I’m not a diehard fan of zombie movies, but I must admit I found World War Z entertaining. (If your interested, you can listen to a radio show I did recently on the psychology of the undead by clicking here.) In zombie flicks there is always a scene were the protagonist (the living) and the antagonist (the undead) have a chance to observe one another from a place of relative safety, often depicted as a chain link fence. Both have the desire to destroy one another but amid that destructive force lays a hint of curiosity. What’s it like to be on the other side?
There are so many of us today who feel like the “living dead.” We are going through the motions of life, but nothing seems to bring us pleasure or fulfillment. I’m not sure how this feeling developed or whether people of centuries past could relate to it. I do know that years ago, when someone in a community suffered, the people of that community suffered with them. During World War II, you might drive through your neighborhood and see a star in the window, representing a family member who died. People would bring meals to one another and stop by for a comforting word or two. Today we lack that kind of camaraderie because many of our communities are virtual. On social media sites like facebook, twitter, and google+, we don’t have to interact with each others’ suffering if we don’t want to. Recently, I was scrolling through the news feed on facebook and I began reading a post that described a recent disaster in the family. Without even thinking, I skipped past it to a funny youtube video another friend had posted.
That separation, that chain link fence, can also leave us wondering, “Am I the only one that feels dead?” When all you see are vacation pictures, delicious meals, funny videos, the best images of people smiling and living life to the fullest, it is easy to start questioning the fullness of our own reality. Here are some actions I’ve found helpful to fight that feeling:
1. Take a break from social media for a while and reach out to a LIVE person in your REAL community.
2. Stop focusing on the grand and amazing events of life, and stay present in the moment. Learn to find beauty in the ordinary. (A hot cup of coffee on a cold day, your favorite pen when you’re doing paperwork, the giggles of your son or daughter, a wet kiss from your pet.)
3. Remember that what you see in the virtual world is often an illusion. Everyone is human. Everybody hurts. Don’t look to social media to fill a void in you that only another live human being can fill.
4. Stop watching the lives of other people and start doing some living yourself! One moment at a time.
Questions: What activities in life bring you the most joy? How can you infuse more of those activities into your daily routine? What are some of the small things in life that you’ve been ignoring that might actually encourage and lift your spirits? Stay mindful of them through the next week and see how your attitude about life changes.