Friday, January 1, 2016

A Year at War

What is it about the thought of war that makes it so consuming?

2015, it seems, has been all about war. News revolved around war, businesses entered war, and I just can't get enough of it.

Each day, for the past six months I have started my day with a dose of the BBC. Each day, except for the days when Pope Francis visited the US, centered around war. I turn off the TV, pick myself up and head over to the car. I have twenty minutes to clear my mind before it infects the entire office. Without any hustle and bustle, mornings at the office fails to distract me. So, I skim through the New York Times instead. I avoid terror by going straight to the Opinion section. In the summer, the NYT had a section on Summer Love, which helped turn my thoughts into clouds of optimism.

Meetings start at 9 AM. Soon enough I am back on the battle field. Conflicts have become such a norm that I have rediscovered the use for the word "Stupid!" Cerebral cursing helps me ease my frown into a mindless stare. Combined with religiously applied eye cream, lines won't form between my eyebrows any time soon.

One month I even started doodling to maintain notes and inner peace. As I anger nears, I can't help but draw weapons on paper. Even the stickmen are at war with one another. Even they could be annihilated with a charcoal bomb or crumbling paper.

But now, I zone in and out of the discussion enough to safe me from looking like a total ass. When my mind fails to leave the room, I listed in intensely, praying to learn how people's minds work. Why are they being so difficult? How can I make this conversation more productive? A simulation of treatments and their potential outcomes play out in my head, as my eyes and hand keep up with the discussion.

I take a break from the war in my mind during lunchtime, which consists of shoving food down my throat in record time. Eating alone has its benefits, I learned, whereas eating with others may require a touch of strategical thinking. When time allows, I return to my reading list or catch up on news. Nine times out of ten, headline news consist of war. Thankfully, there are those who are willing to have meet before the lunch breaks ends.

For the rest of the day I try my best to regulate my breathing, to provide constructive criticism and ultimately stop myself from heading into battle. My views on "Pick your battles!" has see-sawed uncontrollably for the past few months, especially when it comes to pressing issues. Each day, I try to limit myself to one active battle that could be defined as a battle between two or more parties, one of which is me. This is a battle that is palpable to those around me. More often than not, it stems from ignorance and passive aggressiveness. When I could sense my stamina deterring, I opt for diplomacy. "Let's talk about it!" I'd say before laying out our definitions, assumptions, and perspective. Ironically, some battles can be easily resolved, making it much less attractive to pick my battles.

Before I could understand this logic further I am on my way home, where I spend the evening aimlessly perusing the internet, reading or counting down the hours till I sleep. This year I have had the pleasure of relearning how to empty my mind. Sometimes it's a struggle to convince my head from going full speed, but this year silence has seen more triumph than ever before.

Unfortunately, wars do not have the day off on weekends. Bloodshed still takes place somewhere in the world no matter the date, no matter the time. The war in my mind has also bled onto Saturdays and Sundays. In recent weeks, it has become so severe that a friend has called me manipulative in a suspiciously positive way. I have also tried to pick my battles on my days off of work, especially as friends become so comfortable that they find it totally acceptable to say sexist jokes and be their unfiltered self. If geopolitical wars don't stop on the weekends, why should the war between your true self and ideal self seize?

Funnily, although parts of war remains fetishized, most of it becomes routine. There is a pattern to be seen and lived. And as 2015 nears its end, I can't help but put away my rifle and ammunition, I can't help but lock away my map and combat boots. Perhaps, only then, will 2016 become a peaceful year.

*The photo above was provided by the author

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