Years ago, we used to get the daily newspaper, because that’s what adults did. I grew up with daily newspapers coming to the house, and my parents reading them every day. I learned that’s where you found important stuff, like the comics, and the movie listings, and Dear Abby (before her terse daughter took over). The newspaper was the internet before the internet existed, and it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t take the paper.
But years wore on, and our lives got busy, and we started to notice the papers piling up during the week. The internet now existed, and I could get what I needed on GoogleNews every day, and so each week we’d end up recycling a bunch of unread papers, so we decided to just take the Sunday paper. That way we’d still get the local TV listings. So every Sunday, I would go out, grab the paper, and sit down and read it after breakfast. As I turned the pages, I would find myself getting more and more depressed, every page full of death, corruption, greed, and abundant examples of humankind’s inhumanity to each other. By the time I got to the comics and Parade magazine, they weren’t enough to balance out the bad news. Once they stopped providing the TV listings in the Sunday paper, and we found you could get your choice of comics, stripped of Marmaduke, Blondie reruns, and Mary Worth, delivered by e-mail every day, we canceled the paper. I had begun to dread reading it anyway, and I didn’t miss it a bit.
But when I was still working, I took time out of my day to still read GoogleNews, and it depressed me as much as the newspaper ever did, only now I was far more aware of international bad news, instead of just my local and national bummers. When I retired, I stopped reading the news every day, and a magical thing happened: I was happier.
I was happier not knowing about every horrible thing that was going on in the world, every stupid thing, every wrong-headed, cruel-hearted, selfish, thoughtless thing. Because in my everyday world, away from the news, good things were actually happening all the time–good times with friends, funny times with dogs, pretty mornings and singing birds and the love of a good man. My plants were growing, my projects progressing, and if I didn’t read the news, it was easy to believe life was pretty good.
But then election season hit, and there was no avoiding it for, what, 12…18…150 long months? And once we finally re-elected Obama, and the signs disappeared from the street corners, I breathed a sigh of relief. I could go back to ignoring the news for awhile.
Which has meant bad things for my blogging. Because when you actively avoid things that you know are going to get you worked up, you end up posting a lot of pictures of your herbs and your dogs or random shit you find on the internet. If you don’t blow it off altogether.
The truth is, I’ve lost my taste for outrage. I’m all raged out, because all that news I’m not reading? It’s still happening. Every damn day. But I have outrage fatigue. I don’t want to engage with it anymore, because there is an endless supply of it that wears me out. There’s that old bumper sticker that says, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” But I’ve found the reverse is equally true, and I’m past due for a break. Because I don’t want to be angry all the time, despite there being real, very valid things to be angry about. It hurts my heart, and my head, and triggers ten kinds of misanthropy, and that is not how I want to approach the world. If you spend all your time steeped in the worst the world has to offer, it warps your perception, your reactions
That’s why I canceled my Ms. magazine subscription. That’s why I canceled my Yes! subscription. That’s why I can only engage in about half of my politically aware, politically active friends’ posts on Facebook. Not because I am not aware there are problems, problems that affect me and mine and even strangers I wish no ill; but because I AM. Even when I read about solutions to them, there is always riding tandem with that the history and future of the problem despite efforts to solve it.
And that’s why I haven’t been ranting here as much…because I really don’t want to engage in things that I know are going to make me angry and crazy enough to want to parse and prepare a critique thereof, because you have to descend into the madness yourself to report and discuss it, especially since I’ve probably already done so a million times. I linked a 2-year-old post on the newly raised subject of bullying on Facebook the other day, because the issue hadn’t gone away (of course), and I’d already stated my position on it, and I wondered how many things come up every day that was true of. I’ve never been fond of repeating myself, but when it comes to skewering human failings, astonishingly horrible or heartless failings sometimes, I just don’t have the heart to keep tilting at larger societal windmills every minute of every day for the umpteenth time. Not that I have given up the battle for good; but sometimes I just have to retreat long enough to have the courage, the heart, to confront it all again.
Or to figure out how to put something better, something warmer, something more peaceful, something wiser in the world. Something that uplifts me as much as anyone who may read it. So that’s what I want to try to do, and I’m thinking about how to go about that.