Yesterday, my good friend Kirakira Chan wrote a beautiful post on her blog, Words Sitting Near the Sky (http://wordssittingnearthesky.blogspot.com), entitled I Don’t Want to Know. The post was about a choice Kira has made, not to read newspapers or watch television news, actively choosing not to expose herself to news and current events.
Kira’s post was very articulate and well written, and made a strong case for blocking out the (generally negative) news in order to preserve serenity and sensitivity. It was especially interesting to me, because my sister has also expressed similar sentiments, and chooses not to read the newspaper or watch television news if she can avoid it.
This really made me think. Here are two intelligent women, who I love, admire and respect, taking a thoughtful and well intentioned position on something that is completely opposite to the way I feel, and almost have a visceral reaction to. It’s not that I want or need to change how they believe or behave; unless someone’s behavior hurts themselves or another, I am firmly of the live and let live credo. So why did this bother me so much?
After hours of soul searching, I realized that like so many things that shape who I am, this came directly back to one person, my mother. My mom, two years departed and much loved and missed, embraced the “Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about it tomorrow, put my head in the sand and hope tomorrow never comes” attitude to life. She avoided hard conversations, looming financial crisis, health problems and advanced planning for her elder years, and in fact, for her eventual after life decisions.
This inability to look at hard truths, and make decisions for herself caused her children a lot of pain and grief. We were left making decisions for her that made her unhappy but were the best actions we could take. We would have been thrilled to have her take command or control of her own care and destiny, but even when she still had the ability to do so, she resisted.
I loved my mom very much, but this attitude infuriated me and frustrated me, made me feel guilty at times for making her unhappy, and angry again with her for putting her children in that position. Because of that, I look unflinchingly at worst case scenarios. I have had my own share of bad luck, bad health and bad times, but my way of controlling those situations is to look at the very worst thing that can happen, figure out how I can deal with it, and then work my way backwards. The very worst thing seldom, if ever, happens, so by taking this approach, I feel more equipped to handle what comes my way.
Kira wrote in her essay about being a sensitive person and her concern that if she immersed herself in the catastrophes of events, global or local, she would be overwhelmed by sorrow. I know this to be true of her; she has a pure soul that radiates compassion. But I wondered if my willingness to be aware of the terrible tragedies going on in our world, to actively seek out this news, without actively doing anything to participate in improving things, did this make me a less compassionate person? Is there something insensitive in my ability to see people’s suffering, feel sorrow about it, but not internalize it to the point that it damages me in some way?
If I can’t help, or fix things, do I need to know about them? There is no wrong or right answer here. What I realized is that my “need to know” is my form of self-protection, just as Kira’s choice is hers. For now, I have no plans to change my behavior; I will continue to follow the news of the wars, the plane crashes, the immigration debates. I completely respect and support the different choice made by others on this, but for me, I DO want to know.
The end, for now
My doorbell rang, weakly, today. It wasn’t the first ring of the day. Working full time from home, it’s a little shocking to me how many robo calls come through all day long, and how many times the doorbell rings.
It’s a surprise that my doorbell sounds at all. About a year ago, I was traumatized for a few days by random and mysterious doorbell rings. They scared the wits out of me, especially when the doorbell suddenly sounded repeatedly very late at night, two nights in a row, and no-one was at the door. Having a vastly overactive imagination, I was pretty convinced I was being haunted by a wrathful wraith, aka an angry ghost. I was all ready to burn some sage, get out the Ouija board and/or sell my house, when it was suggested that perhaps my doorbell was dying. This turned out to be the correct answer. Well, actually, it was only sick.
I never really like when the doorbell rings anyway. The dogs go crazy, it’s dog-demonium. If I’m expecting someone, I’ll usually just keep an eye out for them to circumvent that, my house is small, so this can be done from virtually anywhere in the house. I’m not a fan of “drop by” guests, in fact I’m quite opposed to them, so if I missed an unanticipated doorbell ringing guest, no harm, no foul.
For the last year, I have gone without a doorbell. On that long list of things I need to do around the house, but like I said, no hurries, no worries. I didn’t miss it at all. But I was a little freaked out when a couple of weeks ago, my doorbell rang again, with a UPS delivery. Not a robust, full throated BRRRRRRING, more like a mewling kitten with a cough, buuuuuuuuuu-ringgg. Like it had rested for a year and now was feebly wending its way back to me. Buuuuuu-cough-cough-ringggggg.
The first doorbell ring of the morning was a seemingly sweet older woman. I opened my door and she asked to speak to me about the word of Jesus Christ. I politely declined, mentioning that I was Jewish, but she wasn’t satisfied with that, telling me that she had a VERY important message for me. As gently as possible, I said I wasn’t interested and shut the door on her, message undelivered.
A few hours later, my doorbell rang again. This time, it was Jordan, one of the neighborhood girls. On my street, the kids roam in packs, and are always attempting various entrepreneurial projects to make some cash. Jordan’s most frequent cohort is my next door neighbor, Isabella. Isabella has tried various fund raising activities from selling Brach’s candy from a card table in her yard, to peddling car washing and babysitting services. The girls know me to be an easy mark; I bought that darn Brach’s candy and have had my car quite inexpertly washed.
Where Isabella is sweet and clumsy in an adorably nerdy 11 year old way, Jordan is well on her way to being a “cool girl.” Just last week I saw her whizzing by on a skateboard, wearing a white dress, blonde hair streaming in the wind, with a popsicle in her mouth. Cool as a breeze, without a care in the world. I can just imagine what she’ll be as a teenager, pretty, confident, sharp as a tack. God help us!
Anyway, Jordan was ringing the bell, and as I opened it I saw she was holding a cardboard box in front of her, hanging from her neck much like a cigar girl would hold a case in old movies. In the box were two egg cartons and an empty can.
Wanna buy some eggs?
That had me flummoxed. First of all, I have a carton of eggs in my fridge with 2 eggs removed, about to go past the sell-by date. My egg consumption is low! And, being a little food phobic, I kind of wanted to know more about these eggs she was peddling.
Did they come from your chickens?
Okay, well then I’m not sure because see I already have eggs and they’re about to go bad and I really don’t use that many eggs and…
She held up her hand to stop me.
Okay, it’s cool.
And with that, I felt like I had been schooled! By a slightly bitchy confidently assured 11 year old. Fortunately, Isabella was lurking on the sidewalk, so I got this as they walked up the street to their next customer/client/victim:
The eggs came from my friend’s babysitter, they have too many eggs, I’m gonna make a cake. Bye!
And with that, they were gone. But, thank goodness the doorbell, weak as it was, had heralded their arrival. And that it wasn’t a ghost!
The end, for now