Monday, March 28, 2011

Let's get serious

My mom skyped me yesterday (skype now being a verb in the same way that google has now become a verb) and the first thing she said to me is, “Where have you been?”

“What do you mean where have I been? Since I got back from Switzerland a week and a half ago, I’ve been here, Mom.”

“No, I mean you’ve been silent”.

“I have not. I talked to you several times last week.”

“But you haven’t written your blog. It’s like you’ve dropped off the face of the earth.”

I smiled to myself because I thought it was funny that my mom looks forward to reading my blog when she can simply talk to me any time she wants. And I put forward a few lame excuses like “I’ve just been so busy”, or “it’s been so beautiful here I haven’t wanted to spend my days indoors”.

But in fact, I finally had to admit that in light of all the horrible things going on in the world today, the little details of my life seemed  just…so….little. Inane, trivial, trifling…insignificant ( I know I’ve got a thesaurus on this computer…I’m sure I can find more adjectives!). I’ve written pages in my head as well as in my pocket notebook that is with me at every moment. But the words have remained lodged in gray matter or between two laminated cardboard covers where I felt they belonged.

While in Switzerland I heard (tardily) the news from Japan. I read a little about it but we didn’t have a television and, of course, I couldn’t understand Swiss-German commentary on the radio or read the newspapers. And I happily went on with my pleasures.

When I returned, however, I began watching the news. Incessantly. French, American and British troops begin their strikes in Libya. The Japanese people, devastated from their losses after the earthquake and tsunami and the entire world in danger from the nuclear power plant disaster. Syrians being murdered in the street because of their basic human need for freedom. And I have continued to stare at the television like a rubber-necker at a traffic accident.

My first year here in France, I was blissfully unaware of the goings-on in the world. I had no television and, of course, I couldn’t read the newspapers. I slept like a baby….for the first time in years. I haven’t slept so well in recent weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I am not, by nature, a worrier  (I have my friend Mary to do that for me). I have been blessed with an innate sense of optimism that I’m eternally thankful for.  But I’m beginning to think that The News is a sort of insidious culprit that plots to steal my sense of well-being.

My youngest son is a news hound. He reads 5 or 6 newspapers daily. He is so much fun to talk to. He knows about everything…technology, music, world events, history, art…and has very strong and fascinating opinions.  I always find myself wishing I were as well informed as he is. I would be so much more…interesting.

But at the same time, he often appears stressed. Sometimes when we’re discussing a political point or an environmental issue, he seems as if he’s fallen into a hole…despondent and without hope. I have actually said to him, “honey, you really need to stop reading so many newspapers”.

The question is, how does one establish some sort of equilibrium? What is my responsibility as a citizen of the world and what is my responsibility to myself and my personal psyche?

Bombs will continue to be dropped, innocents will go on suffering,  and we will persist in degrading our environment, whether I know about it immediately or not.  On the other hand, if all the world keeps its eyes open (including me), freedom might possibly be gained by hundreds of thousands of hopefuls in the middle-east and elsewhere, we might persist in finding a way for the suffering to nourish and heal themselves, and if we pay attention…really pay attention…we could find a way to exist on this planet without insisting that we destroy it in the process.

I don’t know what the answer is but as of today, as an experiment, I’m going on a mini-greve. The TV is off this morning. It’s going to stay off. My new strike from the news is going to mean I probably won’t be able to participate in meaty conversations about the current status of nuclear reactor #4, the question of where Gaddafi really is, why some dumb-ass French minister referred to the situation in Libya as a “crusade” (please, monsieur, think about the connotations of the word crusade for the Arab world), or the fascinating life of Elizabeth Taylor. It’s not that I don’t care about these things (this excludes the fascinating life of Elizabeth Taylor). And it’s not that I don’t have more than a little guilt about trying to surround myself with pretty flowers and soaring cherubs.

But for now, it’s going to have to be this way. And I will get back to writing my blog. While talking to my mom about this, she reminded me that in a world of bad news, there’s nothing wrong with a little humor. A break from the constant barrage of negative information that pummels us moment by moment is not necessarily a negation of the trials in the lives of others.  Light moments are essential when the weight of the world is slowing our steps and threatening to stop us in our tracks.

So I guess I’ll just continue doing what I do. As small and unimportant as it may be. And screw The News for the next….few weeks. Of course, just this moment, my New York Times headlines update came up on my email...and what did I do? Okay...I'm working on it. It will be interesting to see how I sleep in the next few weeks.

And it would also be interesting to know how you balance the weight of the world with your need for personal peace. Tell me.



  1. This is a very interesting post. I have recently been in California for a couple of weeks and although the news from Japan and Lybia were on, nearly no information about Italy and the mean, concierge level political gossip. What a relief.
    There is a limit to the news I can get, also because beyond mere facts, I am not interested in journalists's personal opinions, commentaries and manipulations. Very often I am left with the question: is this the truth?
    So I am very sceptical about what I read/hear, also as a safeguard of my mental wellbeing.
    Sometimes I wonder why we do not get happy news, for instance I would like to read that Mr. Berlusconi spent a lovely Sunday with his grandchildren and not nasty speculations about with whom he spent the evening...
    But this will not increase the sales of newspapers, would it?

  2. Yes, it is a tough balancing act. As I struggle and obsess with my latest quandrum, I found myself saying to a friend "but wait, this is not having cancer, this is not having a child with disabilities, this is not a nuclear accident!!!" In creeps up on us anyway. Me too, would be interested in hearing how others balance reality with 'la vie quotodien'.

  3. I have to dose myself with news, for the sake of my blood pressure. Lately, it's been difficult to stop. And I don't even have a TV.

    I haven't written anything about any bit of the issues I 'follow', not because they aren't important, but because I don't believe I can add anything meaningful. So I donate my money, spend time reading about it all, and turn around and write about food. I don't think it makes me an inconsistent person/writer: I can't fix these problems, which are right now getting plenty of attention. What I can do is offer a smile or details on how to make a dish that will have you smiling ear to ear. Delana, you make us smile--even howl with laughter. These little moments of grace serve as is essential countermeasures in today's 24 hour media over-saturation. What we as individuals do counts--except if it's only hand-wringing and spreading the general sense of malaise.

    Welcome back, Delana, we've missed your voice!

  4. Delana,
    I have been torn in the same way. I've got a 'serious' post sitting in draft that I just can't bring myself to finish or make public. You said it beautifully and so many others have too.
    Thank you for this, and I'm ready to hear your happiness and daily insights into beauty and all the delicious things of life.

    aidan x

  5. Yay. You're back. It's true that a beacon of light in a very dark world can be helpful. That doesn't mean we don't care about the events. I don't think I could or would want to ignore world events. I listen to NPR everyday. I don't watch television news. I read the newspaper daily -- in a paper format! How dare you enjoy the sunshine while we're still freezing! Oh well, soak up some sunshine for me.

  6. Blandina-As a former journalist, I too am suspect of "the truth". It's not that I believe ournalists are liars. But often they allow themselves to be fed serious bullshit without checking out the real story. They seem to spend more time watching each other and "the scoop" than getting the real truth. As for your Mr. Berlusconi, no, the Americans don't pay much attention. But he sure is food for fodder here in France!

    Holly-your right. But sometimes our smaller problems are still the biggest ones we have and it's difficult to find the balance.

    Tammy-thank you for sharing your thoughts. And that is a good way to look at it. I still say that 24 hour news is the worst thing that ever happened to the news industry. And I've made somebody howl? OMG,OMG,OMG! You just made my entire week!

    Aiden-Thank so much my friend. And sometimes our serious posts are just really too...private, don't you think? It still feels good to write them, even if we don't publish.

    Paulita-I cannot tell you how much I miss NPR. Wisconsin has one of the best NPR networks in the country and that's the first thing I dial to when I get there. Yes, television news, my metier, is highly suspect. But I'm not yet up to reading french newspapers and really understanding everything. I could read on the computer but I spend too much time there anyway...and oh yeah, I'm on strike!

  7. I banished my news intake for the month of December, I was doing it as a Christmas gift to myself for many of the reasons you have talked about. But then personal, stressful news took over my life and I could never really gage the effect. I will have to try it again very soon. Perhaps starting today. :)

  8. Thank you for making me take a minute and really reflect this evening...I often ask myself the same questions about finding a balance between "real world" reality and the reality I operate in on a day to day basis. It's a struggle to find a place where I feel educated about the world around me and at the same time can still function. But, I think that's just it--what's happening around us is supposed to jolt us awake and that's what spurs growth and evolution in people and in groups of people. And sometimes we need a little break to recharge and move forward.

    Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post!

  9. Months and MONTHS ago we decided to not follow the news...oh yes, we know what's going on (mostly from Yahoo home page headlines) but we NEVER watch TV news. I may glance at it up on the big screen at the gym, but then I focus on my podcast of the day which almost always involves design or crafts!
    I'd like to see the GOOD news reported: just for a change. Wouldn't that be refreshing? I mean, there is lots and lots of good, nourishing news happening every day, but we never hear about it on the usual outlets.
    Anyway, that's how I handle my news intake!

  10. I just try to live in the present moment and look at all of the beauty and blessings in my life. Sometimes, the tragedies in life present a beautiful opportunity of us to show love and kindness with each other... all around the world. I know this may sound cliche, but I truly believe it to be true.

  11. Balance. I have to admit that I don't watch the news and I stay away from newspapers. I believe that both are guilty of fear-mongering and I don't need that in my life.

    When something big happens, like the tsunami in Japan, of course I pay attention if only to get an idea as to what is going on in our world but I try not to let it dominate my daily life.

    When they start reporting good news maybe I'll pay more attention. Until then, I will continue to focus on the positive.

  12. Susan-you have enough on your plate to have to worry about the rest of the world. Stay away from it for awhile. It can't possibly help.

    Linds- And in fact, both of those worlds are reality, aren't they?

    LibbY-thanks for sharing that. A friend asked me about my strike last night and wondered if he should simply stop discussing the news. I told him that I'm not trying to live in a duck blind (figure out how to say that in French), I will probably get all I need to know in the street, on headlines, and news kiosks. It seems to work for you and I'm on it.

    Kara-It doesn't sound cliché at all. I'm a true believer in positive energy. The energy we give off affects everyone around us. How nice would it be if the whole world could feed off each other that way.

    Tanya- I knew there was a reason that I love all my blogger friends!

  13. A psychologist friend of mine likes to point out that people who are depressed are better informed that the rest of us. The point? A certain distance seems important. Denial, if you will, is live saving!


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