Monday, June 17, 2013

Shut off the television, shut off the radio, and read

When I first got to know my mother-in-law back in the mid-80s, I thought her outlook on life and world events a bit self-centered, even isolationist if humans can be called that. I loved Meg dearly, but we talked mostly about books and writing, about inconsequential family things, movies, and fun excursions. In other words, pleasant things.

I saw her more often in her later years, and still couldn't get her point of view. She was in her late 80s and early 90s by then, but she knew very little about world events, never watched the news, never discussed politics, simply had no clue that life consisted of anything but the joys in which she indulged: taking walks with her husband around Leisure World where she lived in Orange County in Southern California, reading fiction, eating out with friends after a short cocktail hour, and enjoying her family as long as they did nothing to upset her happy life.

I didn't understand, especially when she was able to pretend 9/11 didn't happen.

Lately, however, I've come around to Meg's way of thinking. I can't bear the newscasts where reporters jam a microphone into the face of someone who's just lost a family member or watched their house burn down. I'm appalled and disgusted by politicians and the business-as-usual way they run the country. And I can't believe the number of people who parrot everything they hear on television and radio and read in papers and online as though it had to be true. Disasters like Newtown and Aurora break my heart. And there's absolutely nothing I can do about these things.

Why don't all of us have PTSD?

Or maybe we do...

I need to shrink my world to a manageable size, focus on the individuals around me, work on projects where I can actually have an impact and/or see results, and...

escape into good books.

Right now I'm about 3/4 of the way through 11/22/63 by Stephen King, the master storyteller.  It's better than taking medicine, and it's sure better than watching the news.

You all stay fully informed and stressed out if you want.

Me? I'm going to watch the weather, then turn off the TV and read a good book. If you have a great story to recommend, please let me know in the comments. I'll finish 11/22/63 by the end of the week.

17 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - I thoroughly understand how you feel. I think people are so quick watch others' misery, and of course news outlets want to capitalise on this since that's where they get their money. It's gotten to the point where I'm sick of it myself. I know I feel happier just focusing on what I can do personally to, say, treat others well, behave in a compassionate and ethical way and make changes where I can rather than be overwhelmed by what still needs to be done.

Seasonal said...

I think we probably *do* all have PTSD, at least anyone paying attention. I think a media break is a great idea for mental health. It's probably why I like camping.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We all have levels when it comes to negative stuff like that. Meg was wise to know her level was very low and just avoided it. After a while, I avoid it as well.

YVONNE LEWIS: said...

I think I can understand Meg to a point. I love music as if you haven't guessed and travelling, However I hate to watch news bulletins, as for 9/11 when I first heard it I was at my husband's graveside, it was the third anniversary of his passing. Someone was walking by and told me about it, Many years later Whilst in New York we visited Ground Zero and it wasn't until I saw that site I could fully believe what had happened, What is shown on the TV is only a part. I also hate hearing about The Big "C", I know it exists but as I have seen so much of the suffering of people I loved I hate to watch the news.What I would like to see is a "Happy News Bulletin" where we can see all the good things going on in the world.
Yvonne.

E.J. Wesley said...

Fantastic post, Patricia. I sometimes forget how overloaded I am until I'm forced to unplug for several days. (Like now... we're moving, so I just don't have time for much in the way of TV or news.)

I have to do the same thing with the Internet, because that's where I get most of my news. Honestly, the Internet is harder for me to give up than TV ever has been.

Jan Morrison said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm completely into politics and want to know what is happening in the world YET I do not need a steady diet of bad news. So I read the papers on the weekend, listen to a few current affairs shows on the radio (CBC - thank Goddess). For the rest of my travelling time I take audio books out from the library. Heaven and I arrive not in a fury. Media diets are a damn good thing.

Jemi Fraser said...

I take my news in small doses as my heartache allows. It's so hard to see so much sorrow and heart ache - but there's also a ton of awesome happening out there as well. Just wish it got more air time!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I feel better knowing I'm not the only one. One of the biggest changes I made in my life recently is to change the car radio station from talk shows to a wonderful light rock station. I'm a happier person now, at least when I'm in my car. :D

pam2spicy said...

A very thoughtful post. I don't watch the news very much for the same reasons. It is just too intense. But I do need to throw in a bit of something I have learned along the way. We need to be informed. If you can make a stand for justice, one little step at a time, it is the only way the world will change. Someone said to be the change you wish to see in the world. With that said, I suggest being informed enough to express your idea, not in an angry way but it might be the seed that moves someone to see things differently.

LD Masterson said...

Well said.

Emily R. King said...

I can understand this way of thinking too. Great post, Pat!

Dean K Miller said...

I, too choose to focus on the positive aspects. I can't change Newtown, Aurora, etc. now, but I can be a positive influence to someone nearby and maybe new...and then pray the trickle up/pay it forward theory has more energy and power than the the negative.

Lately I've read "The Road to Kosovo" and "Blood Diamonds" by Greg Campbell. Okay, so not the most "positive" subjects but riveting reads. Also "Faith Alive" by Erika Wiebe Nossokoff which is as uplifting a story as any. J.A. Kazimer's "Froggy Story" was rancidly funny and her "Dopesick :A Love Story" was as far out of my normal genre as I've gone and I loved it as well. Just finished "Dan's War" by Milt Mays and liked it a lot. While I'm waiting for April Moore's "Folsom's 93..." to arrive this week, I'm reading a short story by a writer in Louisville who was asking for feedback.

If ya'll ever get down about things...stop by my web/blog site. I think you'll find something to pick up your thoughts.

RichardK said...

First, thanks for your dose of self-promotion, Dean - it warms my heart to see others coming around to my cultish way of thinking. Now, as to the tin foil hats...

Pat, I was a news junkie for years, even going so far as to getting a Journalism degree. Today, I take a glance at headlines and that's about it. I do try to stay informed about local situations, especially if a wildfire is barreling our way, but I've even reduced my time listening to NPR in favor of audio books. What's even more insane, at least to my kids, is I've gotten rid of cable and unplugged the television once or twice this summer.

You have to take a break from the barrage of the apocalyptic media once in a while to clear your head and realize it focuses on a small percentage of what's going on. As someone else said, there's plenty of positive events going on that are not being covered.

M. K. Theodoratus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M. K. Theodoratus said...

One saving grace. There's a mute button when reporters get too hysterical. ... And an off button too before & after you get the weather.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Thanks for this thought-provoking post. When I get overwhelmed with all the negative news reports, I pick up a book or switch the station to the ballgame.

Mark Means said...

Totally agree and I'm drifting closer and closer to that way of thinking, myself.

The danger in it, though, is becoming -too- disconnected.

That said, though, I keep up on world events, but never watch the news as Journalism is dead and waiting for the funeral.