The Pleasure of Not Listening

Today I did something I haven’t done in years, I took my dog, Zoey, for her morning walk and left behind my EarPods, on purpose. On most days, I leave the house armed with Zoey and a list of podcast episodes for the day, or I use this time to catch up on episodes I’ve missed.

My podcasts vary from True Crime (an easy fall back) to how-to’s, self-help, and politics. I even have several ones that simply tell stories, both human interest as well as Fiction. On days I’m caught up, I listen to music and get lost that way.

This morning I woke up like I always do, in that thick gray slog where my body (from forehead to foot) aches and my brain feels full of holes. I assume the feeling comes from restless sleep and a buildup of anxiety. Is there such a thing as an anxiety hangover, because I think that’s what this is!

Why am I so upset all the time? In my life, I have it good, better than a lot of people. I have no reason to complain about my circumstances, so what’s my problem?

Zoey’s a lot like me, all high anxiety that manifests by barking herself hoarse at a phantom visitor at the front door, dragging her head across the carpet, and licking her paws bald. Several times a day, Zoey suddenly bursts into my office to make sure that I’m at my desk and haven’t left her behind. So, I take her for two walks a day to wear her out and to calm her down. I’d never thought about doing the same thing, for the same reasons, for myself.

When I take Zoey out, I let her experience the world in front of her. I follow her to a row of tall grasses, to sniff rocks or hydrants, to wonder. When we are together on a path, Zoey dictates where she wants to go, and she keeps the pace. She is experiencing her world, she is present. I, on the other hand, hardly experience anything at all. I’m too busy disappearing into my media malaise, an expressive way station without the emotional release.

I think the biggest reason for wanting to disappear is that the world is embroiled in a war of words that’s constant, badgering, and blistering, coming from all directions, via politics, civil unrest, and even from family and friends on Facebook. I’m surrounded. We’re all surrounded without an escape.

For me, words used to be different. They would fill me up with passion, curiosity, beauty. Words were tools used to help me navigate emotion, to put things into perspective, to feel.

Now it seems words are poisonous daggers released in rapid succession, aimed specifically, without consequence. I feel so inundated by hate that I escape, popping in my EarPods, and blinding myself to everything, allowing words to buzz and vibrate inside my body, collecting, and calcifying, turning my soul into porous cement—wrapping myself in dismal dissociation. Now, words cause me to want to seize to exist.

Today I went for a walk and left the words at home. I found something I have forgotten. The sun rose above the mountain peaks and landed on my face, thawing the chill of autumn. I heard geese and ducks laughing and saw them scramble from the pond and shadows to rest and bathe in the light. There they were, different kinds of birds, lying together in rows on the grass. It was so easy. Simple. Brilliant.

This morning, the whirr of traffic in the distance became accompanying music to the wind tickling red and gold leaves. People jogged by and greeted me as they passed. I saw them. I waved a hello! Today I took Zoey for her morning walk, and the holes in my brain and my soul began to fill with life once again. Today, for a little while, at least, I found the present.

One comment

  • This was such a lovely sentiment and something I try to do too. It’s good to have lots of tricks in your arsenal for dealing with anxiety…I’m glad this one worked for you today ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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