The entire two weeks of my Alaskan vacation, I did not access the news. Not once. No newspapers, no radio, no streaming media. Nothing. Aliens could have invaded the planet and I wouldn’t have known. Cheeto-head had to fend for himself. The human moral compass no doubt continued to spin erratically in search of true North. I was not subjected to the vertigo that that can cause.
It was pure bliss.
Oh, I was already aware of the stress that news causes me. I knew that not a day goes by without my feeling frustrated, helpless, and outraged because of the things going on in the world. I knew I needed a break.
But as they say, a fish doesn’t know the quality of the water it is in until it jumps out of it. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t expect to feel my blood pressure drop. I felt physically better. More rested. My attitude improved. People didn’t seem to suck nearly as much as they normally do. (Well, most of them, anyway.) It was cleansing.
I’m not saying that we should bury our heads in the sand as a general rule. Our leaders must be held accountable. We must bear witness. We have to strive for change or else society will sink to its lowest common denominator.
But every now and then, it’s nice to be reminded that the earth is going to continue to revolve around the sun with or without my help. It’s good to take time to reassess and revitalize. It’s important to live to fight another day.
During a recent commute, I was thinking about the fact that people from all over the world read this blog. I’m rather proud of that. I’d like to think that my random musings give people some insight into the fact that not all Americans fit into the current stereotype.
If you’ve never been to the United States, and formed your opinion about this country based on presidential tweets or the news cycle on any given day in the past several years, I’d be rather ashamed at the conclusions you might be drawing about us as people.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that all our news is fake. In fact, I think that most of it is not. But like news everywhere, it tends to focus on the extreme, the lunatic fringe, the dramatic, negative, headline-grabbing insanity that sells subscriptions and gains followers.
The first thing I’d like you to know is that we are not our politicians, just as you probably don’t always agree with your own political figures much of the time. The insanity that comes out of our capitol these days is not reflective of the vast majority of us.
Most of us actually believe that our current gun situation is insane and needs some form of regulation. Most of us believe that we incarcerate way, way, way too many people. Most of us really do know that global warming exists, and we desperately want to do something about it. Most of us think that our health care system is cruel and unjust. Most of us do not agree with the way we currently treat immigrants, the homeless, and the mentally ill in this country.
This nation’s political stance on all of the above is a source of shame and outrage. I wish I could say that our system was actually democratic and reflective of we, the people, but it is, in fact, rigged for the rich and powerful, and they have no one’s best interests at heart but their own. That’s a source of shame, too.
I wish there were some way you could get to know an individual American. Most of us would never think to chant, “lock her up” or “send her back”. The average American doesn’t have a violent bone in his or her body. 99.9999 percent of us would never use an automatic weapon in a school. While we are not perfect (who is?) we are, I truly believe, mostly very compassionate, and willing to help people in need, rather than hurt them or separate them from their families.
While we do have quite a bit of work to do in terms of racial bias, I sincerely believe that people who lead with hate do not represent the vast majority of us. We feel that selfishness is an ugly trait, as is greed. Just about everyone I know is entirely too busy trying to live his or her own life to interfere in the lives of others.
It’s true that there’s no such thing as a typical American, just as there’s no such thing as a typical Italian or a typical Nigerian or a typical Korean. We may come in all shapes and sizes and colors, but I think that most human beings have this in common: we struggle to take good care of our loved ones, and do the best that we can to be the best people that we can be.
So please don’t judge us too harshly. We have limited control over our country’s reputation, and that hurts us as much as it probably horrifies you. Just try to remember that on an individual basis, kindness and love still exist here. They really do.
With increasing frequency, I’m compelled to avoid the news altogether. It all seems so bleak, so dire, so incomprehensible, so stressful. I can only take so much. I’m sometimes forced to give myself the day off just to maintain my own sanity.
Eventually, I have to stick my head back into that toxic waterfall, though. It’s not a good idea to be uninformed in this day and age. Much better to know when it’s time to duck and cover, or whip out one’s passport.
But the whole journalistic philosophy of “If it bleeds, it leads!” Means that the good news (which is also legitimate news, lest we forget), often gets buried. It’s easy to overlook that there’s decency in the world if you rely only on the major news outlets.
That’s why I’m really happy that a friend of mine turned me on to the Good News Network. It’s a tonic. It reminds me that not everything is death, destruction, corruption and crime.
And guess what. It isn’t all stories of puppies and kittens. (Well, yeah, there is a fair amount of that, but there’s other content, too.) On the day of this writing, some of the headlines were:
World’s Second Largest Coral Reef Has Just Been Removed From Endangered List
Bank Restores Stolen Funds to Oldest Living US Veteran After Identity Theft
Turkey Announces They Are Setting Aside a Ton of Money to Make Cancer Treatments Free
Sweden to Reach Its 2030 Renewable Energy Goal This Year!
Scientists Capture First Ever Confirmed Image of a Planet Being Born
Fishermen Save Starving Fox That Was Stranded on an Iceberg at Sea
When Pizza Driver Gets into Accident, Firefighters Deliver the Hot Pizza Themselves
Don’t you feel better already? I know I do. Maybe if more of us visit this website, the mainstream media will get the hint that we need a little more balance on this emotional rollercoaster of ours. So check it out.
People alive today have access to more news and entertainment than any human being in the history of the planet. If anything major happens in the world, we are all able to find out about it almost instantly. We’ve come a long way from the days when a hurricane could hit Long Island without any advanced warning for its residents. Surely that’s to our benefit, right?
Yes and no. We also have more access to misinformation and exaggeration, and our ability to think critically does not seem to be keeping apace. That means that many of us believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. This is called mean world syndrome, and it’s a serious problem.
If you don’t believe that your attitudes are shaped by the media, then you haven’t been paying attention. Without its influence, there’s no way that someone so deranged and unqualified could be in the White House. Without it, none of us would feel the need to keep up with the Kardashians. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt that need. But then, I don’t have a TV in my house, either.)
If it’s any comfort at all, according to this Public Radio International article, the world is a much safer pace than it used to be. War deaths have dramatically decreased. We just hear about them more often. We all work fewer hours each week. There is less poverty and homicide, and more democracy than ever before.
And this article from Psychology Today also states that violence against women and children has decreased worldwide. We are more likely to die of old age than in a hail of bullets.
And, lest we forget, the average life expectancy for the residents of this planet is now up in the 70’s, as opposed to age 48 back in 1950. That’s pretty remarkable, don’t you think? So stop what you’re doing, look about you, and breathe. It’s going to be okay. Odds are pretty good that you won’t encounter any lions or tigers or bears. Oh, my.
There’s nothing more annoying to me than someone who is intentionally ignorant or oblivious. Especially when that person thinks it’s amusing or charming. You were given a brain. Use it.
At this particular time in our nation’s history, as the bumper sticker says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Yeah, I know. Outrage is no fun at all. It’s exhausting, to be honest. It is understandable that you need to take a break from the news now and again. But to intentionally block it out as a matter of course, all while sitting on your hands and doing nothing, is unconscionable.
For God’s sake, vote. And take the time to educate yourself before doing so. If you don’t vote in 2018 and then complain about your healthcare being taken from you, I reserve the right to personally slap the white off your teeth.
I know it’s tempting, and rather comforting, to just tiptoe through the tulips while humming quietly to yourself, but while you are doing that, important things are happening all around you. And a lot of it, lately, is a threat to those very tulips that you’re treading upon.
Don’t brag about your ignorance. It’s not a good look. And it’s actually becoming a hazard to the health and safety of everyone on this planet.
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One of my favorite sayings is that a fish doesn’t realize it’s in water until it jumps out of it. I can totally relate to that. I just jumped out of something myself. Epic revelation!
I just got some really, really, really good news, which unfortunately I can’t share with you, dear readers. Just think about the best news you’ve ever heard in your life, and it’s on that level. The news is so good, in fact, that I’m feeling a little nauseous from sheer relief.
And therein lies the situation I just jumped from. Yes, I knew I had been under an incredible amount of stress. Yes, I knew it was making me miserable. But having the problem whisked out from under me like a tablecloth yanked out from under my mother’s best china, with nary a break, is, well, life-changing. There’s adrenaline involved, for sure. I don’t think I realized just how much the situation was impacting me on the most fundamental of levels.
I. Am. Free!!!!!!!!!
That’s an odd feeling. Because up to this moment I didn’t realize I hadn’t been free. I didn’t truly get how shackled I was to my stress and anxiety.
I feel like jumping in puddles! I feel like kissing someone! I feel like a new person. What a gift!
It’s moments like this that make life truly worthwhile. I hope that you get to have a similar experience at least once in your life. And when you do, I hope you recognize it for what it is: a leap out of your personal pond. Revel in it!
You know shit is getting real when your doctor actually prescribes that you don’t watch the news for a week. Between North Korea and Puerto Rico, my blood pressure is higher than it ought to be. So let the news blackout begin.
For those of you in the helping professions in particular, vicarious trauma is a problem that should be taken very seriously. Counselors, health professionals, firemen, police officers, social workers, soldiers, even journalists get exposed to other people’s trauma on a daily basis, and unless they have hearts of stone, these experiences, albeit secondhand, impact them as well. More and more, as all of us have greater access to disasters on a global scale, I’m beginning to believe that every single one of us is exposed to vicarious trauma.
Do you ever feel like you just can’t listen to one more news item without losing your mind? Are you convinced that one more presidential tweet just might send you over the edge? Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, forest fires… the overwhelming number of Youtube videos showing animal abuse and neglect… it is just too much to take in.
Think of trauma like a pebble thrown into a pond. The ripples that flow outward from that pebble effect all of us. It feels like we can never do enough. It’s exhausting. It makes you feel guilty, or afraid, or angry, or cynical. Sometimes it makes you feel numb, or helpless, or hopeless.
All of these are natural responses to vicarious trauma, but they’re not particularly helpful. It’s important that you learn to practice compassion for yourself as well as for other people. Give yourself a break. Be kind to you. Be sure to give yourself opportunities to engage in things outside your work, or outside the news. Set the burden down every now and then. Center yourself with family and friends. Get local. Allow yourself to have limits.
Most of all, talk to people. You are not alone. We are all getting a bit burned out. We need each other to weather the storms.