My therapist is a Tibetan Buddhist, and I know he practices meditation and martial arts. These and other things lead me to view him as a very spiritual person. Even though I know relatively little about the rest of his life, I am amused by my tendency to project about what it must be like. Once, when he was going to be away on vacation, I joked with him about my projections…how I realized that my mind was assuming he spent all of his vacations in some ultra-enlightened pursuit. How I was making assumptions about everything from what he ate (an enlightened diet rich in sprouts) to how he had fun (enlightened activities only).
“This time,” I told him as I finished laughing at myself, “I’m going to play with my projections.” “How?” he smiled back. “Whenever I think of you while you’re gone,” I replied, “I’m going to try to imagine you at a monster truck rally.” He laughed out loud, and I went on, crafting visions of him chugging beers and yelling at drivers.
Most of my readers know nothing about me except what they’ve read. While I don’t think I’ve presented myself as being excessively enlightened, I just want to make sure nobody has any illusions in that direction. So I’m going to tell you what I’m doing in the middle of those dark nights, those hours between when my family goes to sleep and when I do…those hours I talk about in MacBeth Shall Sleep No More. Those hours you might think I’m devoting to philosophy and soul-searching, or even writing.
I’m breeding frogs.
Not even real frogs that might have some value in the world, but virtual frogs. It’s not the only thing I do, but I spend more time on it than I like to talk about. While the phantasy du jour and future tripping runs through my mind; while I process whatever has happened and go over what needs to be done, or while I am just spinning if it’s a bad night…my fingers are busy creating an amphibian army.
The app is called Pocket Frogs. You navigate frogs through a virtual pond to find mates, raise the eggs to make more frogs, and race them to win still more. They come in a very wide range of colors and interesting patterns, and have basic genetic rules in place. You get access to new species as you go up in levels. My daughter enjoyed the game at first, but got bored a long time ago. I forged ahead, reaching higher and higher levels, and then the horror happened: no more new frogs after a certain level.
For some reason, using that app was calming for me…it required just enough engagement to distract me from panic, but not so much as to overload my 3 a.m. brain. So there was only one thing to do…systematically begin to acquire every possible frog genetic pattern. There are so many that I’m not even a quarter of the way there, so I should be okay for a while.
As someone who prizes consciousness and presence, it’s not easy for me to admit how much time I spend at things that could be classified as the mental equivalent of nose-picking. I also know that staring at a computer screen is the worst thing for an insomniac to be doing as far as encouraging sleep. It’s important for me to own up to the unhealthy aspects of what I do.
That being said, I have to ask what would happen if I told myself that things like this were no longer an option…if I decided that my recovery required giving up mindless activities. I think I would be willing, but I’m not convinced it would end well. A loving and realistic assessment tells me that I am not yet in a place where I can face those dark and anxious hours without a crutch. At this point, I’m thinking that it will be a series of small steps when the time is right.
I suppose one way of softening my judgment about breeding frogs is to see it as a rather unorthodox meditation technique…after all, that is what kind of happens to me while I do it. Thoughts flow differently, and I realize things about my feelings I wasn’t aware of before. Frog breeding meditation just doesn’t sound enlightened, though, and pixelated frogs just don’t look as spiritual as candles or beads.