Lorie Sheffer’s Most Excellent Post

Watching The World Go By
Watching The World Go By

Lorie Sheffer, of course, is our Guest Blogger today.  Take it away Lorie.

A friend of mine, who happens to be a psychiatrist, once made an analogy that hit home for me. He said that if we overload our computer with too much data, it shuts down. The computer will just freeze.  If we overload our brains, we can become incapacitated from stress and anxiety. That is one of the reasons, if you call for an appointment with my friend the shrink, you can expect to wait about three months before he has an available appointment. Lots of people are overloading their brains with too much stuff.

I was watching Leave it to Beaver the other day. Beaver and his sidekick Larry Mondello spent the day watching some men dig a hole. Later that day I watched Andy and Opie spend a day at Myers’ Lake doing nothing but fishing and eating from a picnic basket that Aunt Bee had packed for them. It seems like back then, people didn’t think that it was a total waste of time to take a day and do nothing. I would bet if we updated those shows, Larry and The Beav would be playing with their DS or be carpooled to one of several athletic practices and not even notice the men digging that hole. Opie would have to struggle to get a word in between Andy’s Twitter updates or text messages from Barney.

In times of stress, it is good to just divert your attention from your worries with an activity or project. But what happens if you can’t be content unless you have something to distract you from your own thoughts?  In my yoga class a few years ago, it amazed me that the short mindful meditation part at the end seemed to be the most difficult thing for people to do. They were not able to just relax, clear their mind, and focus on nothing. One lady said she kept going over her to do list. Another said she felt like she was wasting her time not doing something; anything!  Perhaps there could be a problem if you find that you cannot take one day to devote to doing nothing. Maybe you need to fill your head with lots of stuff so that you can avoid thinking of something specific? It is entirely possible that people can self medicate by over scheduling and multitasking.

A few years ago I sat on the beach, watching the seagulls make pests of themselves, when a family of four put down their blankets and chairs nearby. The dad got out his Blackberry and started to do whatever it is you do with one of those things. The kids wanted him to join them in the water, but he was clearly too busy, as he had brought the office with him. Mom got out her cell phone and started a long, loud, rather personal conversation with a friend who was going through some relationship problems. The kids knew better than do disturb the adults, so they played alone. Just this week, as I was waiting for my number to be called at the seafood counter, a man brightly said, “Hello! How are you today?” I turned slightly and answered, “Fine, thank you. How are you?” He looked at me like I had three heads. Then I noticed the portable phone thing sticking out of his ear. OH! He wasn’t talking to me! He was holding a conversation with someone so that the few minutes he waited for his shrimp wouldn’t be a waste.

I challenge everyone to take a day off. Leave your house without your cell phone or Blackberry. Plan a day to do nothing. Remember when you were a kid and would look up at the clouds and try to see shapes? Try some actual face-to-face human interaction. Find out if that makes you feel relaxed or anxious. If you feel anxious, maybe it’s time to figure out what you are trying to avoid dealing with or feeling.

We can’t solve problems in a half hour like the folks in Mayfield or Mayberry. Maybe, though, we can learn from the past. Maybe we can learn the pleasure of spending an entire day watching a man dig a hole, or sitting in a tiny rowboat, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a six year old.

By jeff noel

Retired Disney Institute Keynote Speaker and Prolific Blogger. Five daily, differently-themed personal blogs (about life's 5 big choices) on five interconnected sites.