Waking Up

I reluctantly saw the movie The Giver recently. Reluctantly because young adult dystopian future flicks fill the theaters these days. Yawn. Imagine my surprise when I realized how much it translated to my grown-up present.

One of the plot points concerns keeping the populace subdued or protected, depending on your point of view, from the pains of life through the compulsory use of pharmaceuticals. Naturally, if there’s no pain there’s no joy and no hate is accompanied by no love. It was a soulless world.

What I’ve been thinking about since I left the movie theater is how often we voluntarily do the exact same thing to ourselves, the myriad ways we numb ourselves to life. Some use the aforementioned pharmaceuticals, legal or illegal. Others turn to alcohol or gambling or sex or food or tv or the internet or comic books or shopping or work or <insert your preferred way of avoiding pain or feelings of any sort.> I’ve done it myself, like when I ate a lot of hot fudge sundaes while going through an IRS audit many years ago. Taxes are taxing!

I’m not going to get into addiction. There are entire books on that. But I will challenge you to look at how and when you numb yourself, if ever, because some of ways listed above are tricky. It’s easy to label heroin use as numbing yourself; it can be a little more problematic with food or work. We need to eat. We need to work. Does that mean that we “need” candy bars? No. Do we “need” to tweet about our 9-to-5 jobs on Sunday evenings? Probably not.  

What does all this numbing cost us? There can be a financial cost but there’s a good chance that the emotional and spiritual cost will be higher. An evening spent glued to the tv or computer is an evening of not interacting with other human beings. A weekend spent working is a weekend not spent with your child. Or spouse. Or friends. And then there is the poison of secrets. “Don’t tell my husband about my shopping spree!” “Don’t tell my wife about happy hour.”  Now avoiding pain has led to causing it.

How do we step off this merry-go-round? By waking up. Even if it’s just a little at a time, we wake up and feel life as it really is. Yes, there will be downs but there will also be breathtaking ups. The sun follows the clouds as surely as day follows nights. You don’t have to be perfect to have a great life. And you can have a hot fudge sundae. Take it from me, it tastes even better when the IRS is not at your door.

If you’re not sure how to start, try a practice like yoga or meditation. They’re both excellent ways to reconnect with yourself and feel life in the present moment, even if it’s only for a moment. With practice, you’ll find yourself stringing those moments together into a vibrant, soul-filled life.

What’s your favorite way to wake up?


  1. We often numb ourselves when things are overwhelming. I wake up by intentionally slowing down. A walk. A bath. Patting my dog.

  2. Numbing is a common thing, and like you say, so easy not to notice when it’s with more everyday things like work or internet or shopping. We have to be careful to watch for it and use tools to help us bring ourselves back. I’ve recently started meditating and it definitely helps.

  3. So many gems in this wonderful reminder piece, Julie. Especially, I like the summing up sentence, “With practice, you’ll find yourself stringing those moments together into a vibrant, soul-filled life.”


    ~ Dena

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