I start to avoid things around the time I wake up. First I avoid changing out of my pajamas. Then I avoid washing my face, but I'll brush my teeth because after I that I can brew the coffee, and I throw myself as enthusiastically at the coffee as I run spedily away from the responsisbility of getting dressed. When Chris is out of town I realize I'll have to brew 4 cups instead of six, and then I avoid the thought of Minnesota and knowing that he'll be there until Saturday. When I walk through the kitchen I see the new puppy chewing a pencil and, sometimes, I avoid stopping her. Then when I get to the living room I begin to wonder if she could get lead poinsoning and I go back in the kitchen to take the ruined thing out of her mouth.
This drains just enough energy that I avoid waking up Claire, even though it's 7:00 and she has to catch the bus at 7:30. Then I remember that it's Martin Luther King Day, which means she has off of school and I relax until I start to really think about the holiday and eventually have to avoid the thought of how many other white people there are who are aggravated that black people are proud of this. That somehow makes me remember Ray Nagin's Chocolate City speech, which is depressing because as a mayor the guy is supposed to represent all of us, the best of us really, and to me that means he should be trying to unify us as a city. Then, before I have time to avoid it, I wonder whether I'm more of a republican or a democrat and I think I might be more of a democrat but I never allow myself to really think it through because I don't want to dissapoint my republican friends. By the same token, I don't want to upset my democrat friends either so I usually avoid politics all together and watch Nickelodeon instead.
My sister April fearfully avoids the news too.
"I watch the Today show to see if there's another 9/11," she told me on the phone the other day. "If there's not, I think, 'oh good, we're not all going to die,' and I turn the shit off. I don't need to know how broken hearted John Travolta is about his son. I feel bad for him, but what good can it do to think about it and then start worrying about my kid?"
April echoed the reason why I generally avoid the news. Sometimes I hear things that are useful like if there's going to be a freeze and I need to wrap my pipes, which in New Orleans happens once about every ten years, and sometimes I hear ways I can help the city like if there's a coat drive or something. But hearing about a guy in the French Quarter who murdered and then cooked his girlfriend before he jumped off a building (true) doesn't really get me anywhere. I can't go back in time and help the girl. I can't help look for the guy on Crime Stoppers because he's already killed himself. I can't offer him cooking recipes. And (feel free to tell me I'm horrible, which you've already done once because of the cannibal recipe joke that was in poor taste - poor taste! Oh!) but when I hear things like that my first reaction is, "Well, that kind of tidys things up. There's no big political, moral debate about whether or not to execute him, and he won't be killing and cooking anyone else." As a freelance journalist I see the newsworthy quality of the story, but as a human being who worries constantly and tries to offset anxiety with a bad, dark sense of humor, I wish they would stop broadcasting this stuff.
There are, of course, ocassional reports of fantastic news, like the recent plane crash in the Hudson where everyone got out alive. I'm sure when they were going down all of them thought they were goners. What immense relief they must have felt when they stopped wincing, touched their faces and arms to make sure they were still attached and thought, "I'm alive!" But as April pointed out, during the same phone conversation, it's disturbing to know that an enormous plane that can carry over a hundred people through the air can be taken down by birds.
"I'm not flying again until they build me a plane that's bird-worthy. I don't mean ducks or geese or anything, I mean I want a jet engine that can suck up an ostrich."
Thinking about all of these things, New Orleanian blacks vs. whites, murderers vs. girlfriends, birds vs. planes, can make a person go back to bed even if they've had a pot of coffee all to themsleves. I'm beginning to realize that it's better to ponder and debate these things, particularly the things I can help. So I'm trying not to go back to sleep, literally and figurtively. Even with Chris being gone for a week, I can't just let it depress me so much that I block everything out. Too much depends on me being mentally healthy.
But there's a balance, and my recent solution to avoidance of thinking and overthinking is this (feel free to roll your eyes): meditation. Last week I went to a meditation hour at the yoga studio, and I must say that when the instructor told us that we'd be sitting there with our eyes closed for three twenty minute intervals I was skeptical. Specifically, I was skeptical about my ability to sit there with my eyes closed for 20 minutes and think NOTHING. And during that time of course I thought of all sorts of things, but every time I did I would imagine that thought as a balloon and I would let it go. Which made me think of the song "99 Red Balloons" so I had to let that go too.
Dude, it's like letting your monkey chattering brain take a break in a hammock. Or something. A recharge, I guess I should say. It's different from blocking things out. I could drink or (much closer to home) become obsessed with needing to help a loved one to avoid my own problems and fears, but that's not giving my brain any rest. When I was meditating I was letting go without blocking anything out. Do you know what I mean? Maybe I could better describe it this way...I can block out things I don't want to know about myself and the world and keeping myself ignorant can give me temporary bliss, but knowing when to shut the thinker down is true serenity. It's a balanced acceptance, somewhere in between overthinking to the point of exhaustion and blocking out reality.
I can't wait to go back this Sunday night and meditate again! Yay! Does this mean that I'm becoming a true New Agey flakey chick? I shall meditate upon it...
ps- for your serene enjoyment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14IRDDnEPR4