That time I accidentally rewired my brain...
On Thursday night, I found myself staring at the material for a five-minute section of a presentation. The assignment was easy, something I'd done and surpassed countless times over the past few years as a Communication major. Friday, I would present one particular topic found in the textbook for five minutes, after my first partner did an introduction and an opening topic, and before my second partner covered a third topic and gave a conclusion. I had the easy part of the speech. All I had to do was figure out what I was saying and send Partner 2 the information for 1 to 3 PowerPoint slides for my section. This, my friends, is what's known as an "easy A."
To state the obvious, the problem lay not in the difficulty of the assignment or the deficiency of my qualifications. As I stared at my notes, trying to picture how I would present this information to a classroom of my peers, and especially what my request for a PowerPoint slide, due within the next few hours, would consist of, I came to a disturbing realization. (And no, it had nothing to do with stacking sentences like Jenga blocks, although I'm smiling faintly at my light-lavender prose. Blame my sleepwalking state.)
Rewind. Play. Okay: As I stared at my notes, I realized I had no idea how I was going to present this information in class the next day. I couldn't even picture in my head what the process would look like. I had no idea what to put on my PowerPoint, much less my personal outline. I couldn't mentally beta-test the scenario. I was at a complete mental block with no good explanation why. And it freaked me out.
I tracked my dad to his usual spot on the corner of the white living room couch next to the end table. I slid onto the couch, got his attention, and told him what was going on. I also told him how I've been having trouble thinking clearly and losing thoughts two seconds after I have them. To make a more involved conversation short, he told me, "I think I know what's going on, and it's uncanny how what your describing sounds exactly like what happens from spending too much time on digital media." He's done a lot of reading on how social media and the Internet are actually rewiring our brains, and the majority of my generation are growing up without the ability to concentrate or think deeply (see this article I found a few days later: https://qz.com/1091883/technology-is...-in-your-life/). And he told me that in order to solve my difficulties, I needed to get my mind back, probably by going on an Internet fast.
I spent hours at a time on the Internet while I had my kidney stone. There were some days when the only thing I could pay attention to that would also distract me from the severe pain I was in was Netflix. I caught up on a lot of Star Trek:TNG, plus Facebook and other sites in between. However, far from being a pure anomaly, my coping behavior was simply the exacerbation of an Internet-dependence that had been growing gradually since I first got my first hand-me-down iPhone three and a half years ago (I know, I'm behind the curve. I can thank my parents for that).
Thursday night, I started my Internet diet. Not quite a fast, but an abstinence from all random browsing of social media in my free moments. The movies I've been a little less successful with curbing, but I think I need to start.
I've been thinking about why I started turning to the Internet for entertainment all the time. Why did I stop reading books on a regular basis? Why do boxes and drawers in my room remain unsorted, laundry unfolded in a basket, my textbooks scattered on the bed, as I pull out my phone or computer and scroll mindlessly through text and pictures and video clips? I'm even ashamed of myself, which doesn't happen as often as it should regarding personal indulgences.
The conclusion I have reached is that I am a lazy human being. Which I knew already. But I've been letting it take over. Throughout my life, my laziness has helped me excel at efficiency and problem-solving, or sometimes knowing when the problem is not worth solving. (There's a Bill Gates quote to that affect somewhere...) But it's also meant I shy away from doing things that are uncomfortable, and that I don't feel like doing. I learned to do some of them anyway because that's how you accomplish anything of value or anything enjoyable. But I still retain an inherent push against physical discomfort - lack of sleep, lack of food, and some kinds of pain are all prone to activate my inner screaming two-year-old.
These past couple years of school have been endurance training for me. I've had to test the boundaries of what physical conditions I can still function under. I've had to show up to class empty of energy and plumbing the depths of just-barely-stopped-crying. And now I've shown up seven-and-a-half out of ten class days with a kidney stone. On pain meds, granted, but still. My early fears of what might happen if I went to class after three hours of sleep, which I combated with the blunt motto, "Show up, throw up, and grow up," have become a distant memory. I've done what I never thought possible. I had supernatural help, but now I know what is possible.
While toughing it out in some areas, I also had to learn to cut myself slack in others. But even that can lead to laziness. And when you are no longer wracked with anxiety or pain, you lose the excuse to stop working. We humans are made to work. We're made to thrive when we're being productive and languish when we're not. Post-industrial American culture has taken this quality to an extreme at the expense of what makes work meaningful, but the American dream also flings some of the wealthy and privileged in the exact opposite direction. Neither extreme is healthy, and neither is the way to a life well lived.
Self-discipline, I'll readily admit to anyone, is not my strongest characteristic. And while I shouldn't be ashamed of the ways I'm built differently than others, I should work against the character flaws that prevent me from fulfilling my purpose in life and becoming a more loving human being. I hate restrictions. I hate commitments. I hate limiting myself in any way. But when my effectiveness suffers, I need to make changes. I need discipline.
This is related to the struggle I've had with following a macrobiotic approach. To be absolutely, painfully honest, a lot of it comes down to my lack of self-discipline. And that I'm a wimp and get stressed out over little things. But now that I'm getting my energy and time back, I need to make definite steps towards bringing mind and body into optimal performance. Not as an end in itself, but so that I can live my life fully and in a way that benefits others. Finding wholesome daily replacements for mental and physical junk food seems like a good place to start.
|Posted 10-18-2017 at 11:04 PM by Flygirl|