Amy Brenneman
Amy Brenneman

September 14, 2012

Modern Life and It’s Remedy – Part One

The pace of Modern Life is having its way with me.


Like a withholding, mean-spirited boyfriend, it keeps me hopping.  Always trying to do more, exercise more, plan more.  But no sooner do I check off my to-do lists than a new to-do list appears, sprouting instanteously and furiously like an alien life form in a bad sci-fi movie.


Modern Life berates me constantly.  You know those withholding, mean-spirited boyfriends who promise to call but don’t? Or promise to call but text?  Or promise to do something but whatever they promise to do they don’t do, forcing you to check YOUR phone constantly?  Ah, welcome to Modern Life, and it’s evil tool, the Smart Phone.  Not always evil; it is a blessing to be able to be in contact, work from afar, listen to music, show pictures and play Words With Friends using one tiny device.  The evil part is the addiction.  How the Smart Phone burns in your pocket (or your purse) with its siren song:  “you haven’t checked your email in five minutes!”; “what about the grant for the school garden you haven’t written?”; “do you even KNOW when Bodhi’s first baseball practice is?  I THOUGHT so!”   So even though I’m in a pleasant conversation or reading a book or even (God forbid) driving, the Smart Phone, like Modern Life, strains to have its way with me.  And more often than not (hopefully not while driving, but let’s be honest), I pick it up.


Modern Life obsesses my thoughts, the way those withholding, mean-spirited boyfriends do.  I constantly think about what I have to do, not how I am.   I constantly plan one month, two months – hell, a year into the future – and cease to open my eyes to where my body is located right now.  And like a bad boyfriend, Modern Life tells me whatever I do is not enough.  I plan a fun outing to Disneyland and find out a day later about a super cool new animal park nearby that I didn’t even know about.  I try to exercise 3 times a week then read in magazines (just like you do) about women who run 10 miles at 4:30 every single morning.  I try to be politically active, but then I read about Maria Shriver’s schedule and feel like Jason Siegel in “Knocked Up.”


None of this is unusual, and even I don’t have to wonder much from where it stems.  Every media outlet – now omnipresent even at the gas pump – tells me what I should be doing, and whatever I’m doing isn’t enough.  Add to that an alcoholic father (now happily sober for 31 years) and the soil for the “I’m not enough” disease is primed indeed.  Over time I have learned about this aspect of my nature and sought out people, places and things that restore me to sanity.  But since Modern Life has turned up the volume of “You’re Not Enough” I have to turn up the volume of what makes me sane.


So here are some remedies I’ve discovered.


I turn off my Smart Phone.   That way, Modern Life can’t find me.


I realize that this is largely generational.  I didn’t grown up with a Smart Phone, so I still remember a time without them and can maintain a smidgen of distance from my addiction to them (although just a smidgen).  My children won’t have that distance, nor do their twenty-something babysitters.  But maybe younger folks won’t get as addicted or disregulated as I get, since for them the phones are just a part of life.  (Just watched the “Downton Abbey episode where they get a phone.  “Dear God, man, what do we need a phone for?”  Piousness hiding fear of the new contraption.)


But here’s where my Great Age may bear some fruit:  just as I didn’t make my life with a withholding, mean-spirited man, nor will I let Modern Life tell me who I am.


By the grace of God (and I mean that, truly), I didn’t marry a mean-spirited man who tells me I’m not enough.  For nineteen years I have been with a man, my husband Brad Silberling, who represents Healthy Life, not Modern Life.  Healthy Life (and love) tells me that I am enough and that there is enough.  Enough time, enough love, enough wisdom to know that a solution will come, even though we may not see it yet.  Healthy Life is based on love, Modern Life based on fear.  Modern Life contracts me – my sense of hope, creativity, and humor – and leaves me literally in a state of panic.  Often, over nothing.  I don’t need a catastrophe to freak out.  I can do that all on my own.  That’s when Brad will envelope me with a hug or cock his brow with a“really?” that is the bucket of cold water I need to wake up.


With school starting and summer vacation over, I have been a mass of plan-y, fearful, twitchy nerves.  Turning off the phone and quieting my head so that my timid authentic voice can be heard, helps.


So does Stephen Stills.


To be continued…