What Really Matters

At some point in the blur of my Facebook feed this past week, someone posted a cartoon that resonated. Two women are walking down a sidewalk, commiserating. One says to the other, “I want to stay informed, but I also want to keep my sanity.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat is exactly how I’m feeling these days. I’ve had numerous conversations with friends about whether the news really is getting worse, or if we’re just hearing more bad news all the time because of social media.

It’s gotten to the point that I’ve had trouble falling asleep a few nights, overloaded by reports of terrorist attacks, backlash back home, predictions of how the U.S. electrical grid is vulnerable (Ted Koppel’s new book) and the hateful, xenophobic rhetoric of the GOP presidential campaign.

Not good for my health, or yours, or anyone’s. But how to strike the right balance? With so much at stake in this election year, I feel an obligation to keep on top of the news. But I really don’t need all the FB posts about the latest outrageous comments by Donald Trump.

I want to know what’s going on in the world, but there is only so much I can absorb about the latest terrorist attacks. Sadly, very sadly, some innocent people are killed every week, somewhere in the world, by terrorists. I’m struggling with this, but all the social media commentary and debate often do more to alarm than enlighten.

This past week, evil struck home with the death of an 18-year-old Massachusetts son, Ezra Schwartz, who was killed in a terror attack in Israel. He was an exemplary young men, and his death rocked the Jewish community here. My eldest attended his packed funeral on Sunday, because they shared the same summer camp. I woke up several mornings, thinking how his mother must be feeling. Heartbreaking. I can barely imagine what she is going through—and all the other mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers around the world who have lost loved ones to terror.

But at some point, I have to stop and just be here, in the present moment, grateful that I live on a safe, tree-lined street in a comfortable home. I need to focus on the gift of a loving, supportive husband and our two incredible daughters, each dedicating her career to helping others. I need to appreciate caring family and friends, a supportive community, my great consulting clients who enable me to work for myself successfully. I need to remember the blessing of an outstanding medical team that helps me to manage my scleroderma and stay as healthy as I am.

And I need to appreciate the fact that our country, with all of its serious problems, also protects freedom of speech—even if a lot of what I’m hearing these days is disturbing, to put it mildly. Staying informed is critical to our democratic process. I just don’t need to stay informed 24/7. Quality, not quantity of information is what really matters.

All that, and a sense of humor, and a good piece of dark chocolate are the only ways to stay sane.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Image Credit: John Nyberg

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