I'm a reformed news addict. In the days, months, and even years following 9/11, my obsession spun out of control. I'd shoot up the Evening News for dinner, and sneak puffs of talk-radio during the day. Hellbent on discovering where people were “coming from,” I sought viewpoints that differed from mine. On the right, or the left, whether lamestream or mainstream, I tried to give each side fair play. There were times when my anger seethed and my blood pressure soared, but I couldn't turn off the dial. Powerless to enact change in my life, I drank from the poisonous cup. I'd wake up with a hangover, then repeat the cycle like a two-bit street corner junkie.
And then I embarked upon a trek in Nepal.
As I followed my bliss over three Himalayan passes, the events of the world trickled by. The most horrendous of them, the Boston Marathon bombings, occurred a few days before our trek's end. A stranger from Canada approached us with the details as we dusted ourselves off from the trail. “Did you hear what happened in Boston?” he asked, poised to reveal the news. As I learned of the tragedy, my heart deflated, the reality overshadowing my joy. But the message rang out loud and clear: terrible injustices occur everyday, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. I soon came to realize that the antidote to my addiction lies inhow I process the never-ending barrage. I can either dwell on the details – suffer the anger, frustration, and fear – or I can gently let it all go.
Twenty-four hours after returning home from Nepal, the solution stared me in the eye. “Stop tuning in,” it beckoned to me. “Don't you dare touch that dial!” I rose to the challenge, astonished to discover that tuning out was easier than ever imagined. It opened my heart to a world of new possibilities, which left me with a sense of well-being. Compassion and love come naturally now, replacing frustration and anger. Anxiety and negativity, I cast them aside, making way for inspiration and change.
Of course, the skeptics abound. “I like to be informed,” people say. “You can't bury your head in the sand.”
Believe me, it's impossible not to be informed these days, unless of course you live in a cave. Wars, border feuds, uprisings, and domestic disputes – it's impossible to block out the noise. The difference is that today, a year-and-a-half since turning off the dial, I enjoy the benefits of my simple action. I've learned to let go of the things that I cannot control, and to focus on positive change. This can be as simple as smiling at a stranger I've passed on the street, or as ambitious as setting my sights on raising money for a cause. At the high school where I work with students who speak English as a second language, this means encouraging a sixteen-year-old girl to believe in herself, or telling a young man that he can make a difference, too.
I don't need to watch the heart-wrenching details to acknowledge the suffering. I'll never convince the political machine that working together toward the common good is far more preferable than wrangling against one another. I can't change the dynamics of poverty or shift ideologies. But I can step out my front door each day, touch a life, and make a difference.
I may not be listening to the news anymore, but I haven't stopped listening to the world.
For over 35 years, Elaine Pike has been a backpacker and outdoor enthusiast. A recent rejuvenation of her 1980's love of rock climbing is now added to her adventure repertoire. Paired with her enthusiasm for the written word, Elaine strives to share her passion, inspire, and entertain with her first published memoir, Footsteps of Gopal, a tale about trekking in Nepal.
Newspaper Headlines Shown Side On image courtesy of Shutterstock