Every full moon, every sunset, is worthy of our attention.
Not so, everything that’s on TV these days.
I call it “MSNBC brain,” but it is also “Fox brain” and “CNN brain,” the pulse-quickening, low-grade sense of panic that settles into our bones when we consume too much news that is accompanied by a Chicken Little soundtrack.
This is not to say that the sky isn’t falling in some quarters of Brooklyn and Orleans Parish.
But the sky is not falling where I live. Not today.
So a few weeks ago, I started composing my own family’s headline, the one that would be at the top of the page if we Grahams had our own newspaper, to try to keep a sense of perspective.
The headlines in New York City continue to be grim and the people there deserve our prayers and all the personal-protective equipment we can send.
But it serves no purpose, for us or the world, when we take another family’s headline as our own. Jon Katz, a writer whose blog is worthy of your attention every day, says he refuses to be a “grief thief.” Much of cable news invites us to be a panic thief, as well.
As it happens, many of the headlines in our home over the past six weeks were happy ones:
Brave daffodil first to push through the soil!
Son arrives home from college two months early!
Shopper snags two rolls of toilet paper at Dollar Store!
Siblings in close quarters get along, astonishing sociologists worldwide!
Mom of four discovers she actually can do her own nails, despite 20 years of belief to the contrary!
These are not the nation’s headlines, but they’re my family’s, and while I know that things can turn ugly on a dime, it’s my job to stay focused on our headlines and not the tragic ones that belong to others. My mental health, and that of my family, depends on this.
As a journalist, I spent a lot of time consuming news, and I’ve noticed lately that there have been times when I listened to “news” on my car radio for more than an hour without learning anything I didn’t already know. So I’m trying to be extra careful of who — and what — gets my attention during the pandemic.
A smart psychologist I recently interviewed said that she has decided to limit her news consumption to three trusted sources, at specific times, instead of letting the 24-7 news cycle, a legacy of 9/11, to drip full time, like a faulty spigot.
She said she has chosen one local source of information, one national and one international, and that she checks them at specific, orderly times. Then she goes about her life.
Unless a tornado is about to hit, or the Charmin truck just pulled up at Walmart, there’s very little we need to know in real time.
What most of us need most urgently right now is peace of mind, which we’re unlikely to find on cable news.
As for news you can use, there’s a full moon this week, a supermoon that’s even more spectacular than usual. Please don’t miss it, if skies are clear where you live, because you’ve “got” to watch the news.