Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, wasn’t the only big deal in her family. Her brother Henry Ward Beecher, a well-known abolitionist and preacher of the era, was a supporter of the anti-slavery group in the Kansas Territory. His organization raised funds to supply them guns. They became known colloquially as “Beecher Bibles.”
More interesting in this family is Lyman Beecher, their father. Also a minister, Harriet shared this anecdote about him. “he kept a load of sand in his cellar, to which he would run at odd intervals and shovel vigorously, throwing it from one side the cellar to the other, on his favorite theory of working off nervous excitement through the muscles, and his wood-pile and wood-saw were inestimable means to the same end.”
The dude burned off excess energy by literally shoveling a pile of dirt from one side of his basement to another. I don’t have basement sand. But I do know something about the anxiety attacks that wake you up at night with your heart and mind racing and you can’t turn it off.
And over the last several months I’ve realized that the internet is one thing that manifests itself as my basement of sand. Which can be good. After all, Lyman Beecher needed the basement of sand to cope.
But lately I’ve begun to see that the internet has been like Vernor’s Ginger Ale to me (yeah, another metaphor. Hold on for a second). As kids, Mom gave us Vernor’s to settle the stomach when we were sick, the traditional remedy of native Michiganders. And it worked for some time. Until the psychological association of Vernor’s and illness happened in my brain. And now I can’t see Vernor’s without feeling ill. It’s not Vernor’s fault. The fault lies in my brain.
These days I’m finding that when I see the pile of basement sand and I don’t need it, it’s the total opposite reaction as intended. I don’t feel better. I feel worse. It makes the anxiety worse. It’s doing the opposite of what it’s supposed to do for me. Not always. There are times when the basement of sand is necessary, but there are a lot of times it’s not.
Lyman Beecher had an interesting mechanism to help him cope with whatever was going on in his brain. But Lyman Beecher also had a basement full of sand.