It’s the 1st of January today so I think I’ll be in some good company when I make the following confession: I picked up a pretty bad habit last year.
Nothing big, dark or scary, by the way. I haven’t developed a penchant for loitering in opium dens, or for putting everything I have on red (not being able to leave the house due to a rampaging pandemic has some unexpected benefits, huh).
But I felt pretty lonely during 2020 (not being able to spend time with other people, physically, in person, tends to do that to a gal), and I’ve found myself doom-scrolling on Twitter as a result. And for something I do to make myself feel better, I sure do feel worse afterwards.
(I know, I know; I’m reminded of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’s observation that “The problem isn’t usually the problem: the solution is the problem”.)
Being on Twitter used to be great. It was an incredible life-line when I was housebound due to illness; a place where I could listen in on and often join conversations with strangers, revelling in the shared absurdity of the human experience. I made some wonderful friends through it, some of whom I still haven’t met.
I don’t know when things changed, exactly. I suspect the political events of 2016, though, marked a real shift in public discourse generally; a shift which has only become more and more polarised and hostile.
I’m oft to say that unexpressed (and thus, unhealed) grief calcifies into grievance, and it seems everyone has a grievance these days. I seldom post now, for fear of strangers venting their anger in the most expedient and repercussion-free way they know how. It’s a space full of wonderful people and links to wonderful ideas and information, but it feels like I’m trying to have a quiet sherry in a pub that’s always one blink away from a full-blown riot.
And yet, it’s the social media platform I keep going back to. As I keep such a low profile, I never have any notifications to tug at my guilt-strings (unlike Facebook or Instagram, where I have this unshakeable feeling that I’m supposed to like or respond to SODDING EVERYTHING EVER). I just want to sit in the old pub again, drinking a quiet sherry, reading stuff, sigh.
So, what’s a girl to do? Like I say, it’s the 1st of January. New Year resolutions, and all that [waves hands airily]. I can’t promise I’ll stop using the platform, because I’ll be setting myself up for failure. But there are two ideas I’m carrying forward into this month (and, hopefully, beyond).
The first comes from a Christmas gift I received, the positive-psychology based The 6-Minute Diary. Its advocacy of morning and evening routines and the statistics it shares about how many of us check our phones as the first thing we do in the morning (apparently 78% of us, within the first 15 mins), and the last thing we do at night, has been a big wake-up call for me (slight pun, slightly intended). Starting my day with bad news and angry people in my phone, and ending it with yet more pain and angry shouting .. yeah, not so good.
So no more checking my phone when I wake up or just before I go to sleep, in an effort to alleviate my loneliness. Instead, I started listening to Levar Burton Reads (beginning at the beginning) last night, which was a far more enjoyable way to unwind before going to bed.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
It was a good reminder for me to look at my own habits and to recognise that, with my constant checking of tweets, I’m forever feeding the wolf of fear, powerlessness and scarcity.
So here’s my 2021 not-quite-a-resolution-more-of-an-intention-really – to do more things that feed the good wolf, to recognise when I’m feeding the bad one, and to put the latter on a bit of a diet.
Which one will you put time into feeding this year?