Twelve years ago, Disney and Pixar’s Wall·E gave us a vision of a dystopian future where humans lived in a state of perpetual lethargy, sipping on Big Gulps and interacting solely with glowing screens, oblivious to the world around them. I think we’re already there, just missing the spaceship. Some would argue that we’ve been there for a while now. Unfortunately, for many of us, breaking out of that state seems to require something extreme. My fall-off-the-chair moment came five years ago in the form of panic attacks at work. The only difference between me and the people in Wall-E is that I always knew there was something else, something more, and I was never OK with ignoring it. In fact, I continually felt it calling to me, like the howl of a wolf beckoning me to join my pack.
Unfortunately, ignorance and blindness are exactly what the culture we have created for ourselves expects of us and it’s become so ingrained that it’s normal. We think that we have to do X in order to have Y, that we can’t have what we truly want, which is Z, and we are slowly destroying ourselves with this way of thinking and being. But what if we all got off those hover-chairs? Not just fell off accidentally or got pushed off, but actually chose to stand up and look around us, to see things for what they really are. Holy shit, we just might start a revolution!
But we’re conditioned not to, aren’t we? I grew up in a household where my dad spent most of the day doing a job he didn’t really enjoy just to make money to provide a house, food, clothes, etc., for us and my mom spent all day keeping the house clean, making sure bills got paid on time, cooking meals for us, and making sure we got to school, did our homework, etc., and while she loved us, she certainly didn’t love doing that. My parents were doing what they were “supposed” to do rather than all that they may have wanted to do. At heart, they were creators like me, Dad telling amazing stories and Mom nurturing beautiful things to grow, and I saw what they might have been had those sparks been kindled rather than nearly extinguished.
It’s tough as hell to change it, change yourself, I know, and incredibly scary. I’ve had several starts and stops along the way, little deaths, if you will. The biggest obstacles were my inability to believe in myself and being thrust into the middle of a game that I never really wanted to play in the first place. Well, the blinders are off now and I’m done with the game. When I started having chest pains at work at the age of 37, it was an extreme wake-up call and I knew I had to stop what I was doing to myself and make some major changes. I might’ve been forced off of my chair, but I’m choosing not to get back on it. That is the scariest part of all.
I could just tell you what I’ve done over the past few years to right myself, but you don’t just do that nor do you just happen to become a stressed-out emotional wreck one day. It happens over years, like the melting of a glacier, and you can’t see the full impact until you look at all the markers along the way. And unless you see the extent of the damage, you can’t fully appreciate how much work must be done to fix it. I think I need to tell this story not just for myself so that I can fully heal, but perhaps also for others who are too afraid and ashamed to tell theirs because we are none of us ever alone, however much or often we might feel like we are. Maybe we can heal together. Stand up together. Run together.