Half the country is on fire, but I can’t pay any attention, because I immediately get overwhelmed and upset.
Over the years, I’ve learnt to completely disassociate from the world’s disasters by not watching or listening to the news, not following any news sites and definitely not reading the papers. Occasionally things filter through to me via Facebook, so I am not completely unaware of what’s going on in the world, but my awareness is superficial and I don’t allow it to penetrate to my gut, where it would start churning and sending my anxiety through the roof.
I have an obsessive personality and, in the past, have allowed myself to be consumed by world events, or events happening to people close to me. I’ve learnt that this is not a healthy option.
Events like the Challenger disaster, Princess Diana’s death, the Queensland floods, 9/11 and many more, all obsessed me and felt so personal at the time. I felt unable to distance myself from them and consumed every bit of information about them.
I know this is not unusual and that I am not alone in this. But I also know that, for me, this is not healthy.
At one point I was so upset by the state of the world – its wars, poverty and climate change, that I was seriously considering suicide. My psychologist at the time helped to give me perspective by showing me that there were things I could control and affect, and there were things I could not, and that mere worrying about them was not doing anyone any good. The world will do whatever the world will do – for good or bad, but my anxiety will not affect the outcome either way. Or indeed my life or death. What my life or death will affect are my children and that was what I needed to focus on.
I think it was shortly afterwards that I went on a strict media diet. Stopped watching the news and stopped reading the papers. Me not knowing what’s going on in the world does not affect what is happening out there, but it does affect my mental health – for the better.
Getting so upset by every little bit of Murdoch propaganda that I want to kill myself is not a good way to live my life. Following every major or minor disaster in this world of 24/7 media coverage to the point that I cry non-stop is not healthy either.
However, even though I live in this media-free bubble, I still know what’s going in the world, albeit if only in very broad brush strokes. And I don’t like it. I also don’t know what I can possibly do about any of it.
I can’t afford to donate to the organisations that might make a difference. I am confused about which political parties are good and which are not. Some people say one thing and others say something else – I don’t know who to believe. There are a lot of things I can’t do due to our financial circumstances, especially when it comes to living sustainably. I despair that our recycling seems to be going backwards as our council accepts fewer and fewer plastics into its recycling bins and more and more are going to landfill.
Being a reader of dystopian fiction, I can totally see some of the scenarios I’ve read about playing out in real life particularly that from Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. In that book, the government has totally lost control and people are on their own living in a world of gangs and gated communities. The earth is scorched, water is at a premium and having a job is a luxury.
This no longer scares me, because I know that even if such a future shall come to pass, I won’t live long enough to see it. Or maybe I will. And I will cope as best I can.
Or maybe deep down I’m optimistic enough to believe that somehow we will turn this world around. That socialist governments will become the rule rather than the exception. That there will be massive private and public investment in technology to reverse climate change and eliminate plastics from the world. Maybe one day soon we will all rely on wind and solar power, instead of fossil fuels. I rejoice every time I drive past the wind farms in our local area. Maybe there is hope yet.
Today I dived a little too deep into the news of the fires. I started to despair. And then I came across a press conference in which the Prime Minister outlined the steps that were being taken to involve the Australian Defence Forces in supporting our firefighters and helping the recovery effort. He announced the plans for managing the recovery process. And I was relieved. Yes, recovery was possible. Somebody is thinking about it. Somebody is planning for it. Steps are being taken. There are people in charge of it. I don’t have to worry or rage about it.
(I am by no means a supporter of our Prime Minister, but for once he was saying the right things. A lot too late, but he was at least finally saying them.)
Sometimes a little bit of news is a good thing.