Last night my boss, Cathy, had my co-workers and me over for dinner and a movie, which was literally that: dinner and a movie. Ie, communication wasn’t the predominant theme—but that was okay. We sat together like a happy family, in comfortable silence, occasionally throwing out commentary on what was happening in the show, but mostly just watching the show–and me petting the cat, Kikui, whose velvety nose I wish I could kiss right now because she was such a sweet little smoochy woochy.
But I digress. Our shindig was similar to the experience I had with Cathy last week, when we drove to New Jersey for a conference, in that I’d imagined hours-long heart-to-hearts in the car on the way and in the hotel, because I feel a connection with Cathy, but instead I had homework that I spent the night working on, and she had some games to play on her phone, which I thought was cute. Some of my friends are gamers, though I was never big into it myself. Yet there’s something about allowing yourself to use just be a kid that really appeals to me. My former roommates convinced me to play a virtual reality video game called “Rush of Blood,” that I think they got a kick out of seeing me with the goggles on, bouncing all over the room with a remote control gun in each hand, yelling, “Die, suckers!” to the killer zombies popping up in front of my face. Hey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, my friends. You have to defend your turf. Just kidding. Really what I wonder is why can’t we all just get along? Maybe I should’ve tried to be friends with those killer zombies, but the video game didn’t have that option. Something about holding a toy gun in your hand, the fear of perishing, the adrenaline rush that comes from that primal instinct to survive that really just brought out the bloodthirstiness in me.
So I can understand why gamers like gaming, though I prefer being in nature.
Anyway, we watched “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a new TV series that stars one of my favorite actresses, Elizabeth Moss, who also plays a badass cop on “Top of the Lake.” This show brings to light what crazy times we live in, in case anyone needed a spotlight on that particular topic.
My co-worker Beth, who’s 60, remembers reading the book when she was in her 20s, and I can’t remember when I read it. It was published in 1985, so I knew I couldn’t have read it then, because I’d have been nine years old. Cathy noted that she wasn’t even born yet in 1985. Christy’s a few years younger than I am, but never read it. Regardless, the four of us come together. Age doesn’t matter, but it’s interesting to reflect on, especially when you remember things that other generations have no memory of. At times I feel like I’m becoming a living relic, an artifact, and/or a witness to those artifacts, which really we all are if you think about it. It’s so flattering when younger people are interested in hearing the experience I have to share. Eg, Cathy remembers being in elementary school when 9/11 happened, but not really knowing what was going on, while I remember details from the whole day, including the drive home from work, past the Centers for Disease Control (a potential target in our minds), terrified the world around me would blow up any moment.
As an American growing up in the 80s and 90s, I’d spent my life thinking the world was a relatively safe place—well, except for how we thought the Russians were going to bomb us and the apocalypse would happen via nuclear war any day now—but other than that little fear (which by the way was much more pervasive when my parents were kids what with the bomb shelters and all), when I was a kid we felt like the world—school, church, the grocery store, work, airports—were generally safe. There had been a shooting at my high school but that was in the parking lot on a Saturday, so it kind of didn’t count. The fear was always there but the reality didn’t hit (me, anyway) until 9/11.
Nowadays some of us accumulate bug-out bags or go ahead and take the leap and learn to live off the land. I sure wish I had a piece of land and a little house of my own, with some goats, chickens, and a garden. Oh well. Maybe some day.
What I’m trying to say is, this TV show makes you think. I don’t want to feed into anyone’s paranoia, but it’s scary how slowly and insidiously oppression can rise in a society. In looking at other countries, and history… well, it’s just scary. Maybe we are wired to fear for our lives, the fight-or-flight response built in to protect us from predatory animals, and maybe the apocalyptic story originates from growing up in a predominantly Christian society, or maybe the story of the apocalypse in Christianity comes from some innate, inevitable knowing, or maybe from the fight-or-flight response. Chicken or egg, who knows. Doesn’t matter really. Just interesting to think about.
My ex’s brother believes that our world was created and is controlled by aliens playing a video game for their entertainment, that we live inside this video game. He even published a paper on it in some scientific AI publication. This, to me, is a fascinating belief. If I believed that, I might just commit suicide. He’s okay with it, or so he writes in his paper, though admittedly I didn’t read the entire 20-something pages of it, it being a dense read and me feeling like my life operates on a constant time deficit as it is, without spending time reading something that quite frankly made me feel depressed.
One could argue the same for watching “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and I would not disagree. I’ve only gotten to episode 3, but the show so far hasn’t left me with a feel-good feeling about our future. Then again, I’ve always been one to appreciate all the possibilities of what could happen, and since I was a little girl I had a bizarre affinity for devouring terrifying, nightmare-provoking movies.
On the other hand, I try to feed the good wolf these days. So I thought about what Wayne Dyer writes about in some of his books. He was influenced by a book, Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Viktor Frankl, who lived in a Nazi concentration camp but yet found a way to have a positive attitude, which may have been ultimately what saved his life.
My sister Sherry recently told me that she felt sick of how our society acts like everyone should be bright and cheery all the time. She made a valid point of how living in the moment doesn’t necessarily mean always being bubbly and effusive. Sometimes we just don’t feel that way, and nothing anyone else can do or say can change that. For several months after our beloved mother died unexpectedly, no amount of positive affirmations, no number of hikes in the woods, no words or actions could change the feeling of devastation and utter loss we felt. Not enough birds could sing, no one could smile or joke enough, nothing. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel sad sometimes, to allow that. We don’t have to be cheerful 24/7—it’s not natural. Personally, my threshold for pain has become much lower, and I surround myself with as much positivity as I possibly can. But it’s unhealthy to bury grief, anger, or negative or undesirable emotions. It’s all about what we do with those emotions that makes the difference.
I’m rambling a bit so I will cut to the chase to say this: shit happens, and shit can happen at any time, but we can persevere. We can not only survive but thrive. My plan is to read Viktor Frankl’s book, continue to say positive affirmations, feel and show love for others, allow myself grief when needed, and while I may watch these shows sometimes, I refuse to let anyone else’s bleak prediction rule my life. Not that I don’t have a few emergency supplies just in case—I’m a big fan of emergency preparedness—but I’m also an advocate of living life to the fullest. Rather than hoping for the best and expecting the worst, I try to expect the best from life, with the understanding that the world and everything else, apart from my own thoughts and actions, is beyond my control.
With that I’ll leave you with a quote I found on Wikipedia from Wayne Dyer: ”My beliefs are that the truth is a truth until you organize it, and then it becomes a lie. I don’t think that Jesus was teaching Christianity, Jesus was teaching kindness, love, concern, and peace. What I tell people is don’t be Christian, be Christ-like. Don’t be Buddhist, be Buddha-like.”
Here’s a beautiful song, my favorite lines being this:
“Never know the abilities that you possess
Til you find yourself and lay all assumptions to rest
I’ll never stop writing when there’s no ink left
It’ll never stop flowing even when there’s no breath
And I’ll never find the words that describe my mind
I’ll never stop looking
I’ll never stop trying”