cro-magnon forced into a bowtie


You are medicating yourself right now, no matter how hard you try to stop it. Alas, let me explain.

Since Lucy came around five years ago, I’ve been looking at the world through her eyes approximately 50% of the time – not just when we’re together, but also when I’m alone, and the juxtaposition has been horrifying. I’m continually amazed at the kind of casual, ugly, soulless profanity I used to take for granted; I have seen stomach-churning porn, the equivalent of snuff films, horror movies full of splayed intestines, and all kinds of gruesome images meant to deaden the human spirit.

Now I have a little girl who has a hard time getting through Snow Buddies without screaming in fear. Necessarily, I’ve adopted much of her innocence as my own, and largely shed all the callouses and callousness that enabled me to get through my twenties. This tectonic change in the way I experience culture has led me to understand a much bigger, much more obvious point: the western world of the 20th and 21st century is goddamn crazy and we are all doing a heroic job of getting through every day without EXPLODING.

The bombardment of information, the months spent in traffic, the demands of jobs, and the backbreaking load of personal shame each of us endures every day has made us, the human animal, virtually incompatible with the lives we’ve built for ourselves. That we still laugh, still possess empathy, still find time for absurdity and silliness, is proof some part of homo sapiens remains truly divine.

I’m not saying you have to accept this “hunter/gatherer forced into sensory overload” theory, but if you do, you might also accept we can only get through this life with help, by whatever means necessary. In my experience, almost every single person I’ve ever met needs to compensate for the horrorshow of modern existence by some means. In fact, I’ll put a partial list here:

• pot

• cocaine, ecstasy and harder drugs

• alcohol

• antidepressants

• coffee

• behavioral pharmaceuticals

• overworking

• overeating

• magical thinking

• singular obsessions (hobbies, sports)

…and those are just some popular ones. I have come to understand I compensate for my inability to “deal” with the present world by taking Cymbalta, Dexedrine, weekly talk therapy, a hyper-caffeinated tea, a mid-level candy addiction, and perhaps a low-level Wikipedia addiction. These things were unnecessary when we were at Carolina, due to the incessant distractions of Experience and Romance, but as all of us got older, we either had to have a fearless look at ourselves or risk becoming the unwitting punchline of a forgotten joke.

Put simply, we are all biologically engineered for a simpler existence. It can be argued that we’re not meant to be constantly hijacked by Facebook, not meant to be sitting on a stopped freeway speechless with rage, not meant to sleep in a room scattered with LED lights glowing all night. We are not meant to know about earthquakes in New Zealand, global warming, or babies dying in gangland shootouts.

And so I look at Lucy, and I see the world through her eyes, and I want to limit as much of that lunacy as possible. I bristle at the idea that sheltering kids from the world’s worst aspects renders them unprepared for the realities of life – I got a healthy dose of the world’s untethered morality and cruelty growing up, and it did me no favors.


Lucy with Lily’s friend Bisou

Do I fancy some return to a halcyon, simpler life, free of deviant pornography, Twitter and foreign correspondents reporting from mass graves? Um… no. I’m way too much a product of technophilia, and I’m a big believer in antibiotics and modern dentistry. But there may be some redemption in understanding you’re doing a pretty fantastic job just by staying sane.

If you aren’t one of the rare beasts who require no help to slalom through life at the beginning of the 21st century, then you are medicating, even if you don’t see it. I don’t know what your specific medication is, but you can start by forgiving yourself that you need it. Brian Wilson – a genius madman shut-in if there ever was one – wrote I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, but really, it’s okay, because none of us were.

0 thoughts on “cro-magnon forced into a bowtie

  1. CM

    Sometimes we are medicating ourselves to help cope with the nothingness, rather than with everything.
    My medication right now is living in a fantasy world. Everything I do or see has a higher purpose; at least, i tell myself that – it can become part of a novel someday, for one thing. That’s how I deliver the illusion to myself that everything is a lot more interesting or important than it really is. I’m glad I can get through life this way….it’s better than the reality of taking things just as they are and living in the moment.
    Oh, and food helps, too.

  2. monheric

    Today’s medication: Equal Exchange 65% Orange Dark Chocolate – about 2 oz gets me through a day on my butt in the office.
    Antidote: GO OUTSIDE (I have to use caps when I’m yelling at myself :) ). Recreation is good; gardening is good and makes food! I’ve started building post-and-beam sheds, taken up beekeeping, *anything* to force me away from the artificial. A nice big have-to-be-walked dog is next.

  3. Sarah

    If the MSM has anything to do with it, we won’t know anything about the earthquake in NZ. I’ve had to get my news from a NZ website…CNN, etc barely have anything. I was in the spire of the cathedral 2 months ago (where they now estimate 20 people died), and am so sad this happened. My sister is a doc in Auckland, and they’ve been flying kids up to her hospital to be treated, because the hospital in Christchurch is running on a generator and doesn’t have a working CT scanner…
    My self-medication? Lately it’s been caffeine, overworking, some wine, and way too many black jelly beans.

  4. Lisa on Maui

    I’m working on switching my candy/caffeine/coors light regimen into a yoga/green tea/kale scene. Not easy.
    I agree with CM that sometimes the nothingness is harder than the everything.

  5. once a heel

    So what do you do when the 6-year old through whose eyes you’d like to see the world suffers from (diagnosed) anxiety and depression?

  6. Joanna

    The journey, then, is to discover a “medication” that does not numb, but rather nurtures and awakens you to that which truly is good and beautiful.

  7. Neva

    My daily dose of coffee and chocolate are helpful but my latest find is hot yoga. Amazing sense of relaxation and a total ringing out of my stress. Like going for a long run, doing a weight workout and then getting a massage all at once. I love it and it’s better for you than screaming at people (my other alternative).

  8. Joanna

    Neva, yoga (anusara lately) is also my best remedy. Your description is similar to mine. I’ve said it’s a workout, therapy and massage all at once.

  9. Stasia

    Ditto E.
    I think this is one of my faves of yours. I basically spoke those exact words at lunch on Wednesday (minus your fanciness, of course). Funny too, because you posted it exactly a minute before I was born.

  10. janet oh

    Nothingness is not nothingness…..its space……what makes a room ? Is it the walls or the space within……..the answer has to be both…therefore space is not nothing and nothing is space……..atoms apparently have more space between them than the area size of the atom itself…… is ok…….and we are more space than atoms……when we feel nothingness we are really feeling life…..ain’t that a cool comfort

  11. melony Gilles

    Ummmm: wait just a minute, now. I think we had this conversation almost two decades ago. This post of yours has been in my head all day. i want to argue with you (and have been, in my mind, for the last 24 hours)! is it possible that i enjoy wine, hobbies, etc. because life is fun and worth celebrating? not to drown out the horror show? i disagree entirely with your first assumption: who said that the porn, violence, dead babies, mass graves, earthquakes, mind-numbing jobs and traffic jams are life/reality? not me. that is only part of the picture. I also see: dancing! beauty! art! nature! love! and that makes me want to have a glass of wine, tend the garden and laugh, my friend. so there. call me a self-medicator, say i am miserable and escapist. or the unwitting punchline of a forgotten joke. i will be giggling over here in my corner of the world thinking magically. Ha!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.