I saw my mind like a department store, and I was the security guard in the middle of the atrium.
For once, I could see my problems labeled clearly: There was the dollar store of Distractions. There was the bodega of Crippling Anxiety. There was the greeting card store with a sale on Comparing Yourself To Others. There was the fast food court with News about our country falling apart. There was the Responsibility and Task Management desk, control panels blinking with notifications. All these stores in my mind, open for business, ready to set the tone for my day as I woke.
The moment I wake up, I’m weightless. I’m free of the nightly guilt I fall asleep to — guilt over how I spent my day slogging through depression. And today, I woke up clear-eyed…and packing heat in the form of a dream gun, aimed at those stores opening for business. I was the security guard in control of my own thoughts and actions. I was lucid. I could see the stores for what they were, wanting to consume my focus and energy and turn me into an unaware shopper of my own misery, visiting the same old bargain-bin sadness sales that had consumed my last months in NYC.
But I wasn’t having it today. I had a dream pistol loaded with mind bullets, and everything was under motherfucking lockdown. “No one make a fucking move,” I said/thought in my head. “I’m going to make my way over to that there computer machine, and I’m going to write this all down, and I don’t want any of you trying to distract me.” Silence — in response — but wariness too. Would the security guard slip up, lose his focus, open himself up to diversion?
I opened my laptop. Notifications, silenced over my Do Not Disturb nighttime hours, flooded the screen. “Hands up, bitches!” I silently mind-shouted at the screen. I ignored the notifications saying my hard drive was almost full from both Google Drive and Apple Storage. I ignored the multiple NYTimes alerts spelling out more catastrophic news for our country (and thought how many times I refresh news websites every day, like a proxy for my own personal anxiety. Am I depressing myself by refreshing these sites multiple times a day? It’s always bad news…when had the news been uplifting lately, anyway? Why was I checking the god damn news so much, it was like my own personal torture device…?).
“Focus, Philip!” I thought. I stopped myself from opening my email inbox, or checking who had texted me (why do so many people text overnight anyway? Doesn’t anybody fucking sleep?). I opened a clean web browser on Medium.com, and I started typing with all the clarity and drive I could muster.
My dog nuzzled my leg. She wanted to distract me also. “Not now, Star,” I commanded, giving her some side-eye shade. She shrank back from my top-dog authority. Who was this new Morning Philip, clacking at the keys like a madcap Beethoven (the Beethoven I imagine from his later, deafer year — with wild, unkempt hair and dirty clothes, scribbling furiously at the crack of dawn on sheet music)? Shouldn’t Morning Philip be checking his phone in bed, letting the depression enter him and ripen? Shouldn’t Morning Philip be a prime target for the dog’s begging and prodding, until he slogged out of bed and over to the dog bowl, on the timeline she wanted? No — something was different. Today, Star would wait to beg for her morning meal. My own damn dog didn’t know who I was. And I liked that.
I smiled at how ridiculously Terminator-like I was acting. But who cared? It was fun to wake up powerfully in control of my own moods and emotions for once. I didn’t know how long this trip would last. It felt like the fleeting power and clarity I’d accessed on acid or mushroom trips from years ago, back when I felt confident about my life direction. Not like the last acid trip I’d done a month ago, where I’d spent 12 hours moping and quietly crying into the arms of my fellow trippers. Today’s morning high felt like badassary; it felt like unfiltered creativity; it felt like writing unhindered by the past or the weight of daily trials. It felt fresh and new, like something I can and should do every day. It felt free.
My challenge to myself and you — the reader of this gobbledygook Medium post — wake up and do something creative every day. Wake up and write — not important what you right, but that you write, every day. Do it right away: before you check how the world’s falling apart via the 24/7 news cycle, or open Facebook and compare your life to all your friends who you swear to your therapist are happier than you and doing better career-wise, or even feed your whining dog. Write for yourself. Meditate for yourself. Stretch or do yoga for yourself. Be selfishly creative when you wake up. Give yourself an empowering practice to seize the day your way. Arrest your inhibitions before they take root and color the way you see the world and yourself.
Because the whole world wants to consume your time, energy, and attention. The whole world treats every moment like it’s a personal crisis, demanding immediacy and urgency (and by the whole world, I mean your whole subconscious too). I know I am addicted to that rush of daily worrying, waiting, and wack-a-moling problems as they arise. I’m only satisfied when I’m done completing a task or archiving an email. I’m not used to just doing things for myself for no reason, like whimsically waking up and writing a story about my lucid dream!
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing every day and expecting different results, right? Why should the way I start my day be any different? If I’ve felt depressed by the end of every day for the past several months, but uplifted and free the moment I wake up — well, there’s gotta be way to change up my routine so I don’t sink into that daily depression.
I didn’t come up with this idea. Morning pages have been around since — well, I’m sure at least since cave men times (historically referred to as “Morning Cave Painting,” I believe). But today, I saw myself falling for the same old sales trick in that miserable department store of my mind, and I was able to arrest my depression before it drugged me into another shopping-mall-induced-waking-nightmare-slumber. I stopped it — at least for the duration of writing this story — and put my creativity in charge of how I started my day. I let this act of freedom define my waking hours, and I loved writing and exploring these thoughts.
Wake up and be creative, before you do anything else.