Confessions of a Space Cadet
In our world of Manifest Destiny, dog-eat-dog ambition, Winners!! over Losers!!, and 24/7 cable news and Twitter streams projectile vomiting upon us tips for power and success, I frequently remind myself that it’s okay to feel lost, directionless, rudderless, apathetic, etc. It’s my opinion that none of these things are character flaws, and they might even point to one of my developing strengths: the ability to be present in the moment, the skill of not constantly planning my next move and fretting about the future.
Which is not to say that maintaining this condition is natural or easy for me.
Since a child, I’ve been a Class-A Space Cadet, able to zone out into my own imagination at the expense of sights, conversations, relationships, traffic, charging apex predators… you get the idea. And I value my imagination. Hell, Greedo never shoots first when I picture the cantina scene. I still have visible abs. I am taller, make more money, didn’t give up on jiu-jitsu, front a successful prog-metal band, smell better in the morning, and have a savings account that couldn’t be ironically described as “precious”.
While some may say that a rich imagination is an asset, and I wouldn’t totally disagree, I would note that it comes at a price. My own head can be a difficult place to escape. In it, any conceivable disaster or malady is only as far away as the upcoming, inevitable trip down one of my mental rabbit holes. Episode Nine sucks worse than the last one, this light headache is a pulsating tumor, my long-lost teenage son shows up and he’s a Nazi, it never stops freaking raining, or it never rains again.
I suspect at least someone reading this can relate. I’m probably not the only person I know who can stare into a blank television screen or at a section of the drywall and within minutes feel the sinister creep of anxiety approaching, or get lost in the seductive appeal of proverbial greener grass: if I just quit my job and moved to the Azores and raised rabbits on only chestnuts; maybe if I became independently wealthy and lived as an unhinged, overly-tan maniac like John McAfee (plus at least one other powerful American politician I can think of).
The trick I found to shut it all out is the same shit the shamans, charlatans, prophets, hippies and wise ones have been talking about all these years: just breathe, quietly or loudly, deep into your belly a few times and then shallower, less effortful. With your eyes in soft focus or closed, sit comfortably and breathe for a little every day, one minute or one hour. Hell, you can even do it while you’re walking or on the stationary bike. Just breath, be aware of your body and when your mind wanders, come back to the breath. Some days your brain will be all wild and spastic, and some days you’ll have to fight falling asleep a bit. It’s all normal, or so I’m told.
I don’t know why it works so well. Intellectually, yeah sure, I guess I know that I’m controlling my sympathetic nervous system’s response and yadda-yadda-yadda-boring nerdy-nerd stuff. You can google it if you really get hung up on the mechanics and biology of such things. I, for one, don’t. Paramedic school was plenty of that and I still managed to space-out for at least twenty minutes an hour.
I’ll close with an affirmation atop my figurative soap box: it’s okay to be rudderless, lost, apathetic and directionless provided you are being good to yourself. In fact, if you are being good to yourself, it’s okay to be most things. And if you are being good to others, that’s even better. You don’t have to be a Captain of Police, Captain of Industry, Captain of Her Heart, or Captain of Jack Shit. You can just be you right where you are. Take a breath.