I'm stepping away from Facebook and the news to find a quiet place

I'm stepping away from Facebook and the news to find a quiet place
"I am heading for a time of quiet / When my restlessness is past / And I can lie down on my blanket / And release my fists at last" Paul Simon, "Quiet."

When I first wake up in the morning, I check the New York Times on my iPad and then I check Facebook. On Friday morning I was near tears by the time I finally, finally stopped rubbernecking, slowing down to read the anger and stupidity and despair that fills our world.

Of course, it’s not all bad. There are photos of my friends’ children, singing and playing. There’s news of athletic achievements and celebrations of life. There are things that make me laugh, both silly and sarcastic. Today, however, I could only see the negative. In fact, today, the negative was spilling over the edges of all the places I looked.

It’s finally getting through my thick skull that this is a lousy way to start the day. I’ve written before about the book “How to Be Miserable,” and if I were going to advise you how to make your life more miserable I’d definitely recommend that you start and end your day with Facebook and the news.

I see people posting that they’re “taking a break” from Facebook, and I’ve decided to follow in their footsteps. I don’t know how long I’ll step back, but I’m determined to give myself some space to find peace.

I’m also going to stop opening my day by reading the news. I like to be informed, but it’s dawning on me that being informed is undermining my wellbeing. Following the news right now is a harrowing journey through racism and hate and murder and injustice. It’s weighing me down.

I read the news because I care about the world around me. I have a deep need to know what’s going on, to try to understand people who are different from me. I’ve always felt that it’s the role of a good citizen to stay informed.

But I need to stop sacrificing my own wellbeing for the goal of being a good citizen. I won’t stop reading the news altogether. I’m not capable of that. But I’m going to try to learn to distance myself. I need to stop dwelling in the dark places, in the turmoil, in the sadness.

I’m learning that depression and anxiety are shaped and moderated by my choices, and I do have choices. Lately, I feel heaviness and despair, not for myself but for the world around me. There’s so much loss and suffering. Most of it is beyond my control. I can do nothing about most of what I read.

It’s hard to know whether it’s more painful to read about the negative or to be incapable of affecting it. Whichever is the case, I’m going to practice the airlines’ advice. I’m going to put my oxygen mask on first.

I’m hoping that stepping away will clear some room for me to rest and nurture myself. I’m hoping that I can use my time to talk to people on the phone or face to face, to write letters, to read books.

I’m hoping that I can use this time to let go of the world’s hate and suffering, to accept that it’s there and that I can do little about it.

In an interview a few years ago, I heard a woman say that you change the world one person at a time. The world changes as you meet the needs nearby, in your neighborhood and your home.

I know that I’ll miss Facebook, and I will return to its virtual space. I have so many friends there, and there is so much joy to be found in their posts.

But for now, I’m going to find a quiet place where I can rest.

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