Driving down the 405 Freeway today I came to the realization that I didn’t remember how I got halfway across town. It made me begin to think how much of our lives we spend passively participating. Truthfully, how many of us can relate to feeling so extremely out of body that we have no recollection of the moments passed? Clearly I can, and I am now facing the reality that most of my days are a thick fog of confusion. Everything I do is on autopilot and I increasingly find myself hovering above the conversations that I am part of; never in the moment, but always traveling along the expanse of time and space.
I have arrived at the conclusion that existing outside of the shell that is a human body is equivalent to being dead. So here I am, writing about How to Not Feel Dead.
Just follow me for a bit and understand that my insights come from my heart and personal experiences. The following is not your typical “how to”, but more like a “how to” from someone who actually—had to. Alas, here are twenty-one steps on How to Not Feel Dead:
Believe me I understand how cliche this sounds, but truthfully, when you actively make an effort to be grateful—you feel more present. Thank your friends for their friendship. Thank your family for their endless love and support. If you don’t have either of those, then thank the birds for chirping in the morning, and the flowers for blooming. Thank the bees for working so diligently and thank the breeze that grazes your skin for helping you remember that you are here as a living being on this earth. Most of all, thank your creator for making you—even if you don’t believe in the purpose for your life yet, it will become apparent in time.
2. Find a Creative Outlet
This is impertinent for survival. This world needs creatives, artists, dreamers, innovators, and all of those who fall in between. I went on a trip to Seattle for New Years a few years ago. While visiting, I met a man from Italy named Andrea who taught me how to make ravioli from scratch (it was an amazing and highly recommended experience might I add by @ravioliexperience). I told Andrea that I wished I was an artist, and do you know what he told me? He said, “You are an artist. You just haven’t found your niche yet.” I’m thankful to say that I have now found my niche in writing (Look I’m already practicing number one).
3. Detach from Expectations
I would say that about ninety-five percent of our hurts and disappointments are self inflicted due to our relationship with expectation. Our expectations are our first spouse and we have to divorce them to leave room for reality. As a dreamer, it is so difficult for me to actively live in this reality, but it is necessary for self preservation. Give yourself grace just as you have been given, and also give others the grace that you would hope to be given. Understand that life exists beyond the rose colored glasses and that those shades of rose can often be the birthplace of disillusionment.
4. Color Matching
My therapist told me about this technique for moments when I need to digress from the wormhole of anxiety. Oddly enough, I realized that I had inadvertently been practicing this for years before I ever sought out therapy. If you are feeling overwhelmed or caught up in emotion, take a moment and find everything around you that is the same color. Literally, look around you and find everything purple or everything that is chartreuse. I especially like to practice this outside because I both feel present in nature and present in actively finding similarly colored objects. Distracting yourself from your thoughts and focusing on simple tasks has a very calming effect.
5. Go Out in Nature
Take a moment and go for a walk. Go and look at the flowers and trees that dance in the wind. Watch the beads of dew that melt from blades of grass in the early morning. Follow the butterfly‘s path when you see it. Close your eyes and bask in the sun’s essence for a while. Take in all of the glory below the heavens and breathe in the moment. You are here and you are perfectly and wonderfully made.
6. Touch Things
Literally, touch everything: be it sand from the beach, the hand of your loved one, play dough, or fruit in your fridge—touch it! Touch is one of the five senses and it helps bring you back to the moment. Touching things helps you remember that you are here, because if you weren’t here then you wouldn’t be able to feel the thing in your hand, right?
7. Match your Underwear
Along with color matching, there is this euphoric anomaly that takes place when you match your underwear. Don’t question me on this one because it’s scientifically proven in some country, somewhere—just try it.
8. Talk to Actually Dying People
Volunteer at a hospice care facility. Walk yourself into an elderly home or down the halls of a hospital. Strike up a conversation with someone who is terminally ill. They will benefit from the social interaction and you will benefit by remembering that you have something that they don’t: time. Somehow being around death and those dying has a way or reminding us how small our problems are and how much life we have yet to live. Being present is important and one day our present will quite possibly be in the beds of those convalescent homes. It is impertinent to make sure we are making the most of each present moment we have in between now and then.
9. Force Yourself into Social Interactions
I know how impossible this sounds. I literally cringe anytime someone wants to do something with me out in society. If I had it my way, I would be locked up in my apartment churning out books and having my groceries delivered until I die. However, I will add that some social interaction is healthy every now and again. Shying away from social activity only makes it worse when you do eventually have a social event that you must attend. Plus your loved ones miss you when you aren’t around. It’s healthy to be around more than just your house plants from time to time.
10. Buy Plants
Speaking of plants—buy some! Having living things around you day in and day out reminds you that just as you must take care of them, that you must also take care of yourself. Plus they are good for the environment.
11. Play with Puppies
This is self explanatory.
12. Feel your Pulse
Remembering that there is a beating heart and a whole host of organs working within the seemingly empty shell that is your body is a great way to feel alive. It is almost as if the organs within you forge roots into the earth and you now beat in unison. You are here. You are alive. You are now.
13. Solo Travel
I am an advocate for solo travel. Traveling with friends and family is lovely, but there is something about exploring different corners of the earth alone. I feel that you find a piece of yourself waiting for you in every place that you visit. Reminding you that you have no idea what is ahead of you and it is important not to miss any of it.
Although this is not on the top of the list, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t the most important. Consistently pray—even if you don’t believe what you are saying yet. God is always there and listening. In time you will believe and until then he will be waiting for you to show up so he can show out.
15. Find a Therapist
A good one—not just someone who will label you with a condition and say work on it. Find one that helps you put together the puzzle of your problems, find and unpack the roots, and help you understand the patterns you frequently fall into. Once you know the patterns then it’s difficult to turn a blind eye and play the victim moving forward. You are accountable for your outcomes in most situations.
16. Solve a Puzzle
Speaking of puzzles, your brain needs to be put to work every now and again. Solving problems can be helpful when it comes to feeling present. Dead people can’t solve anything. Also, you will not only be productive, but you will also feel very accomplished, which diminishes the dead feelings.
17. Visit a Cemetery
Visiting the dead has a way of reminding you how alive you really are. There are thousand of years of human lives beneath your feet. All of the lifetimes beneath you serve as a reminder that your story is not yet complete. Think of all the time the dearly departed thought they had left before realizing their next breath was their last.
I’m not going to give the whole gimmick on endorphins, although it’s true. However, if you’re out of shape like I am then you know the struggle of fighting for your next breath when attempting to exercise. Somehow being on the brink of death reminds you how much you actually want to be alive.
19. Find Water
Drink a glass, go to the beach or run a hot bath—not a shower. It’s too easy to get distracted while showering. Whatever you do find water and immerse yourself in it. Sometimes I close my eyes right where I am standing and imagine a basin of water being poured over my head in moments of overwhelm. It almost has a cleansing effect or at least makes me feel as if I am washing away all of the grime of my thoughts. It feels like I am starting over.
20. Grow into Acceptance
It is perfectly acceptable to not be okay from time to time. I’m not sure where the misconception of everything being good all of the time came from, but you can not be okay— and be okay with that. Accept where you are and keep working on yourself. It’s okay to visit the blues when they come, but don’t live there.
Just keep breathing beloved. Now look at you—not being dead.