Now that 2017 is a few days from being no more, it needs a label.
So, here it is: The Year of the Blanket Fort.
Everyone has their own version of the blanket fort. Call it a man cave, safe space, sewing room, cigar bar, dive bar, ocean cruise, beach vacation, or whatever you like. It is a sometimes solitary refuge from prying eyes, a soft place carved from familiar things where hearts beat more slowly and warmth surrounds us. Retreat into the blanket fort helped quell sensory overload, allowed us to regroup and emerge with sanity.
For me and many others, 2017 was the Year of the Blanket Fort because of the incessant barrage of information stimulating and trying to shape our behavior. “Bad” news and “good” news alike drove us into more polarizing, violent and contradictory places. Leaving the blanket fort meant toiling against the sum of all our fears — an always-lurking bear trying to catch our scent. Some ignored or worked around it. Others were terrified and didn’t want to be mauled. Others stayed inside the fort for as long as possible trying to avoid it.
Outside the fort for many, including me, this year has been a harsh exercise in perspective; chaotic, unruly perspective that might have carried over to 2018, save one thing. A few days ago, I read something. One sentence; an almost perfect string of words, gut-wrenching and hopeful in one swoop, penned by a brilliant young writer. An anagnorisis silver bullet.
In summary, the writer said this:
To a degree I had not realized until I read those words, I’ve been hiding from both success and failure. Hiding from emotion. Hiding.
See, we reach a certain point in life when we peer out from behind the throw pillows and sagging Star Wars sheets of the fort and realize …
You are closer to the day you will die than to the day you were born.
And we can’t stay hidden in the fort forever scared of the bear. At a point early in 2017, I realized that if I don’t do the things I really want to do today, I won’t be able to do them at all. And yet the bear still lurks attempting to keep us away from being happy, from the emotions of a moment and from all the things we really want.
So, it’s time to step out and kill the bear. Now. We know its habits and the paths upon which it stalked us. We know how your bear hunts. Now it is time for us to slay it, haul its skin and fur over our shoulders, remember those lessons of survival, and press the fuck on.
No more hiding.
To aid in that, I offer a few things here that work for me and what end-of-year column would be complete without a list:
- Really Disconnect. Or, at the very least, connect to social media as a means of growth. Set limits. Don’t connect as a recreation. It’s not. It’s more information to be processed. It’s an uncanny and dopey drama. Social media is carbs and sugar; your body craves it and you need very little of it. Make the people and organizations vying for your time EARN it, regardless of their status in your life. Tell them how.
- Encourage Talk. Talk about your pain. Talk about your success. Find a counselor. Find a psychologist. Find a friend. Just talk. Get it out. Be candid. Play around with it. Mold it. Hear yourself say it and have someone say it back. Remember, our minds are BIG, FATLIARS. Don’t get caught in your own echo chamber of anxiety, doubt and self-loathing. Don’t accept anything less than living life on your terms. Oh, and any person who says you can’t, or shouldn’t, or throws you that negative shade? That person who decries all the ideas as dumb and senseless and never getting us anywhere? That’s the bear. KILL THE BEAR. Get those people out of your life and find people who want to move you forward.
- See and Do. That thing you want to do right now? Do that thing right now. Don’t fuck around. Be in the moment. Do that and the other things repeatedly until your brain is flooded with dopamine. To that end, someone wise once told me, “You can’t get happier than happy.” And that takes work, too. For me that’s writing, painting and drawing more, because doing so adds value to our lives. Work toward happy. Do things that get you to happy.
- I’ll Fight. Fight with Me. For what’s yours. To finish that manuscript. To burp the ENTIRE national anthem. To get a better deal on a car. To run another mile. To run that mile faster. To be heard. To #RESIST. Speaking of resisting: “What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it’s dearness only that gives everything its value.” That Paine knew something.
- Seek to be Smart & Don’t Pollyanna. This year has proven — without question — that we live in a fingers-near-the-blade-of-a-spinning-table saw existence. Oh. By the way, the table saw has zero fucks to give. None. We are exposed to more information about murders, riots, corruption, greed, and strife than ever before. We engage more people polarized by this information and whatever agendas to which the information is tied. In short, the forged, cold blade will keep spinning. It’s not going to pause its Murder Spin to appease you.
- Take time to Act with compassion. These are times unlike any other. We need more of the thing mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, guardians and others gave us when we cried for food, skinned a knee, got jilted on prom night or were passed over for a promotion. We need love. We need compassion. We need a hug. We need a minute. Do THAT thing for someone you absolutely don’t know. Do it a lot. Keep doing it. Go build a house. Go donate blood. Go serve food. Go foster a child. Call your mom. Hug your kids, your wife, your dog AND your Porg. Hold the hand of a suffering friend. A status update or tweet typed with orange-stained finger tips reclined in the comfort of your couch won’t get it. A “thoughts and prayers” status update won’t get it. Action will.
- Actually, Pollyanna a little. Smile. It’s never, ever as bad as it seems. Take your work and joy seriously. Don’t take yourself too seriously. To that end …
- No quitting. One of the greatest tips I was given as an adult is a simple one: finish what you start. You’ll feel great and you will have accomplished that thing.
- Care. About all of it, often. Stay engaged with the positive people, your goals and your emotional integrity.
- End on a high note. Still a few years left on Gregorian 2017. I know what I’ll do. What will you do?
None of this can happen within inside of the blanket fort. It all must be done without. Wearing the bear pelt. Smelling off bear blood and urine. Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the idea.
It means I’ll make 2018 better before my knees splinter, my brain addles and someone is feeding my food through a straw.
Make it a great one, fight the good fight, and happy new year.