If you mention the countries Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan or Venezuela to me, a soft, numb cloud of blissful and most intentional ignorance folds over my consciousness and within milliseconds, I hear no more. Same goes for the phrases, "world issues," "political strategy," and "government turmoil." But no words instantly anesthetize me like the words, "war," "conflict," "death toll," "budget," and "health care."
This is why my devotion to public radio has become a pick and choose affair. I'm finding that I'm more drawn to the storytelling, the human interest stories and the psychological and scientific discoveries than I am to programs devoted to who's killing who, who died a horrible death today and how financially screwed we are/he is/they are, etc. In short, I have no interest in current events.
Just to get this out of the way -- even though I so dislike having to defend my words ahead of time, I do because I know they will be misread and misinterpreted -- I must explain that not caring about world news and current events plays no active role in wishing ill for those involved in disastrous circumstances. I can't accept the ultimatum of, "If you're not for us, you're against us." I am not against anyone who is good and I am most definitely not for cruelty or the brutal treatment of any one group, ever ever ever. I simply choose not to be involved; it's a choice. I am lucky to have the choice, but having it allows me the option of acting upon it. My action is to retreat, not to advance. I choose to be passively uninvolved, rather than passionately enmeshed in things that I believe can only hurt my mental and emotional state should I choose to pay attention.
Now, you may say, "Well, you are not there, you're not in the middle of the crisis, you're far removed, of course you can detach -- there's nothing of it touching you." To that, I would tell you that, while I'm not bruised by the ferocity of another world's terrible problems, I live in 'my' world, which comes with its own microcosmic version of chaos and balance. Age has done this to me. Age has allowed me the insight of knowing that my best work is done in my immediate environment.
Wasn't the lesson always about how everything starts at home? Weren't we all raised on the idea that in order to love another, we must start by loving ourselves? Well, it's that kind of thinking... As I get older, I begin to know who I am in ways that I never had an inkling of when I was younger. And the number one lesson I've learned is that I can only be me.
Fortunately, being me, for me, has given me a real heads up on what I know works and what doesn't work -- for me. Perhaps this is why people are always saying that older people are stubborn; I bet it's not because of what is perceived as a resistance to change as much as it is an honest sense of self that develops in people of age -- one that says, "Hey, I know what works for me, and this doesn't work, so I'm not budging."
Younger people like to laugh at older people and make fun of their obstinacy. Perhaps the older folk are just looking at the younger folk and saying to them, "What the hell do you know? I've lived this life. I'm the one doing me. I know what I want, and it isn't what you want of me. So call me stubborn all you want because I already know who I am. I'm set in my ways because my ways work -- for me."
So, when social media demands I should petition this, or vote for that, I think, let me first sell a painting (I'm an artist, I sell paintings for a living.) When the news tells me my state (Florida) got involved in yet another heinous act of criminal or political insanity, I think, I hope it doesn't cost too much to fix that dent on my car...or replace the AC...Sometimes, while wars are waging and people are biting people's faces off because they took some really bad drug or while some zillionaire politician cons some demographic or some celebrity engages in an event that ends up having half the world stare at them for three months straight -- I think -- I hope my knee doesn't hurt too much getting up the stairs, or, I hope my daughter is safe when she goes to that concert, and of course, and even when countries are imploding I am thinking please please please let me keep my health as long as possible, please let me always care for my child and my animals, please let me just get to the next day with a mini-smidge of security.
The truth is, I don't care about the world. I just want to get to the next day with as little drama as humanly possible. I'm not cold, I'm just not interested and that came about as a result of being too interested and stressed to the point of madness. I just can't do it anymore. I don't want to leave the world and I'm not that zen-ready for the ascetic life on a mountain. But I am in full knowledge of what I want: a peaceful life. And the only way I can have peace is by shutting out the noise of the world.
I've always thought that we, as a race, think too much. We're too involved in minding each other's business. One thought too many and all of sudden we're disagreeing with someone. Shove some more thinking on top of that and before long, you've got yourself a full blown war, chocked to the max with people thinking about who owns what land, who deserves what rights, who should do this and who shouldn't do that. All this over processing is madness, and I don't want to be sucked into that black hole of voices, opinions, demands and ultimatums. I just want peace, the peace that occurs naturally when I stop listening to everyone thinking aloud and acting on their thoughts.
A few weeks ago, I found myself not caring and it troubled me. I wondered if, at some point, I just wouldn't care about anything, if perhaps my actions were streamlining me right to the loincloth and the meditation cave. No, that's not me either. In the same way that it's always a good idea to pick and choose our battles, so is it a good idea to choose our mental state and how we arrive at that place. The only way I, personally, can go on as a happy, thriving person -- a person who creates and enjoys beauty, a person who delights in life's simplicities -- is by saying no to complexities that are beyond my control. There are always enough problems to deal with personally. I never have to look past my own front door for more.
My life is simple. Make art, be a mother, pay the bills. This trilogy of actions has everything I need. It contains all my personal possibilities, both good and bad. But... someone else's problems? An entire world's problems? Sorry, I just don't have it in me anymore.
Knowing this made life easier for me. Living this is as close to peace as I can imagine. This works for me. This is the gift of age. It takes a very long time to get old, but once you're there, the answers come fast and furious. I guess that's the entropy of wisdom. Let's just hope I don't lose my interest in writing.
Then again, if I stopped writing, would it matter?