The other day I found myself in a conversation with a 25 year old man who I feel confident you would describe as “normal.” Raised as a child, went to school, now in the workforce. Pays rent, has a licence, and a relationship. A news story about cellphone addictions sparked a conversation about phone use. What struck me in that conversation didn’t really have anything to do with his claims about whether or not he was addicted. It was how he described not having his phone.
Those who read me often will know I sometimes refer to shunting. My accident causes me to notice these odd patterns and when I’ve seen one enough times to be confident it’s a pattern, it becomes conscious to me for the first time as a realization that feels like it’s clicked into place. I do get sensations prior to that too, but they’re more vague. Like the inklings a writer feels as a story gradually congeals. But the shunt is when I know. And when that kid talked about not having his phone, I remembered a shunt I had one day over a decade ago.
An extremely competent and intelligent woman I worked with was describing where her children were allowed to play—which was essentially within her eyesight. I was actually quite startled to learn that, and I could make no sense of why, so I asked. She seemed just as startled by my need to ask. To her it was obvious—and I do think most of the people listening with us agreed with her, not me. The kids needed to be within eyesight in case something bad happens. That’s what the kid said about his phone. I don’t need to use it. I just like to have it with me in case something bad happens.
Again, as is often the case, I’m the odd man out. I need to ask, why would we assume something bad would happen? Her argument that day was good: because if I’m wrong and things aren’t okay, then a child could end up dead. I would agree with that. The stakes are very high. Going both directions I would argue. Because to live in fear of every bad thing that might happen is to not live at all. And we have to stop and truly reassess how likely some of our fears are. Because the media feeds off fears, and the agencies that protect kids remind us of our fears as a part of their campaigns and fundraisers—there’s a lot of people that have fear as a part of their employment. We can’t mistake that for kids being in actual danger.
A kid getting grabbed by a feuding spouse—sure, tons of times. But actual kidnappings of kids make international news. They’re that rare. And we’re talking over hundreds of millions of people. We’re quite literally below lightning strike numbers. Do you avoid going to movies or out to play because you’re afraid of lightning? Then why is everyone hiding their kids away like every second neighbour is dangerous when it’s far more likely that your neighbour would risk themselves to rescue your child?
You watch too much TV. You listen to too many fearful messages through advertising. They tell you which diseases to be afraid of, which smells from which parts of the body you should fear, they warn you not to be unfashionable and you don’t want to be caught listening to the wrong music or you’ll be teased. Almost every decision is dictated by what you don’t want to see happen rather than what you do want to see happen. They’re all defensive decisions made in case something goes wrong. This is crazy.
The world is an amazing super fantabulous place and you can hike through the jungles and get bit by a spider and you can be unnerved by natives or frightened by a snake. You can climb a mountain and parachute down. You can swim with large schools of mammals and fish. You can watch bears fish. You can learn to dance, or how to play an instrument. You can read books and travel to places in your imagination. We can interract with humanity. Because despite your entirely irrational fears about them, they are AWESOME and very much worth getting to know.
I never cease to find everyone I meet to be amazing and interesting in their own way. But I’m not looking out at life worried about what bad things might happen. Secret’s out: some of those are gonna happen whether you watch or not. But the really great stuff? That you only get a few times by luck. But if you’re watching—if you’re keeping your eye out for cool, rewarding, exciting stuff, then you’ll find a lot of it. More than you’ll ever be able to process in one lifetime. Which is why you’ll choose to come back, and to live another life with just as many bumps and grinds as this one. Because the really wise being inside you knows it’s worth it every time.
This is a life you have. It’s a fantastic opportunity every single day. It’s really not that hard to make it amazing. You just have to start with a little courage. Here’s a ((hug)) to start you off. Now go gettem’. 😉
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.