During a recent visit with my father, I noticed a difference in his demeanor. His shoulders seemed more relaxed, lowered from their often stressed hunch, his micro-expressions and skin seemed brighter, he had color, vibrancy in his face. My inquiry into what had made such a difference revealed a new and interesting development on a familiar topic of conversation between the two of us.
He explained that during the latest international crisis, his usual habit of having his television on all day and all night—tuned to each of the various 24 hour news networks (that he often watches whilst reading the newspaper)—had “taken it’s toll.” He explained that he had finally felt and understood the correlation that I had suggested long ago, between inundating himself with what had been reported, repeated in the news cycle and the level of stress that he had been feeling. He cares deeply about our nation, the people of our country and our world. With this latest international incident, he had reached a critical stress apex, at which point he had decided to turn off the television. In fact, he had felt so emotionally and physically stressed, that he decided to go three full days wherein he would only watch his specifically favorite news programs, instead of a 24 hour stream. For the first time since probably the Gulf War.
I had flown in to visit him on the evening of what had been his third day off of the news network IV, and the difference in his bearing, his physicality, was palpable.
So often we choose to have our morning routine put us at the mercy of that which we cannot control. We wake up, immediately listen to the news, read the paper, or check our social media outlets, to see “what’s going on in the world”—failing to realize that what is being reported has been carefully chosen by a slew of very intelligent television reporters, producers and network executives. Television that is expertly done. Though television, nonetheless. And a mere fraction of all that is going on in the world.
The term, “if it bleeds, it leads” was coined for a reason. Struggle, drama, conflict, is integral to every epic, dynamic, incredible story. However, in order to be uplifting, life-giving, transformative, that conflict needs to be nestled responsibly within a storyline that has time to lift it’s audience not only out of the depths of that pain, but into the emotional stratosphere of hope, providing a hint—if not a full view—of the beauty and brilliance of a shared humanity, a shared humanness, and the deep, intrinsic knowing that all is really well, and that we are all in this together. The very nature of 24-hour news, or automated news alerts, pulls the pin on the grenade of information, with no time given to dress the wound, or clean up all the shrapnel of how some of this information can injure our hearts, explode our souls. Only highlighting the violence and brutality around the world leaves us stressed, worried about that which we cannot fix—at least not from where we are sitting and watching—feeling impotent and reactionary while moving about the world each day.
I’m not suggesting that you have to bury your head in the sand or cover your ears to what is going on around our planet, for I understand how valuable current events are to our culture. And I am certainly not suggesting boycotting the news—there are so many valuable nuggets for which the news is a perfect vehicle. It is simply important to remember that news programs—be it radio, web, television or print—are media forms of of entertainment vying for audience and ratings just like many other network dramas. And while the stories that bleed may lead, there are far more examples of human interest, and tales of well-being, help and hope than are reported. There is far more well-being around the world than there is horrifying trauma. There is far more good, far more intelligent banter, far more positively curious souls than there are political nightmares. Our earth would not still be spinning in orbit, our sun would not still rise every morning, and our grass would not simply grow, if well-being didn’t abound.
I encouraged my dad to focus on the stories that continue to make him feel good. To focus on the connection that we all have to one another. Our shared desire to live, love and laugh together, to experience real life together, to talk to one another. I encouraged him to keep doing what he is doing with his work—and to celebrate the contributions he is making to the greater good. He is making a difference. Both of my parents have devoted their lives to making differences, and it’s important to take a moment to acknowledge the significant ripples that their contributions have created, reaching those around them—especially when news of doom and gloom can begin to make one feel like a very small drop in a deep and scary bucket.
It’s time to go out and make our own news, rather than allow someone to feed theirversion of it to us 24 hours a day. It’s time for us to know, above all else, that we canand do make a difference every single day that we are awake, alive and in this beautiful world. Our presence is impactful. So it’s up to us to do whatever it takes to make our impact as positive and inspirational as we want it to be. And in order to do that, we must take care of our hearts, our souls, our spirits as best we can. And remember that we have the ability to control how we start our day, to what we pay attention, and how we live our lives. We have ultimate say over whether we are going to focus on the blood, pain and strife of our world, or the brilliant, innovative ways we already have, and those we can create, to help make it better. To help make usbetter. Together.
One thing that my father’s experience proved further, is that focusing on what we can have, can do and can be, looks gooood on us.