I used to watch the News every morning… in French. It was to practice my French, I said, so while I was dressing I would turn on the TV and watch the news. Sometimes, if there was a particularly interesting or frightening or world-changing story I would actually stop dressing, sit on the bed and watch until the item passed.
I seldom watched at any other hour, I almost never used the news viewed as a topic for conversation, you know: “Oh, by the way, did you hear that…” or “Oh my god! What do you think of…?” I would watch the program and then get on with my life.
However, one morning about three years ago I was watching the yearly strike of the French train workers and I found myself yelling at the screen –in English, as if they would understand me- “Why don’t you lazy SOBs get on your feet and back to work” and then some expletives to underline the seriousness of my from-home intervention. Suddenly, I caught a view of myself in the mirror on the wall. What I saw was a half-dressed woman, shaking her fist at a televised version of people striking the previous day, a woman who was obviously losing it over something she could no more control than today’s coronavirus.
I stopped dead and thought: I don’t need this. I am standing here, getting upset and angry about something that 1) has nothing to do with me 2) affects my life in no way 3) I have no control over even if it did 4) and serves me no purpose to know. That was the day I stopped watching The News. I even called Orange and asked if they had some kind of package deal without television as the only thing I watched on TV was the news (they didn’t).
I have only turned it on once since them and that was the night I received a Whatsapp from my son saying Notre Dame was going up in flames. That I wanted to see.
Since then I know one thing for sure: everything I need to know will somehow get to me; if it doesn’t, I didn’t need to know.
Sometimes, someone will ask me: “Did you see what was on the News this morning?” and when I say that I do not watch the news EVER, they will look at me as if I were some kind of undesirable fungus on their fancy dinnerware.
“Not ever??? How do you find out what`s going on in the world?”
“I don’t. .. If I need to know something, the information will get to me somehow.”
“But don’t you feel you need to be informed, to know what is HAPPENING?”
“What for,” I ask innocently: “If it doesn’t affect my life, if there is nothing I can do about it… Why should I be up to date on the latest bombs dropped on Syria and how many are dead, or the most recent idiocy that has popped out of Trump’s mouth or a terrible snowstorm that blocked all communications to the polar bears in the Artic? Would that make my croissant any tastier or my coffee any hotter? Would it help me to be a better human being today?”
“That sounds selfish and self-centered, don’t you think?”
“Yes! That’s right! SELF-CENTERED… hurray, at last! I spent 50 years of my life being OTHER-CENTERED and the only thing I got from that was unhappiness, frustration and rage. So I am self-centered in the sense that I take care of myself: I don’t expect anyone else to do that, it’s not their job, it’s mine. And part of that taking care is not allowing a lot of unnecessary and upsetting information to be emptied into my brain causing negative thoughts and, therefore, unpleasant and unhealthy emotions.”
“Oh, I don’t know… I don’t think I could go through life without knowing what is going on…”
“Oh I find out what I need to know, and even what I don’t need to know. The other day a friend came over looking terribly sad and when I asked her what was wrong, she told me about the brush fires in Australia: ‘and all the wild animals are dying, they have nowhere to go…’ she informed me.
I immediately had a visual image of all those furry little innocent animals, trying to outrun the fire and failing, and my heart shriveled up into a little ball adding a good dose of unnecessary stress to the atmosphere.
“If I am suffering for the animals in Australia, and getting angry at the authorities for not doing the right things, or big companies for polluting… I am in other people’s business and I am not doing my job which is to make sure that my passage through life does the least damage possible and to support with donations–where I can- those organizations that occupy themselves with these problems on a national or global level. So if someone needs me to sign a petition, they’ll sent it to me; and if someone needs me to donate money, I’ll be requested to do that too. In the meantime, my personal suffering does nothing to alleviate the suffering of others, quite the contrary…”
So now I am in Lockdown as is the rest of the Planet, and I continue not looking at the news. There is no change. I do not need to know how many people died in Spain yesterday (and in case I did, my brother just informed me that it was over 1000). No, I don’t need to know that today…
Instead, I am subscribed to something called Good News Network that comes to me through my email (email@example.com) and that tells me about all the wonderful and positive things people are doing for the world and others. It not only makes me feel good to be part of the human species, but gives me ideas of how I can make a positive contribution to the well-being of others and our Planet. For instance, it tells me about Australian soldiers who are using their time off to care for Koalas displaced by fires.
Or about a German supermarket that resells tons of food that other stores won’t thus helping our waste problem and about a Chihuahua pup that can’t walk befriended by a pigeon that can’t fly…
Am I ‘hiding my head in the sand’…? Maybe, but I am also adding less negative ‘vibes’ to the atmosphere and more positive ones… so, I guess it evens out.
Have a good Lockdown day, love yourself, give yourself what you need to… (I was going to say ‘get through’ but you deserve so much more than that): ENJOY the day ahead and have a full life while in lockdown.