The theme for this month’s #1000Speak is nuturing. Once again, I was having trouble thinking of something to write. There is so much out there about nurturing others. We spend a great deal of time nurturing others, from our children, to our spouses, to our aging parents, to others in our churches, groups of friends, support groups, students, online communities, even co-workers at times. What we often don’t get enough of is self-nurturing, taking the time to care for ourselves, physically, mentally, and emotionally. For me, this would be an evening out with The Tominator, or a favorite album with some wine and a home pedicure, or tending the little container garden on my apartment deck.
Gardeners have known for a long time that digging in the dirt replenishes the soul, and a recent study has shown that there are antidepressant microbes in soil. The science behind the magic. But sometimes it’s even simpler than that. Where I spend a lot of my time studying or researching and writing papers or blogging, there is a beautifully simple view out of my window. It’s a tree, a maple tree, four stories high and full, with spreading branches and myriad leaves. The tree spreads over the entirety of my window, with the corner rail of the deck visible at the bottom. My view is filled with leaves made shimmering by the breeze, with flashes of azure in between, birds flitting in an out, and a few flowers accenting the lower corner, petunias and pansies and snapdragons looking sleepy in the sun. I don’t need to see anything else. This is what fills my vision right now as I write this, and it is lovely, although the snapdragons need water. It reminds me of sitting inside a full and lush weeping willow as a child, hidden in a verdant cave that whispered to me while it sheltered me from the world. Secret and safe.
We live in a world of bytes, millions and billions of them floating through the aether and the cybersphere most of us are connected to these days. Not too long ago I created my own Twitter account, admittedly with some misgivings. I have enough problems with my Facebook news feed, post after post of other people’s crocheting projects and political memes (some of them quite bigoted, but that’s another post) and game invitations and endless adorable baby animals and teenagers’ vague angst and photos of other people’s dinner and uplifting quote after uplifting quote, which are admittedly better than hateful ones, but one after the other, they stop meaning anything. Studies have shown that when we see endless posts about the wonderfulness of other people’s lives and children, we start to feel depressed, like we can never live up to those standards and we simply aren’t good enough. When I first opened my Twitter account, the few times I looked at my home page I saw an endless stream of cleverness, hyperbole, political ranting, pop culture one-liners, all in 140 characters or less, from people I don’t even know. I felt bombarded and I haven’t looked at it since. I’m particular about who I follow. The Dalai Lama says little, but what he says, matters.
Even the news gets to me. I can’t remember the last time I read a newspaper that wasn’t free; like so many other people, I get my news from the Internet. The difference is that I still end up feeling inundated with negativity, the scope has increased from the local newspaper to the entire country, and I don’t even get the crossword puzzle as a consolation prize. A newborn baby found in the trash in New Jersey, four people dead in a car crash in Las Vegas, a house fire in Chicago, another police officer and excessive force in Milwaukee, yet another bombing in Afghanistan, a gas pipeline explosion in Los Angeles, the snatching and murder of a little girl in Poland, not to mention the endless stream of ads for things to help me lose weight, erase my wrinkles, cover my gray, dress like a hot young thing, and not least an advertisement claiming I can “stop worrying about poor self image” by using their product instead of just not trying to live up to these assclown standards in the first place. Yes, I care about what goes on this world and I consider myself an activist for a couple of causes I care very much about, but the truth is, the deluge of bad news I can do nothing about is downright depressing and, in the end, bad for my health.
Stop it already.
Sometimes you have to shut it off. Unplug. Withdraw. Nurturing does not always have to be an activity. Frequently, nurturing is a passivity. It is not being connected, it is not being involved, it is not responding to the world’s constant pressure to do and act and have our awareness raised and achieve and accomplish and above all to be as good as all these things make us think everybody else is. It is finding the weeping willow tree in my mind and crawling inside and doing nothing else but sitting against its strong trunk, fingers pressed into the dirt and bare toes curling into the grass, and not coming out until I can feel that secret cool greenness in my very soul.
I’m not saying that Facebook and Twitter and the Internet are bad. Facebook is a great way to stay connected with the people I love who are far away. Twitter has proven very useful for keeping up with my beloved 49ers. Used correctly and judiciously, the Internet is a world of information at my fingertips for research papers and just random things I want to know about, like what are the little plastic tabs on bread packages called, or the syncronicity of stumbling upon the unfamiliar word sophrosyne and using my phone to learn that, in a way, it’s the whole point of 1000 Voices for Compassion.
Nurture yourself. Turn off the TV and power down your computer and your tablet and your phone. Step back. Disengage.
Breathe in the quiet. Breathe in the you.
(P.S. If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @99_Monkees. I promise I won’t pepper you with silly stuff.)
(P.P.S. The little plastic tabs on bread packages are called bread tabs, bread tags, bread clips, or bread climps, and they were invented in 1952 by Fred Paxton of Selah, Washington. They are also color-coded by day of the week, so if you buy by color, you can get the freshest loaf. However, different brands use different colors for different days, so you’re still best off to check the date printed on the plastic thingie. You’re welcome.)