Tuesday, September 1, 2020

In search of Divine Nonchalance

 If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.

Paulo Coelho


Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser and they're right, I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn't always feel this... sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.

Lester Burnham- American Beauty



If you’re like me, you’ve watched a lot of TV in 2020.

For most of us, it’s been a locked up, holed up, masked up kind of year. For me, it will be the first year in more than a decade I haven’t gotten to do any overseas travel. With Covid and all the corresponding bullshit that goes with it, it’s just not on the cards this year.

I fully acknowledge this is a first world problem, and that for many people, 2020 has presented much bigger challenges than that. But I do think it’s safe to say that many of us might have lost our spark this year in one way or another. It’s certainly what I hear from people every day as a psychologist.

But anyway, back to the TV.

I recently began watching a fascinating show called Dispatches from Elsewhere. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

The premise of the show comes from a 2013 documentary called “The Institute” which documents an elaborate game/challenge/alternate reality activity that originated in San Francisco, which challenged people to participate in activities that forced them to take more risks in their lives. Think of a less violent version of Fight Club. They started by leaving cryptic message on telephone poles. It sometimes involved dancing or other artistic endeavors. It might sound kind of silly, but over 7,000 people eventually participated.

A theme runs through the show that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.

“Divine nonchalance.” The phrase originally comes from a Tarot card pictured on “The fool.” The definition I like is, “A kind of naiveté. Almost like a childlike relationship with the world around you. That freedom from inhibition that sparks creativity and inspiration and allows random beauty to occur.”

Divine nonchalance ha? How do I get some of that back into my life??

Kids are born with it I think. Everything is up for discussion with them, and no question is too silly or intrusive. They are born with that insatiable curiosity and they are just trying to figure it all out.

But somewhere along the way, we lose something. We settle into jobs, marriages, and routines. Predictable lives. We can also settle into ruts very easily. One day we stop taking chances and talking to strangers. We lose the ability to surprise ourselves.

One of the hallmarks of anxiety is we start caring too much about EVERYTHING. Our brains are like computers with 20 tabs open at the same time. We worry about work and kids and money and Covid and health and parents, and all of a sudden our computer starts to get a little fried. Worry becomes a permanent part of our lives.

But just so we are clear, 85% of what we worry about has either a neutral or positive outcome. 85%!! I once heard “Worrying is like praying for things you don’t want.”

Seems pretty accurate…

So again, how do we find some of this nonchalance? Even a LITTLE would be nice. But “Divine” nonchalance? That seems like a lofty aspiration.

But the other day, the answer came to me.

I was at a small gathering in my town the other day, and observed a family watching a street performer. The little boy kept approaching strangers and asking them questions. The little girl was spinning around dancing and bumping into people.

The henpecked mother finally corralled the children and yelled, “All you two are doing today is talking to strangers and dancing!!”

And then I had my answer! Talking to strangers and dancing!!!

So for the last week, I have gone out of my way to strike up conversations with new people. Take some chances with people. Some risks.

And as the people who know me in my little town can attest, I often get in trouble for dancing. We are in “Level 2” lockdown at the moment, and your ass is supposed to remain in your seat.

Mine will never remain there. My ass will not be silenced!

I would encourage you to think about how you might find some more of this divine nonchalance in your own life. More silliness and less worry. More music and less internal noise. Less caring and more chances. Less permission and more forgiveness.

Do something weird today.

Doctors orders!