Sometimes things happen which really put life into perspective.
For some time now I’ve been complaining and feeling as if, since my move to Sweden, that my identity is being systematically erased. When making the move to Sweden, I was well aware that I’d have to give up my home, my car, and most of my personal belongings. I was also aware that when arriving here I would have to start again, I would have no credit history, and would have to rebuild my business. I could deal with all that. I did it voluntarily.
What I wasn’t aware of was that in addition, it would be very difficult to find work or clients as an immigrant. My college education would mean nothing and the fact that I ran my own business in the US would mean even less. I also learned that while my US driver’s license is still valid in the US, it is no longer valid in Sweden (after a year you must replace the license from your home country with a Swedish one at the cost of approximately 5000SEK or 770USD). To me my driver’s license meant freedom … independence. It was something I had since I was 16 years old.
This really was starting to get to be too much. I felt like not only was I having to rebuild a life but that I was, in fact, going backwards. All the accomplishments I had made over the course of my adult life … were being eliminated or were not acknowledged at all.
I am an asshole.Read More»
It was many years ago, when as a teenager, I told a friend, “I don’t watch the news”. The reply I received was, “That’s because you are uptight.”
I don’t know why but this statement has stayed with me for a lifetime. At some point after the “uptight” statement, I became, like my mother, a news junkie. I loved the rush of breaking news and the behind-the-scenes glimpses we got via our news casts. I loved that via the news I could travel anywhere in the world and learn something new. I consumed a daily diet of the stuff, on a variety of networks, pretty much on a 24 hour schedule. Yes, I even listened to CNN while I slept.
And then something happened. I realized that the sounds in my house consisted mostly of explosions, sirens, and political shouting matches. I was getting really REALLY anxious. Was I uptight, I wondered? Four years ago, I ditched my cable TV subscription and switched to written news via the numerous sources on the Internet. Reading the news was a much more quiet activity and I was allowed to select which articles and videos I wanted to digest. It was often an issue with me on how the American media broadcast only those stories of American Interest. I sought a much broader spectrum of information. The Internet gave me this.
On December 14th, a Friday in the late afternoon, T and I sat in a cozy pub drinking wine and discussing what our plans were for the upcoming weekend and week ahead. We spoke of work, cooking, and wrapping Christmas presents. There was snow on the ground, a bit of a chill in the air, and for all intents and purposes, a lovely holiday atmosphere embraced us. It wasn’t until I checked my cell phone upon arriving back at our apartment that I saw the breaking news alerts from Newtown Connecticut. I have always been aware of an odd feeling when learning of a tragic event knowing that at that given point in time, I was sipping wine, perhaps shopping for new slippers or some other menial task, and the world was experiencing a life shattering event. I opened up my computer and sat on that Friday night for the next 8 hours watching the news streamed to me from the US to Sweden. I was mindful of my client who lived in Newtown. I watched the news for glimpses of her face, praying I would not see her, and I sat stone cold not knowing if I should contact her or not.
Saturday and Sunday saw the same thing. T and I sitting in front of the computer, SVT and whatever other news source we could find, gathering bits of information and trying to piece together how on earth this event involving 20 first graders could have come to be.
By Tuesday, I couldn’t take anymore. I shut down the news and went to work instead. Am I uptight, I wondered? Wednesday morning, checking the news via my Facebook account, I am confronted with updates to Newtown, a photo of a burned puppy requesting donations for animal care, several articles on mental illness and gun control, photos of 20 little faces, and news from Göteborg about a student uprising. There comes a point when it all just becomes too much.
We have become overly burdened with too much input and sometimes I think we don’t know well enough when to shut it off. Can we, in fact, shut it off? Back in the day, we were exposed to bad news via our TV, radio and the news stand. Today bad news and disturbing images assault us from everywhere. Of course, these issues of gun control and mental illness must be discussed and the news provides us information and learning (if indeed we can sift out the hype), but as individuals we need time to process. We need time out. We need space for quiet reflection and yes perhaps to even go and bake some cookies. In the words of my client who posted on Monday, “Give a hug, plant a flower, sing a song, or paint a picture – bring beauty back into the world!” Yes.
As I sit here writing this post, I am torn between two paths of action. 1. Shut down the news, social media and my cellphone. I have done this in the past and enjoyed the sound of silence and a gentle peacefulness of mind. It was therapeutic. Or 2. Head to my accounts and post beautiful photos of happy things to share with the world. I think I’m going with option #1. There will be plenty of time to discuss, learn, argue and maybe even post something lovely in the days to come. But for now, I think we should all take time to clear our heads, process the grief, and thoughtfully consider the future.