How long have you been on red alert?
You can call it “Fight or Flight” if you like, that physiological response to perceived threat that makes your heart pound. Or just “stressed out,” a state so common it hardly bears mentioning when someone asks you “how are you?”
Whatever you call it, if you’re like me, then you can exist perpetually with your bridge’s lighting dismally dim, red lights blinking, and all the beings inside jostling randomly from the left to the right.
These days, in fact, it feels almost negligent not to be on red alert. Every week is a new crisis in mistreating humanity – and an infuriating lesson on how many of us just don’t care.
Plus, if we are honest with ourselves, it can feel a bit good to be stressed out – or if not good, at least reassured we are busy and important. And not staring into the existential abyss.
But being on red alert all the time isn’t practical. It’s effective in dealing with imminent Romulan attack, but not so good when you need to do any number of other things–like see where you set down your tea, maybe, or walk in a straight line.
Continued stress wreaks havoc on our health and compels us to binge on emergency rations we actually don’t need. Just look at Voyager’s Captain Janeway. The “year of hell” was of course, hell, but being constantly on-edge led her to refuse Chakotay’s very nice birthday present. Then she breathed in toxin and jumped into flames and stupidly refused treatment. When the Doctor tries to suggest she rest and recover from the burns, she threatened to deactivate him. Now who is that helping, Kathy??
True, slamming Voyager into the Krenim ship was a badass move and proved she has quite the pair of ovaries – but I’m not sure that was a great lesson in how to deal with life’s sh*t.
Perhaps, with just a smidge of self-care, Janeway could have gone back to getting coffee in that nebula. Coffee-seeking Janeway is hella productive.
For ways to finally flip the “Red Alert” switch (without self-destruction), I’m going to switch fandoms to Doctor Who. After all, the Doctor has seen it all over thousands of years and still retains her (HER! That will never get old) optimism.
Of course, famously, the 12thDoctor talked about how fear is a super power and makes you that much stronger. But I think lately I have been thinking it all comes down to my favorite quote from the most recent trailer:
“I’m just a traveler. Sometimes I see things need fixing, I do what I can.”
She’s a traveler, like we all are – “just” a traveler. As in, you are not all-powerful and you don’t know it all, and you are moving in and out of every situation. That’s perspective, and there’s a bit of peace in that.
And then, she sees things that need fixing. As do we all. And she does what can. No more, no less. She takes her time to make sure that awesome coat is clean and flappy. She makes friends. And then she kicks butt.
The TARDIS has beeping buttons and lights aplenty, but I don’t think you’ll find it in a state of red alert – maybe that’s because the Doctor has found (most of the time) that yoga balance of effort and ease, of action and insight. If we take some time for our coffee, for our yoga, and get treatment when we valiantly jump into fire, then maybe we too can turn off the red alert from time to time. We can be alert, sure, but then we can go off and continue our mission to explore strong new worlds – or at least, to cope with today.