When Your Heart Aches

Growing up, the world stopped at 6pm, when the local news came on. In the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, that meant just one station came through with any clarity. Unless, of course, we wanted to watch the Canadian news. Or better yet, the French Canadian news.

After the hour of local news came the half hour of National News. Usually by then I had already retreated either outside or to my room, as the whole thing felt too adult and boring to me. I was a child, after all. A child who had never known anything outside of the Northeast Kingdom. I barely had a concept of Vermont’s main city (Burlington), let alone New York, Florida, or California. International? Forget about it. You might as well have been talking about Narnia or Wonderland.

Today, we have more news channels than we can count. We have 24 hour access to anything and everything on our phones. International is no longer a fairy tale place. It is next door and available in real time, if we want it. So many of us say that the world has gotten more violent, more dangerous. However, I think the reality is closer to the fact that we have more access to what is going on in the world.

The world is a smaller place, and “being informed” has become “being overwhelmed”.

Which is why I stopped watching the news about 15 years ago.

My heart ached as I watched human beings going through unimaginable horrors. As I watched human beings commit unimaginable horrors. News machines reporting the same half-stories for days on end, with no new information to give filled me with unending anxiety and fear. It boggled my mind that one human could do such things to another. I found myself believing the worst in anyone and everyone.

I didn’t want to believe the worst in people any more. I didn’t want to live in fear. I didn’t want to live in hate and anger.

I now have greater control over what comes into my awareness. Instead of being uncontrollably bombarded, I pick and choose where I get my information and how much of it I can handle before I need to step away. I trust that if there is something I need information about, it will get to me. And it does.

This is self-care.

I know terrible things continue to happen. I grieve for those who are dealing with the immediacy and aftermath of those events. I applaud those who go to the places that need help. Their heart and minds are holding up those suffering. They are providing care and hope and love to those who are in the far away. It is their mission, their life’s purpose.

In this life, I have chosen to help those within my reach. In order to best serve, I must keep my heart, my energy, and my attention here.

When we spread ourselves too thin and allow ourselves to be bogged down in things we can do nothing about, we lose our focus, we lose our path. We become mired in what others project upon us.

Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Change starts here, now. Practice kindness. See each person as a human being and connected to all. I cannot affect the problems in the Middle East. I can, however, smile and enjoy the company of Muslim friends in my neighborhood. I can hug my gay friends who are reeling from the tragedy in Florida.

My heart still aches when I hear of tragedies. But I no longer allow myself to become mired in the unending “news” feed. Each of us needs to understand our limits and honor when we’ve been fed enough “information.” We each need to decide what we’re going to do about it. Whether you choose Do on a grand scale or a small, it makes a difference.

Turn off the news, go into the World. That is where change happens.