Blog,  Creativity,  Mental Health

Blog 4.16.24

I’ve just turned 50 and I’m slowing down. What’s interesting about this is that my slowing down isn’t happening because I’m aging. That part is pretty easy, actually. I just wake up every day and voila! I’m older. But the slowing down – that’s new. And while it’s connected to me getting older, it’s not happening because I’m getting older.

Speed is overrated. I’ve lived the first half of my life with a front-row seat to the digital revolution. I’ve watched us gaining speed as a global society, all the while trying to keep pace. Everything is fast now — food, travel, wifi, fashion, banking, and of course, buying shit with nothing more than a single half-conscious flick of my thumb. The videos we consume online last mere seconds. The articles we read are written for skimming. It’s impossible to keep up, and still, we try. Pounding our prefrontal cortices with more and more and more, consuming until we can’t even remember what we were doing five minutes ago because we’ve robbed our brains of processing time.

I’ve been unhappy with this situation for a while, and frankly, I’m concerned about the future decline in my cognitive abilities. I wonder how the abuse we’re visiting on our brains will show up in my generation in another twenty years. I know this is connected to the way I’ve been living because when I take breaks with a media fast, analog activities, more sleep, less caffeine, time outside and regular exercise – I can see improvements in my cognition within a couple weeks.

But an occasional break in the action here and there isn’t really going to cut it. So, as I crest half a century, I’m consciously choosing to slow down, and to make it a integral part of who I am. This isn’t some ‘loss of vitality’ from aging that makes it impossible for me to keep up. It’s already impossible to keep up. No one really can anymore, despite what they tell you. Driven by FOMO and the desire for more, more, more – we disrespect our minds and bodies, ignoring a thousand little signals over the course of day, turning our eyes toward the bright and shiny so that we don’t have to face our fears of mundanity.

But what, I ask, is wrong with the mundane?

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

I’m working on changing some bad habits. One of which is my bedtime “routine” that more often than not has been a combination of snacking, staring at my phone and watching TV – usually all at the same time. Ridiculous. Last night I chose to read before bed and listen to some soft music instead (Studio Ghibli Jazz playlist FTW), all the while paying attention to my internal responses to things.

The most surprising part is how weird it all felt. As if something was missing. I kept reaching for the remote control and/or my phone, then putting them back down. When I tired of reading I closed my eyes and listened to the music until I felt like I was nodding off. Then I turned out the light and promptly went to sleep.

This morning I woke up feeling amazing. I realize this is just one night, but it’s something I’m planning to do for thirty days and I can’t wait to see where I am after a whole month of letting my body and mind settle. And look, some people may have higher abilities to tolerate constant distraction (though I doubt it), but I’m a fine instrument not a blunt object. I need to respect this physical form and that means not letting my mind run like wild horses.

Ultimately, I have things I want to accomplish in life. I’m writing a novel. I’m learning Japanese. I practice Zen. I have a stack of books I want to read, and while they may not be as engaging as a TikTok timeline, I know consuming them is going to provide me with benefits far beyond what I find on any of the social platforms. As much as we like to tell ourselves that we’re being ‘informed’ online, the reality is that we’re being distracted and – let us not be naive – propagandized.

Education requires discipline and effort. Creativity demands a sandbox of boredom. Art comes through clear channels that are ready, primed and waiting to be used. Our minds need rest. Each moment is a gift, and we won’t be around forever to enjoy them. That’s just reality – the place I want to live for the rest of my life.