The last two years have put us deeply into our own heads. We need to re-engage with the world and the relationships that the world brings, as difficult as that is in a continuing pandemic.
Judgment is in the head somewhere; it keeps sumsWilliam Meredith, Thoughts on One’s Head
Of pleasure and pain and gives belated warning;
This is the first place everybody comes
With bills, complaints, writs, summons, in the morning.
I did something unusual last weekend. I travelled to Adelaide to spend two days with friends and family at the Adelaide Test of the Ashes. After two years of isolation, there was something quite magical about one of the greatest cricket ovals in the world, the uneven pace of test cricket, the adventure of travel, the hum of crowds, and the banter of great company. At the end of two days I felt like a much newer human.
What made the difference? Getting out of my own head.
I felicitate the people who have a Person from PorlockStevie Smith, Thoughts about the Person from Porlock
To break up everything and throw it away
Because then there will be nothing to keep them
And they need not stay.
The last two years have been time for introspection, time for obsessions, time for anxieties and much more. They have not been easy and a source of all kinds of new and different stresses. What we have lacked most of all is the distraction of company and community. Sadly, our digital communities can substitute for the connection of physical gathering but they are often designed to reinforce our introspection, obsessions, anxieties and more. Their business models depend on our engagement.
Humans are social creatures. We need to be out of our own heads and in the world interacting with others with all the complexity and challenges that brings. We also need time outdoors whether that be sitting in the sun, walking through a different city or lying by the banks of the Torrens watching the Christmas party boats.
Of course, we need to stay safe. The group I travelled with were all vaccinated, we took care, followed the public health guidance and we wore masks. Safety can be a part of engaging with the wider world and resetting our heads.
Rue, Not Rage
Too much time in our own heads brings about an intensity of emotion. Our thoughts have nothing to feed off but other thoughts. We lose perspective and it can lead to the kind of intensity that brings on rage, unconstructive thinking and other negativities.
We can all do with some time sitting in the shade staring at the sky and finding ways to convert our rage into other emotions. We can rue what is lost while still finding the presence of mind to engage with the here and now. Perspective comes from the world outside, not within our own heads.
A weekend away out in the world with company has helped me to better see my privileges, my opportunities and my challenges in a better light. None are diminished. They just sit in a more comfortable and at times more rueful relation to each other. For late 2021, deep in the second year and the fourth or fifth wave of a pandemic, that itself is an achievement.
Take yourself out into the world (armed with all the best public health protection). Sit in the shade of a glade somewhere. Leave the chats, tweets, socials and video calls for another day. Chat aimlessly with friends and strangers. Most importantly of all get out of your own head. Give yourself that break.