I have learned many things during this 93-day adventure. I’ve slowed down and made my body/mind my focus, looking at what makes it hum, what makes it feel stuck in the mud, what makes it powerful, what helps it feel connected and in community, what makes me not have poops to brag about, and I’ve had a revelation that has to do with Facebook and squirrels and fear.
I check in with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn (when I remember I have an account) way more times than I check in with myself. How am I feeling? Let’s see what my friends on Facebook have to say about that. How do they think I am feeling? How about my Instagram followers. Did they like my pictures, my memes, me? Am I okay? Has anyone scolded me on Twitter or am I alright? Does anyone on LinkedIn know I exist? How do I even use that site? It has been two seconds. Did something happen I should know about? Did someone find a way to get god or the universe or the head of a major (or minor!) publishing company to say I am worthy of attention? How about now? Now? Should I stay awake all night and keep checking just in case? What if I miss something? What if someone says something important and I miss it? What if Facebook opens into a secret door and I get to slip away to a magical place like Narnia, but only if I am there to see it open? What if your ten millionth Facebook post gets you a life well lived stamp on your card of validity? Am I getting close?
Finding love or approval or feeling the support of a community online is like having a binkie or a blankie or a bottle. It’s so nice, so available. You can even do it while you drive if you don’t mind being a hazard to yourself or others. I’m saying you but I mean I.
The thing about a binkie or a blankie or a bottle is that it offers solace but is not a long-term solution to having a foundational sense of well-being. When a baby is sad or inconsolable, a parent can touch a binkie to the baby’s trembling lips, Here, darling. Here. Stop feeling. Stop thinking.
Doctors call infant eating nutritivesuckingand all pacifier use nonnutritivesucking(because it yields no nutrition). Non-nutritive sucking helps babies stay calm amid the chaos of the world around them. Like baby meditation, paci sucking lowers the heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels; it even reduces crying after shots and blood tests. But as hunger builds, your baby will eventually spit the pacifier out, as if to complain, “Hey, I ordered milk—not rubber!” (https://www.happiestbaby.com/blogs/blog/baby-sucking)
I am wondering how much time spent online is nonnutritive sucking. What is the need that drives us to go online to places such as Facebook and Instagram, and are we getting these needs filled? I am suspicious because I keep going back just like if there is a pie on the counter I’ll keep returning to it, taking a forkful or a bit of crust until the pie is gone because I’ve stepped onto the carb rollercoaster, and I have to keep feeding the beast to keep the ups and downs going. If I were perfectly content, would I be reaching for my phone as often as I do now? If I were in good company, eating good food, having good conversation, would I stop to check my Instagram?
I listen to a podcast where two healers talk about the various things they learn from other members of the healing community. One of the women has this habit of saying to the other, I was thinking about so and so as you were talking, and each time I catch my breath. What? Why wasn’t she listening to her friend? I keep waiting for her friend to say, Hold up, Shorty. This is a program on mindfulness and awareness. Why aren’t you listening to me?
I feel like that may be like my relationship with my body/mind. It’s trying to have a conversation with me but I’m listening to the larger world on line and so my body responds in various ways, numbing out, hurting, atrophying, getting sad, getting sick, getting hungry.
Some people are hungrier than others and they are hungry for different things: food, fame, Louis Vuitton bags, skin contact, praise. I am hungry, I have found in the last 60 days, for focus. When my brain is on, everything feels so good. Ideas flow; I feel strong, excited, ready to take on the world. When my brain is foggy, which is often, it’s like I’m a surfer on a still sea waiting for a wave. There isn’t much I can do. I wait. I get frustrated. I can’t think, and when I can’t think, can’t connect the dots, I don’t feel like myself. I feel like a body waiting.
Connecting to people online to some extent is like a binkie to soothe me until I can connect with myself. Granted, Facebook has connected me to all sorts of wonderfulpeople. My life would be so different if I’d never logged on and created a profile and started friending both people I knew and strangers.
But when I was honest with myself, I realized the fact is that part of the 93-day project, for me, was to get some sort of overwhelming online approval. A big YES ANNE. I wanted to go viral, and that desire changes how I think, how I write, how a spend my time. If something I post gets a lot of likes, I’m good. If something I post is ignored, I wonder what went wrong, what did I do wrong, does everyone finally know that I amwrong. I have to slow down and examine my thoughts and behaviors to write that previous sentence, because the life I live on the surface is a lot faster than that, a lot less careful, a lot less self-conscious. So what if no one likes that, I often tell myself. I like it.
I’m aware of the response, and I pay attention to what gets attention, like a child noticing what makes a parent happy.
I had the idea for a new novel last week and then, as I visualized it, I realized it was a screenplay. I imagined these characters that had nothing to do with me, and I was excited to write something fictional, something highly stylized and imaginary. The more I thought about it, the more I saw it was a deeply intimate story and that it was just a reflection of my own inner life. That’s when I started to think it would never be made into a movie: it was too strange, too dark, too original. This is when I started to think I should forget about it and do something else.
I think this is one reason so many people don’t write—because when it comes right down to it they can’t believe other people would value their vision and story. The hopeful storytellers think about how they can change the characters, the plot, the setting, to make them all more “acceptable” and less like themselves.
All of this thinking got me to the main point of this post: squirrels and fear. I am all over the place with this project now. I don’t even know what the main point is. And why I am I doing this? 1. Habit. 2. Just saying I wanted a solid poop didn’t feel like “enough.” Surely I could do ten or a hundred other things at the same time. 3. I’m afraid of failure, so doing twenty things is a distraction for both me and for you. You can’t see me and my needs and actions clearly if I am spinning thirty plates.
I can’t look at myself and sink into my deepest desires if my head is on a swivel chasing after every moving thing on the horizon.
When I focus on pleasing my Facebook community or even the world. I am looking in the wrong direction. My vision is pointed outwardly, when, truly, the greatest power I can imagine is inside.
I am now picturing my body as an outline of skin filled with cells, like a jar full of jelly beans. Each cell has its own life, its own place in the universe. Each cell deserves attention. What if I turned my listening ear inwardly, and listened to my cells, felt how things affected them, paid attention to what made them feel weak and what made them feel strong?
How many cells do we even have? National Geographic took a stab at answering this question:
If scientists can’t count all the cells in a human body, how can they estimate it? The mean weight of a cell is 1 nanogram. For an adult man weighing 70 kilograms, simple arithmetic would lead us to conclude that that man has 70 trillion cells.
On the other hand, it’s also possible to do this calculation based on the volume of cells. The mean volume of a mammal cell is estimated to be 4 billionths of a cubic centimeter. (To get a sense of that size, check out The Scale of the Universe.) Based on an adult man’s typical volume, you might conclude that the human body contains 15 trillion cells.
So if you pick volume or weight, you get drastically different numbers. Making matters worse, our bodies are not packed with cells in a uniform way, like a jar full of jellybeans. Cells come in different sizes, and they grow in different densities. Look at a beaker of blood, for example, and you’ll find that the red blood cells are packed tight. If you used their density to estimate the cells in a human body, you’d come to a staggering 724 trillion cells. Skin cells, on the other hand, are so sparse that they’d give you a paltry estimate of 35 billion cells.
So the author of the new paper set out to estimate the number of cells in the body the hard way, breaking it down by organs and cell types. (They didn’t try counting up all the microbes that also call our body home, sticking only to human cells.) They’ve scoured the scientific literature for details on the volume and density of cells in gallbladders, knee joints, intestines, bone marrow, and many other tissues. They then came up with estimates for the total number of each kind of cell. They estimate, for example, that we have 50 billion fat cells and 2 billion heart muscle cells.
Adding up all their numbers, the scientists came up with…drumroll…37.2 trillion cells.(https://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/23/how-many-cells-are-in-your-body/)
That means, if you live, write, eat, love for your cells, you can instantly have 37.2 trillion followers. Facebook has a billion plus users. Instagram has over a hundred million. You are now king or queen of the online world. You are mainliningonline atmosphere by paying deep attention to the chorus, the circus, the universe, the bedtime story that is you and in this way, you become the leader of the band, the conductor, the reader, the greatest lover ever. This is the power of focus, of careful attention.
The body tries to talk to us. We try to get it to be quiet. Advil, Prozac, deodorant, concealer, OxyContin, marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, caffeine, television, overwork, music, fast driving, skydiving, pornography--all these things can dull or lesson our ability to hear what our body, each cell, needs. The body can be so overwhelming, its needs. What if you had to walk around aware that you had a nose, two elbows, two ankles, a soft palate, a gallbladder and inner thighs? You’d probably spend your life in tears because your plate was so full you could not handle even crossing the street. Unless. Unless all those parts of you were humming. Then you’d be like a parent with twelve well-behaved children at the zoo, enjoying the wonder of the trip, loving the company. Or you’d be like a cat in the sun, purring with the joy of a body that feels warmth, a body that can curl into a ball.
Is what you are doing right now feeding your cells or harming them? Can you stop for a second and pay attention and feel how your action or thoughts affect your being? What does your body want? Does it want to get up and stretch? Does it want to lie down and nap? Does it need a snack? Are you listening to your followers? All those cells that adore you so much they stay awake 24/7? Even cancer cells think they are doing something right and productive. They just don’t know they are the enemy. They think they are at home, doing their job. Our bodies are so complicated and yet we can barely sit still in meditation for more than 30 seconds without feeling like we want to crawl out of our skin with discomfort or boredom.
And yet there are all these trillions of cells that are in communion with us.
We just have to listen.
All of this is to tell you that during this project, I realized I want to write a screenplay, and yet here I am, chasing squirrels in this blog post. I can post it, check it off on my list (day 61 done!) and hope for positive feedback. On the other hand, I could commit to the creative project that is forming in my head, deal with the fear that there will be no audience or interest in it and I will have worked my ass off for nothing. I will have lost time and money creating something of no worth.
Something of no worth.
A story so dear to my heart and soul is also something I am fearful will be of no worth.
This very convoluted post is a twisting path to clear vision and commitment. I will complete the 93-day blog post challenge I gave myself, and the reward is already here: I wrote myself into the corner and now I have to write myself out.
My new commitment is that I’ll finish a first draft of the screenplay by the end of the 93 days. That gives me just over a month.
I gotta get to work.
Is there anything you want to finish? If you feel like it, join me in a month of oh, What the hell. I’m just going to do it.Let’s fail together. Let’s succeed together. It’s not about failing or succeeding anyway. It’s about finishing, listening a project to completion. And you have so many followers, trillions of them, egging you on, supporting you, keeping you alive.
Every day I’ll post the writing steps I took so I’ll have a roadmap at the end of how I went from zero pages to 90-120 (the general range for screenplays). I’ll also be focusing on the well-being of my gut, as a perfect ending to this project would be threefold: a gorgeous poop, a day out in the sea learning to surf with Frosty Hesson, and a completed draft of a screenplay, safe and dry at home on my desk.
See you tomorrow.