RunningJan 09, 2024
I remember a time that I was perfectly content in my little house in my little home town. That was ages ago. I’ve been psychologically “running” for a long time now.
It happened when I stopped to get gas at a little town north of Phoenix, on my way back to Sedona. I’m not exactly sure what triggered the feeling, but suddenly I was overcome with a sense of contentment and calm. The best I can do is describe it as a feeling of “home.”
I saw a plain pickup truck driving past a row of tract houses lining a sunny suburban street. It could have been almost any town in America. And I was smiling.
More re-experience than recall, I was emotionally and psychologically transported back to a time and place in which I felt no need to chase something “better.” A life of low stress, low anxiety and fulfillment in the simple pleasures of daily living.
Each day I was excited to jump in my car - not the best or newest car - and cruise the streets of my little town - not the coolest or most exotic town. I felt happy and safe teaching guitar or working as a paramedic or attending class in a small, isolated community college - not the biggest or most prestigious institution.
My God; What Have I Done?
This unexpected event was not anemoia. I clearly re-experienced many mundane moments where I was fulfilled by simply being. I used to feel as though the present moment was sufficient, without trying to be intentionally conscious of “mindfulness” as a thought experiment.
I just was.
The conscious thought that followed the feeling was, “How could I have so completely forgotten?” Until that moment of serendipitous anamnesis, those times of quiet satisfaction had been lost in a maelstrom of drive and grind and crush it and make it happen.
And that’s too bad. If we could hold the spirit of simpler times within ourselves, we might find a potent antidote to the toxic culture that has spawned diagnostic non-sequiturs such as, “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”
It seems that the vast majority of folks spend a good deal of their time “running” these days. The question is, “Why?”
There are three reasons that we run.
There was a time before email, when all you had to do was check your (physical) mailbox for letters or packages. The biggest stress was that some of those letters were bills. And it was irritating to find your mailbox stuffed with coupons for discounts at the local grocery store.
Email brought a huge advantage, as you could reach anyone anywhere without stationery or an envelope or a stamp. And everyone - including hundreds of people you don’t know - can reach you. Anywhere and anytime. This meant the average person checked the physical mailbox once a day and the electronic mailbox several times a day.
Now we obsess over communications from phone messages and Messenger and Instagram and Facebook and TikTok and X and Telegram and… Of course, we still have a ton of email every day. And we still get paper coupons for the local grocery store stuffed into our physical mailboxes.
I’m no Luddite. I use and enjoy this massive leap in communications technology every day. (Yes, I hope you see this article on my website or my Substack or Medium accounts.) But I am also aware of an equally massive leap in anxiety as we drink from the electronic fire hose of information being fired at us each day.
And this is only one of many examples of the way life has become more chaotic, more stressful with the passage of time.
So the desire to run back to a simpler time is understandable, maybe even healthy. What isn’t healthy is to let the world pass you by, to pretend that it’s 1975 again. Or even 2015, for that matter. Things change and to remain functional, we must change with them. But to occasionally jump out of the fastest part of the river - to run back for a while - isn’t a bad strategy.
If you are reading this, there is a very good chance that you are inundated by social media. And social media screams for comparison. What? You don’t even make $100,000 a week yet? Slacker!
There is no shortage of 20-somethings disappointed that you haven’t learned the latest paradigm to get rich quick (and more than willing to show you how they “did it,” for a fee.) Flip real estate and buy a business and invest in EFTs and crypto or - for god’s sake - at least let ChatGPT write that best-selling book for you. Do you even cold plunge?
Again, I am a realist and see that there is the possibility, more than at any other time, to work in a way more congruent with your aspirations and world view. Some of those endeavors could even make a lot of money, if you are clever and attractive and an early adopter.
But if your existence is focused solely on running forward to the latest trend, the only people who will get rich are the ones in the pharmaceutical companies charging you for their latest remedy. For your generalized anxiety disorder.
Perhaps the saddest of the runners among us are those who run away. These individuals aren’t looking to slow down to a simpler time or keep up with the latest sales funnel for fame and fortune. They run to escape.
When the demons that are an inevitable part of life are just too powerful, too obdurate to banish, the next best thing is to pretend they don’t exist. And the best way to do that is to stay distracted.
There was a time that substance abuse was the distraction of choice. That choice obviously still exists, but there are so many other choices now, instantly available. Starting to feel anxious? Just doom scroll on your phone for 8 hours. Retail therapy (Amazon Prime, anyone?) is there, 24/7/365. Don’t want to shop? Your smart device is your personal portal to gambling, porn, political commentary, police chases, true crime podcasts and kittens riding robotic vacuum cleaners.
The pitfalls for those who run away are twofold: they are exhausted, like anyone who runs far and fast enough, but they also never deal with that from which they run. And any good fairy tale will tell you that monsters left to flourish always get bigger.
We weren’t put here to take it easy. The challenges and opportunities of life should be met with joy and vigor. Run toward that which informs your purpose and gives your life the meaning you intend.
But recognize why you run. Spend your precious time and effort to make life richer. If you run for any other reason, try to deal with it so it isn’t an energy suck. Or worse.
And sometimes, for a while, it’s best to stop running altogether.
I am a creator (musician, writer, live-streamer and podcaster), entrepreneur, educator and counselor. To learn more about how to use these concepts or to inquire about working with me, you can contact me through my website, the comments section on my Substack or Medium accounts or The Authentic Life Blog page. If you have found value in this article, consider following my Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) accounts. To support this community, you can even Buy Me A Coffee or donate through my Patreon account. Subscribe to my River of Creation podcast - The Podcast for Creators, and my associated YouTube channel, coming later this year, wherever you download your podcasts.
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