our outlook. It prolongs our lives and allows us to heal. If you starve your body of food, you seek more sleep. If you deprive your body of relaxation and calm, you seek more sleep. If you deprive your body of health, you seek more sleep. If you deprive your body of sleep, you will be driven insane. Without sleep, you will die.
Slow down. Pause. Rest. Sleep. Take time to sleep. There is nothing so urgent that can’t wait.