“One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers.”
― Gwendolyn Brooks
― Gwendolyn Brooks
Some time ago, I made the decision to remove the daily news from my life. Before then, I let the news wash over me, swirling into every corner of my head. I wallowed in political upheavals, I raged at social injustices and I wept for victims in every tragedy. I sought out news that made me FEEL and wept over the Sunday paper more times than I can count. I could speak intelligently about issues around the world and I would do so, often heatedly with my voice strident and raised.
I found myself walking around, zombie-like, in a storm cloud of depression almost all the time. Sure, there were other factors but immersing myself in the news fed this overwhelming sadness. I ached emotionally almost all the time. I sought out stories that I KNEW would make me feel worse but somehow it seemed that I deserved this pain. After all, these poor people in these news stories were suffering far worse than I and it only seemed right that someone tried to share their pain.
This was crazy. I was taking on the problems of the ENTIRE WORLD and feeling bad about it.
I started taking full responsibility for my own emotions a few years ago. I developed the understanding (the TRUE understanding instead of just the intellectual awareness) that no one can make you feel anything. Sure, people can treat you badly but your reaction to their treatment of you is entirely your own. If someone yells at you and you feel sad...that sadness comes from you. If they yell at you and you feel angry...that anger originates in you. They may be TRYING to get these reactions out of you but, in the end, the reactions are your own and fully of your own making. You can, believe it or not, choose to react in different ways. And, if someone treats you badly over and over again, you are also responsible for whether or not you continue to allow them in your life. You have the ultimate responsibility for your own actions and your own life.
The same thing is true of circumstances: jobs, activities, and, yes, even news.
So I made a choice. I no longer read news if I can help it. I watch snippets of the Today Show to get a general idea of what's going on in the world but I don't follow up on the stories with a variety of media outlets. I don't go to CNN.com. I don't visit liberal news media sources or conservative news media sources. I even stopped listening to NPR.
And guess what? On the whole, I am a much happier person.
Oh, I can no longer hold my own in a political discussion and I would fall flat on my face in a dinner party discussion of world events. I don't really talk about the news. Ever. Does it make me an irresponsible citizen? Yes, I think it might. But I was a responsible citizen for a really long time and I didn't effect any real change in the world. Do I care? Not so much.
I worry that not knowing about the world around me will make my brain decay and wither. But I still love books and I even started working those crazy Sudoku puzzles in addition to my various word games and crosswords. So, I'm exercising that muscle.
Do I want the world to change? Oh my, yes. Do I want people to operate out of love and not hate? Of course I do. But the world will do what it will do. And I will live in love...not sadness. And maybe, just maybe, the fact that I'm not watching the news and absorbing all that bile into my own life will cause change in my little corner of the world.
THAT, my friends, is making a difference. Because I no longer walk around sad and numbed, I am more patient and kind. I wasn't making ANY difference before. I wasn't an activist for change. I was just a sad person reading a lot about the suffering of others. I wasn't DOING ANYTHING but feeling sad.
There are people who are spurred to action by reading the news. Their outrage drives them to create change. I salute those people. And perhaps someday I will be one of them. But, for now, I continue to heal. I continue to become a complete person. And, until I am stronger, I will avoid the news. Happily. Blissfully. In ignorance.
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