I did it. I hit the wall.
It didn’t take much. But it never does. It’s never the big things that push us over the edge. It’s always the small things. All it took was a straw, after all, to break the camel’s back. And all it took to push me over the edge was this:
I was sitting at our kitchen table on Saturday morning. I was looking out the window at Anne. She was walking Eddie across the lawn in front of the clubhouse in our neighborhood. It was a sunny, 60-degree November day. Both of them were completely at peace. Anne was lost in leisurely thought, looking at the now leafless trees, enjoying the smell of newly mown, still-green grass. Eddie was working his way slowly across the expanse of lawn, sniff by sniff, contentedly curious, comforted by the leash that tethered him to Anne, knowing he was, nevertheless, free to do as he doggy-well pleased.
In a momentary interruption of my own reverie, I saw this headline in the right column of my LinkedIn home page, which happened to be up on my iPad: “Snowbird migration looks different”.
BANG! It was over.
I knew in that instant that none of it mattered. None of the ubiquitous electronic communication. None of the news outlets or social media platforms. None of it. All of it is just so much knee-jerk, emotion-laden, ideologically informed, superficial noise. It’s waste. It’s sense pollution. The people I care about constitute a minuscule fraction of the people who are mistaking their opinions for importance and flooding the universe with their bloviating.
I don’t need their opinions. I don’t want their opinions.
None of what they have to say has anything to do with me. It has nothing to do with Anne’s walk with Eddie. It has nothing to do with the leaves that have fallen from the trees, with the grass that’s still lush and green, with the scents Eddie detects with every step. It has nothing to do with the birds, the squirrels, and the chipmunks that frolic, without a care, in our back yard. It has nothing to do with the natural order by which everything of meaning in the world abides.
Everything in electronic communication — everything from the news outlets and on the social-media platforms — exists on the same plane of immediacy. IT’S ALL RIGHT NOW! THIS IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THAT! IT’S ALL GOING TO BE AS IMMEDIATELY AND URGENTLY IMPORTANT AS IT IS RIGHT NOW 24/7, 365, AND YOU’LL NEVER GET AWAY FROM IT BECAUSE …
I don’t care why. I’m done.
If we’ve reached the point at which everything is important, then nothing’s important. Everything in the universe does not exist on the same plane of importance. And I won’t act as if it does.
If you need me, I’ll be with Anne, Eddie, Sammy, and the people I care about.
Isn’t it great to realize that nothing else matters other than your own peace and happiness? I know for me, letting go of other’s opinions has been liberating. I still sometimes slip into watching the opinions of others affect me. But usually it is when I watch the news, or I see something on social media to trigger a response from me. But, generally, I know in my bones the opinions and positions of others are not meaningful to me. I can only put effort into listening to my heart for guidance and confirmation to find peace. I trust going into Thanksgiving with this awareness will help both of us.
We’re kindred spirits, Kate. As Pat Conroy once wrote, “I never remember a time when I was not afraid of my father’s hands.” That fear — the fear of being and doing something wrong — was with me for a very long time. But given the fact that every lesson I ever learned I learned the hard way, every one of them is indelible. I always knew I was okay. I only had to learn I had nothing to be afraid of.
Here’s to both of us and to a Happy Thanksgiving for you and your family.
Thank you for your comments.