Lately, as a part of my self-care routine, I’ve been intentionally restricting my access to the news of the world.
This is a big change for me. I became interested in world (and domestic) politics in high school, and as an undergraduate, I studied international relations. I’m definitely not an expert, but I know a lot about 20th and 21st century history and politics, especially in Europe and the United States, and to a lesser degree in Latin America. In graduate school, I shifted my focus to sociology, but I continued to follow the news closely.
As a busy adult with children and a demanding job, this news addiction turned into receiving news alerts and having the radio on and tuned into National Public Radio all the time–in the kitchen, the bedroom, the car. I don’t just know all the political players; I also know all the radio show hosts and journalists and commentators. I remember things they said ten years ago (and sometimes argue with them in my kitchen, always to my husband’s surprise). Plus, I read the New York Times online, and I know all the opinion piece writers and their political angles.
It’s only recently that I’ve come to the realization that this isn’t actually good for me.
Don’t get me wrong; I still want to be informed about the world. But I don’t need to know what Trump tweeted in the morning and what someone thought about that tweet and what someone else thought about what the first someone thought about the tweet. I don’t need to know whether the North Korean diplomats showed up or didn’t show up for a meeting with state department officials in Singapore and what that might mean for a meeting between Kim Jun Un and Donald Trump that might take place on June 12th or might not.
Why have I decided I don’t need to know all that? 1) Some of it (I’m not saying all of it) is trivial. 2) A lot of it is speculation. 3) It makes me feel anxious, angry and powerless. 4) It distorts my view of the world, making me believe that everything is cruel, harsh, and about to collapse.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of person I want to be. I want to be calm and centered, to the degree possible, and I want to help offer that to other people–for example by teaching yoga, but also through my own demeanor and what I communicate to others. It’s not enough not to gossip, though that matters. It’s important to help people remember that there are a lot of caring people in the world, that most of us have good intentions, that it’s worth taking care of one another.
The news, even high-quality, thoughtful journalism, does not help me be that kind of person. Instead, it fosters fear, distrust, and cynicism.
So I’m still figuring out what this looks like in the daily routine I’m still crafting. At the moment, I’ve silenced the radio unless I deliberately want to listen for a short while to get a sense of things that have happened. I also pick shows I know I can learn from, like an excellent local radio show that covers social, civic and cultural issues in our city and state, or Science Friday, to hear about the newest science research.
I’ve debated cancelling my subscription to the New York Times, but I don’t think I will. I can skim headlines and read more selectively. Besides that, I want to contribute to good investigative journalism, which is important for our democracy, no matter who is in office.
In the meantime, when I go on walks, I’ve started listening to podcasts that inform or inspire me. Today I listened to Oprah Winfrey interview Thich Nhat Hanh. I actually didn’t love the way she handled the interview, but I still learned from listening to Thay. One thing he said stuck with me: “We need to be kind to our suffering. Think of a mother when her baby cries. The baby is suffering. She goes to pick up the baby and comforts him, soothes him. That is the way we need to be to our own suffering.”
It’s not that the idea of self-soothing is new to me, but I liked that image of picking up my pain, holding it close against my shoulder, and murmuring soothing words while I gently rock back and forth.
Someone I think is a better interviewer on spiritual topics is Krista Tippet. I found her recent interview of Elizabeth Gilbert (“On Choosing Curiosity Over Fear”) to be very insightful and helpful. Again, a line from that stood out to me: “Everything we want is on the other side of that dark river of self-hatred.”
I also been listening to Dear Sugars, especially the episodes related to sexuality, I guess in preparation for my upcoming work with a sex therapist. Have I not mentioned that yet? Scary topic. I’ll write about it at some point.
And then, in between these various podcasts, there’s been some music and there’s been a lot of silence. It’s not even really silence. We are on the brink of summer, so quiet in the house simply means I hear the songs and chatter of the birds outside. Some days I hear children playing baseball in the nearby park. I notice the ticking of the clock, the clock that my great-great-great grandmother brought across the country in a covered wagon on the Oregon Trail. I think about her, and her daughter, and her granddaughter, farm women all of them. I’m a city girl myself, but I feel a sense of continuity and connection to them when I water my potatoes and lettuce and spinach and tomatoes and berries and herbs and squash.
I don’t notice those things when I inundate my ears with alarming news all the time.
CREDIT: Photo by Alberto Bobbera on Unsplash