I should probably back up a bit and explain exactly what the experiment is and why I’m doing it. In short, unhappy has been my mode of being for a long time thanks in part to a chronic health problem, a general malaise, and a complete lack of motivation to do anything. And by “anything” I literally mean anything. It’s gotten to the point that even getting out of bed is considered a win.
To be fair, most of it is related to the health issue (chronic Epstein Barr [CEBV] and chronic fatigue, in case you’re interested), but I have a feeling it’s exacerbated by outside factors. At the top of the list? Continually watching/reading the news and getting sucked into the online comment sections where hatefulness seems to be rampant. And it’s horrifyingly addicting.
I think my addiction to the news is overcompensation for my parents letting me be a kid when I was a kid. News was for adults and my brother and I watched very little TV in general. As a trade-off I was navigating the streets, buses, and trains of Frankfurt, Germany, on my own by the time I was 14. Plus, back in the 80s, when I was a teenager, we didn’t have 24-hour cable news. We did have bomb and terrorism threats to be mindful of, but it wasn’t a drum that was continually pounded on. On one hand it’s great to be able to find out what’s going on whenever I want, but I’m not entirely convinced the constant barrage of bad news, the beating of every dead horse possible, and the general tomfoolery of the talking heads has done anyone any good. As a result, I decided to impose a news moratorium and by extension comments sections.
My theory is that it’s hard to dream, and dream big, when bad news is the main focus of the information you take in. And have no doubt – I’m a Big Dreamer. Always have been. Until about 1999 (when I suspect the CEBV kicked in) I’d wake up every day excited about whatever adventures the day held in store and I made sure there were adventures aplenty. And despite the slow start to the day, I was reminded that my adventuresome spirit isn’t gone for good, but only buried underneath all the crap I’ve piled on it.
There’s one thing that always scares me (in a good way) and that’s the thought of people who don’t know each other doing the same thing at the same time. It happens at concerts when everyone joins in singing along with the band and that’s an amazing feeling, but even more overwhelming is the idea of people scattered throughout the world doing the same thing at the same time without occupying the same general space. I actually wrote about the first time I experienced it in an essay called “Connection: Temporary” I wrote for Fractured: essays on love, friendship, and the nightmares in between:
I’m sitting in the Louisiana mid-day heat melting to the vinyl of my parents’ day-glow orange Vega — the one with the twice-rebuilt engine, courtesy of my father. My family is beyond technologically challenged, so I’m outside listening to the radio. Waiting. Crickets play their own brand of music while I swat at flies with lazy flicks of my hand. Finally, the familiar strains of the tune I’ve been not-to-patiently waiting to hear come tumbling out of the speakers. The absolute joy I feel makes me want to laugh and cry, all at once hysterical and calm. In the few seconds before the vocals come in, I think to myself:
Tons of people are listening to this song at exactly this moment.
It’s such an overwhelming thought, the feeling it evokes frightening in its intensity. The world seems so big, and I feel so utterly small — a modern day Thumbelina in a giant’s world. Dissolving further into the seat, the contradictory emotions cascade through me, over me, under me, around me. My entire body tingles until I am nothing but the song.
The year is 1981, and I’m ten years old. The song I’ve been waiting to hear is Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.”
I can’t explain exactly what happened this morning without making this more of a novel than it already is, but it was enough to set the butterflies going and make the sunshine seem brighter and send me into giddy laughter. It was just a moment, but it was a moment of unmitigated joy. A moment to remind me that no matter how dismal life has seemed over the years there’s still hope for adventures and dreaming big once I clear out all the clutter.