Full-Time Job


Coming back from an ultra-relaxing holiday is never very much fun.

Then, add the hubbub of arriving home at the height of post-Thanksgiving madness, and you've got the makings of a whopping case of re-entry shock.

Thankfully, I haven't totally succumbed to forgetfulness a mere week after returning from vacation in bucolic New Zealand… though it has admittedly taken huge amounts of conscious mental focus to ward off the triggers of collective stress, which await at every turn to tempt me toward angst and agitation. Having successfully managed to silence 90something% of work-related thoughts during my time off, upon returning I now struggle to restrict my back-to-business considerations to only those items which I have some degree of control over, and which I intend to imminently tackle.

Permitting more than the most immediately-relevant concerns to take prominent, intrusive root in my consciousness provides too warm a welcome to fruitless anxiety. How many flaming rods or razor-sharp machetes can one person safely juggle, without courting an injury that could, in one unceremonious whoops, abruptly end his ability to painlessly handle even one single moving object? We all have our limits—limits which, unfortunately so in this terribly-evolved modern life of ours, are violated with numbing regularity.

Vacations, whether enjoyed in far-off locales or close familiar settings, offer us the occasional chance to push the reset button. Before we take off, our overloaded brains swarm with thousands of details, an undifferentiated mess of priorities from 'critically important' to 'wastefully trivial', often marooning us ashore with hopeless wishing we possessed the time to deal with it all (though we never will). Once we return, if we've taken our decompression seriously, we've yielded ourselves some perspective. We've reattuned our attentions to those few priorities that truly matter most, and put the rest in their proper corner slots. Once again, we're ready to take another big bite.

Still, it doesn't take much re-exposure to 'regular life' before the bad influences are already back in corruption mode: jumping out at us like jacks-in-boxes, throwing in our face devilish reasons by the dozen to neglect our precious promised pledges to ourselves to focus on the important stuff. I may've become clear about my two or three top-priorities, even gotten downright excited at channeling my energies into making major progress on them. But after computer hiccups and paperwork confusions, traffic hassles and construction delays, fee increases and payment due-dates, crooked politicians and pointless wars, inconsiderate neighbors, rude customers, addictions and oblivion and poor etiquette all around, the constant reminders we're working harder and paying more and getting less, I'm at my wits' end trying not to lose my initial—and more important—focus.

I can do it, however, as I'm proving to myself. I can guard against negative, anxiety-provoking influences from the outside. However, it takes continual work. I must expend constant energy in repeating the gratitude-reflecting, panic-preventing, proper-priority-setting mantras to myself. Otherwise, any one of a million particles of floating hysteria might attach to my psychic receptors and attempt to infect me.

Protecting the sanctity of my own interpretations at any given moment—infused with potential; a lesson in motion; bubbling over with excuses to be thankful—is where the battle for 'Enlightenment' (or whatever name you want to give that 'peace of living in oneness with the perpetual perfection of being') is waged. It's relatively easy to hit those heights on exotic retreats, away from derelict stimuli. How about gettin' there from smack dab in the center of a bustling city, surrounded by barking dogs and beeping buses and sledgehammers smashing pavement, never farther than an inch from megakilobytes of media input blasting out from screens at gas pumps, on elevators, in grocery-store checkout lines? Who here isn't one measly funny glance or mangled exchange away from yelling 'Shut the fuck up!' or other such obscene nonsense at strangers or loved ones, fed up as we all must be, on one level or another, from the nonstop assault of distractions both benignly annoying and patently dangerous?

If today's increasingly chaotic astrology, the same outlook I just recently expressed my appreciation for being able to witness in my lifetime, shows us anything conclusive, it's that we have no choice but to grapple with more and more external pressures outside our control… bombarding us from every angle (Saturn! Uranus! Pluto!)… slewing sacred cows of every variety, in the name of 'Progress' (and its unsure ends)… decreasing the noticeable impact of (or eliminating altogether) so many signs and symbols, personal and communal, of earthly stability… leaving so much up in the air. We can't miss the psychic awareness that something big is unfolding, but we can't know what it is because the future isn't written yet. I hear the trumpet outside my window right now.

All we might have, therefore, is a hard-earned ability to insist on setting the priorities ourselves… to refuse to have our insecurity levels set by the military-industrial-distraction-factory-complex… to acknowledge that a single modest healthy person cannot (and ought not) sustainably digest every report and advertisement, email, text and tweet, task and trifle, relationship and responsibility, fact or fear… to actually fight, not necessarily against individuals or entities who 'wrong' us (for there are always so many such examples to be singled out every day, it'd be a futile, energy-sucking venture) but against the overall non-consensual hijacking of our personal consciousness by forces which profit when we don't stay focused on what truly matters to us.

We make the future ourselves, as a direct consequence of where we aim our energy. Tend to a plant consistently, and it grows sustainably. Neglect it, and it either dies or mutates into some unmanageable weed-monster that devours everything in its path.

I can't be the only one who detects a certain intangible (though no less real) chasm growing among the populace: not the obvious oppositions between factions of cocksure dogma, but between those of us who hear the call to evolve as a collective, with compassion for each other's experiences, and those who cower in fear of intense (though unavoidable and necessary) change and react accordingly, selfishly. We either care about other people, or we don't.

Our lived reality of this growing chasm, of course, is subtler than that. At many turns, we may embrace the kind compassion. Then, blasted with yet one more pushy driver or inhumane corporate policy, we momentarily forget to care. Suddenly, we're yelling, cussing, aggressively demanding to reverse this latest injustice. Our collective anger hovers both barely under the surface and largely justifiable-seeming. No matter how wonderful the vacation, the headaches of 'normal life' return within no time at all.

No question about it: Holding firm against misdirected anger, in positive support of our efforts to maximize what we deem as the most meaningful elements of our lives, is a full-time job. And each of us who willingly takes it on needs the periodic vacation, to refresh our spirit and engagement with these crucial efforts. We direly need every last member of this team to work at his/her highest capacity in this regard. Otherwise, unproductive rage flirts with emerging victorious.