It’s taken, literally, 6 weeks to sort out the issue of a small car accident. Insurance, repair, parts, claims, ice, rental vehicles, customer service surveys, fuse boxes, indicator lights, supervisors, reports, emailed photos, DRUs, and more.
This is only one item on the To Do list for the week.
– the side effect of our non-stop lives.
You know– it’s buzzing in our purses. It’s pinging from our TweetDecks, it’s flashing from the answering machine. The nonstop demand on us is raising the bar of stress. And according to the New York Times, it is pulsating through our sick buildings and homes, electromagnifying our stress to epic levels.
My brain/soul/body has screaming at me to LEAVE for awhile now. Go! It says. Get out of here! This is ridiculous and it is not normal and it is killing us all!
I keep logically explaining to it that I am tethered. There is no escape. Leave to where, I ask? Waldon Pond or the Big Woods?
My mind keeps conjuring a magical land of disconnectedness where no one uses anything electronic.
And where the streets are lined with sweet old homes and porch swings, snuggled next to each other. And behind each door lives MikeTimPeterFrancesAlexMomDad JeannieDeronLaneFordBryanStacyBobAmy GregKarenMaryJayEllenPeterNickHeather KarinBonnieAbby and parade of other friends and family, tootling ’round in one lovely home after another in a Utopia of human Facebook life.
What we’d do then is just, like, shout out our “status updates” to each other, across the way. Share soup and talk to each other a great deal.
Or maybe, if we are feeling really high tech, string up a Dixie Cup phone system.
We’ve got CULTURAL ANXIETY:
From news of Libya (that’s going to affect oil prices which is going to affect the cost of our vacation!)
to Wisconsin (now I have to decide what I think about labor unions. And teachers. And the “state of education”)
to the economy, the housing market, job loss, which isn’t just numbers in the news, but the lives of our friends and our neighbors and ourselves: questions hovering around constantly about whether or not we go to work, sell our house, move, buy a new car. Everything buzzes now with questions and uncertainty.
The Actual Questions – Who Are We?
When I lived in London from 2004-2007, I felt a similar kind of cultural anxiety among the British. They were no longer the power they had been during the Colonial years. They were slowly becoming just an island in the Atlantic with its own currency and no special power.
Actually, at the time, it was much worse. They were George W. Bush’s bitch. So there was the war so many of them disagreed with and the relationship with US cocky jerks which they didn’t like at all.
At the same time, the country was dealing with an unexpected crush of Middle Eastern and Eastern European immigrants that was rapidly changing every part of the landscape– culturally, politically, and economically. All in a very small geographical area, relatively.
The British were suffering from a painful, terrifying identity crisis.
I see this happening in the U.S. right now too. Here’s how:
1. The People Issue. As individuals, we are redefining our understanding of personal relationships. We have shifting personal networks and “friends” that are sometimes more intimate with us than our own living-in-the-house family. Those friends might live thousands of miles away and, oddly, we might never have physically met. Meanwhile, we are barely maintaining the LOGISTICS of life in front of us: school, family, marriage, kids, church.
2. The Chronology Issue. Old friends and lovers from the past are popping up. We are making MORE friends than ever, from multiple time zones. We have access to them at any time through multiple platforms and devices. Our days are no longer chronological– they are amorphous blobs with no beginning and no end. We need more time for everything and there seems to be NONE and an unending supply.
3. The Work Issue. Uncertain economic situation + continuous feedback = imbalance in self-perception. This can be either positive or negative. We can either use this uncertainty to a more creative and purposeful end. OR, we can have the opposite response: to devastate ourselves with fear and to cling to the crumbs. At work this means that we settle, that we allow inferior perceptions of ourselves invade our mindset while real fears about economic stability try to tilt our priority scales. Or maybe we cut the strings and become the next Apple.
4. The Health Issue. My friend Tim posted a photo of his lunch on Facebook. It was ALL sorts of Burger King. His caption read: “just having a cr@p day so figured I would fill my body with the same .” As we feel anxious, we respond with higher blood pressure, emotional eating, depression, dieting tragedies, and eventually, that place of “ignoring” — where too much information sends us into overload and we say: Enough. We give up on being “healthy” and just do what “feels” right. Even if it means sitting on the sofa for hours on end, eating a whole box of donuts, and watching “Jersey Shore.” (You aren’t telling me that DOESN’T sound like some good crack right now? Mmmm, glazed!)
5. The Information Issue. There is no more Edward R. Morrow or Walter Cronkite to guide us. We live in an information dumping ground and there is almost no way to know what is credible, what is reliable, what is meaningful. It is all noise, and we are slowly becoming deaf.
The Anxious Result
To me, this is nothing less than living in a devastating earthquake zone and experiencing aftershocks day after day. How can we do anything well or with any meaning in this kind of climate? How do we even get our feet under us?
The daily pressures of a culture working through identity crisis is affecting not just me, but all of us, individually, and as a community.
I know why now the moments in yoga, or floating in the swimming pool, or just weeding the garden feel so precious. They are slices of pure escape from the electrified hamster wheel that has become “our modern life.”
The “normal” things — peeling and eating an orange, talking to a friend in person, uninterrupted, sitting on the front stoop — are no longer even halfway considered a regular part of our lives. They are extras.
“Forget for this moment the smog and the cars and the restaurant and the skating and remember only this. A kiss may not be the truth, but it is what we wish were true.”
— Harris Telemacher – “L.A. Story”