Before the news of the week begins to mire us in a situation akin to Boston’s Great Molassess Flood of 1919 I thought I’d offer up some helpful tips to maintaining your sanity while being just a little, sort of, up to date on current events.
You can’t totally ignore the news. It’s everywhere, emanating from your TV, radio, phone, anti-social media and even your golf buddy. So, what to do, short of having your airbuds surgically implanted in your head and constantly tuned to Beethoven’s Fur Elise (da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-daah; daah; daah)?
You need to accept that it is not your responsibility to read all the words in any article. In fact, you’d be way better off to only read the headlines. I recognize this is an advanced skill, somewhat like the ability to pick up a book, read twenty pages, hate it and toss it away instead of feeling compelled to finish it just because you started it. Skimming the headlines is really all you need. You’ll need the rest of the day to dig a fallout shelter in the back yard.
I thought I’d toss out a few of the tried and true techniques I use to keep up to date without Xanax.
Work into the big news slowly: Start with your local paper, which, if it’s like the Cape Cod Times, has a big picture covering 75% of the front page and no news other than high school sports. Reading about how the Clamshells overcame the Turkey Legs in overtime is quite uplifting.
When it’s time for national news, start slowly with something like the Wall St. Journal. The lilting drift of stock exchange futures (up 10, down 30, up 15), while not quite enough to put you to sleep, won’t force you to cower under the sink either. The WSJ has a new Editor in Chief and she (ya, a woman, do you believe that?) is tweaking the paper to appeal to readers under the age of Medicare--so that in itself is fun to watch. The WSJ also has a pretty decent crossword puzzle which will distract you for a while.
I like to head to the Washington Post next. They have a lot of good political writers covering the playful antics of those zany members of the House of Representatives. Ok, had, since they just fired 250 staffers. I guess Jeff Bezos is running out of money. Even so, WAPO has great advice columns like Carolyn Hax and Miss Manners which run new daily. Instead of wondering if hypersonic missiles are pointed at your neighborhood you can read about other people’s in-laws and realize that you are not alone in the world.
Finally, when I can’t put it off any longer, I bring up the New York Times where through headline after headline I learn that the world is destroying itself, Congress cannot agree, Trump is still alive and no matter what problems I’m suffering, members of other racial or ethnic groups have it worse and I should be thankful I’m not __________. And I only read the headlines. I scroll right past the Opinion section unless Gail Colins is writing and head to the Games section.
The NYT has the best Games section of all the papers. If you start with Wordle (they have a “hard” mode now) and trundle onto Connections and Spelling Bee, you’ll be mentally cleared to start a productive day. If you really want to avoid the day, you could attack Letterbox (use the Bs and Xs first) and Vertex as well. I usually save the Crossword and Tiles for a late afternoon brain reset in case some news has filtered past my airbuds (da-da-da…).
At six-thirty in the evening, I’m still trying to break myself of the National News habit. I tried PBS but I tend to nod off in the middle of the show. The choice between CBS (mascara overload); NBC (Uncle Lester) or ABC (BREAKING!NEWS!) is really just a question of how much anxiety I need to wrap up the day. I do find the drug ads very peaceful. I’m considering asking my doctor to prescribe some of this stuff since all the people taking it are dancing through life with no cares at all. And right now, I’m willing for that to be me.