What I Learned On Summer Vacation

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I cannot tell what I did with my whole week on Folly Beach. I know I spent a lot of time staring at the ocean. I shelled a ton of peanuts for myself and the kids. I read Gone Girl in one day. Even with buckets of time, we never turned on the TV. (Don’t mistake that for TV snobbery. I’m watching Project Runway as I type, and I’m way too invested.) The more freedom, the less time I frittered away scrolling through my Twitter feed. (But I love my Twitter feed!)

My best guess it that when I don’t have the pressure of, “Gah! I only have 10 minutes to myself!” I’m less inclined to pack each second with frantic activity.

An unintentional effect of the TV/internet diet was a total news blackout. The impact of that, a revelation. I felt so much better not knowing the disaster of the moment. Not a little better, a lot better. I think it’s important to know what’s going on in Egypt. I wonder, though, what possible use is it to hear about some personal atrocity or disaster. I need to think about that more. In the meantime, I’m resolving not to click on the horror show links in my social media feeds. And, with regret, I’m going to hide — at least for now — some of my friends who can’t seem to resist sharing that stuff.

My hope is that if I burn less of my concern, adrenaline and empathy on people I will never meet and can’t help, maybe I can put it to better use with people right here in my life.

By the by, I don’t think that means I can’t help a stranger. None of this applies to events that have a wider social implication. If something is breaking on LGBT rights, I want to know so I can send money, write my senator, whatever. If a far-away individual really can use my help, I still want to give it. But I do not need to know about poor Amanda Bynes and her parents. I don’t need to know about some crazy woman having a temper tantrum while her husband films her. I don’t even need to know the crushingly sad stories of disaster befalling children like my own (which is, all children). I can’t help and it just leaves me feeling something between ickiness and despair.

 

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