No News is Good News (like seriously, none of the news is good)

I’m driving and I’m cursing. Oh man I’m cursing. I’ve made the mistake of tuning in to 774 on my way out West – breaking my self-imposed news ban. The ban began on Monday, and to be honest, I didn’t think I would make the week. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still been on Twitter and Facebook, the Twitter feed offering enough news headlines to keep me in touch with the world, but in a way that means I can quickly scroll through without become emotionally involved.

I usually have ABC News 24 running all day. Even after I’ve heard the same bloody story word for word for the eighteenth time, I still leave it on, just in the background as I play with baby Kylo, potter about the house, breastfeed, cook, clean – I basically exist with the hum of the news behind me. If it’s not the news, it’s Parliament Question Time or the Press Club Address. (Yeah, I know, thrilling.)

[So I’m in the car and Georgie Downer has just been asked a question – about the government’s inaction on workplaces short-changing workers and using visas to hold them to ransom. She answers by saying that those examples are another reason new citizens should be proficient in English. Urgh. She has no concept of her own privilege and no compassion, nor understanding that migrant workers are likely working in jobs IN ORDER to improve their English, or certainly to support their studies. Pure victim blaming. Grrrrrr SMH.]

Every piece of news has seemed horrific lately – I know I don’t need to tell you. You live in the same world as I do, where a former reality TV host who has admitted to sexual assault and regularly releases policies on Twitter is President of the United States, the leader of the Philippines sends death squads to murder civilians, capital punishment still exists and sometimes goes wrong, children are STILL being bombed in Syria, refugees are being targeted left right and centre and still being locked up in camps that we as a nation seem to have collectively forgotten etc etc so on and so forth.

When the floods hit northern New South Wales and claimed the lives of the mother and her children, I lost my shit. I couldn’t deal. I pictured her holding her children as the car sank. I can’t even deal writing these few short sentences about it. After that, Syrian refugees – buses of them, and dozens of children – were killed whist they were trying to flee. I found myself weeping as the story ran on the TV. Who the fuck bombs buses of fleeing refugees? What sort of a world is this?

Since understanding that I am probably am empath, I’ve realized how deeply I can become involved in things that I watch. Masterchef or My Kitchen Rules will routinely leave me with no fingernails remaining as with every nail biting moment of the show, I actually remove the tips of my nails. Not just cooking shows. Documentaries, movies, anything where there is suspense or really REAL drama that I can transport myself into and experience to the point where it disturbs me. It seems ridiculous, but I have had to learn to ‘turn off’ and watch without feeling and without getting emotionally involved in whatever is happening on the screen. Doesn’t always work though: we were recently watching my current favourite show, Grand Designs, and the house owners were having a wall-sized single window pane positioned on the side of their house using cranes; everything hinged on that moment and a centimetre out would screw up EVERYTHING. My partner looked across at me – “Is this stressing you out?” I glanced down at the perfect crescent of fingernail that I had bitten off and placed next to me on the table and lied, “No.”

Violence is something that stays in my mind’s eye very vividly. I actually have a fantastic visual memory. (I was raised without violent movies when I was young which could have something to do with how they affect me.) When my partner joined me on maternity leave we binged on Vikings. We watched every horrendously intense, but brilliant episode in existence to prepare us for the new series. That’s like, 50 episodes in a week. Being fans of Game of Thrones and House of Cards, A LOT of what we watch is quite violent. However, I’m a full on pacifist. I once joined a Karate club and gave up after one lesson when I realized I would have to hit someone.

So anyway, after all that binging, I became aware of disturbing thoughts and visions that were creeping in to my mind. I would pull the baby through the house in her bouncer, walking backwards, and picture someone stabbing me in my back. Serious. I would mentally remind myself to book a dentist appointment and then have a vision of a drill going through the top of my mouth. I would see murderers in the dark when I went to the toilet in the middle of the night. I would hear noises in the supermarket carpark nearby and imagine a car crashing through our bedroom wall. And so on and so forth. Until one day I said to my partner “I have a problem.” And so I (and we) stopped watching certain movies and series.

[This isn’t the first time this has happened. Whilst staying a week on the idyllic, quiet island of Korcula in Croatia, we watched every season and episode of the Sopranos. I had never watched it before. I found myself outside in the sunshine, doing some hand washing in my bikini, loving life as a traveller – but then began to have feelings that if I walked around the corner of the house someone would jump out and shoot me with an Uzi.]

And so, I banned myself from certain TV, and all the news for a week. It just seemed right, and to be honest, it really helped. It also forced me to do other things – and watch some good History series. (Oh yeah the Crusades – peachy. Ha!) I don’t agree with turning away from the world or putting your head in the sand, but when something is affecting you in a negatively way, maybe you need a break from it?

Surely some of my issues here comes from getting used to being a mum. I don’t like it when people start every sentence with “As a mother” and I wasn’t a fan of people who continuously said to me “You’ll understand when you have kids”, BUT – But…. Yeah my life is different. I can’t JUST think about me. Clementine Ford said that having a child was reckless as a part of your heart is walking around outside of your body. Yes! Maybe it is just my mortality that has hit me, now that I and my partner have not only been charged with the protection and responsibility that naturally comes with having a child, but also the legacy of family. There is something that extends further than our two lives now.

I made it through my no news week. I’m trying to relax. I’m trying to find the Zenness I’ve been really good at, at other times in my life up to this point. I want my daughter to be chilled out. I don’t want her to fear death, or anything in life for that matter. Unfortunately the world is not a great place right now – so it’s easy to find myself fearing stuff for her.

After Georgie Downer suggested that migrant workers should just get better at English to stop them from being exploited, some faith in humanity was restored for me when the last caller of the session rang through and told her how preposterous her answer was.

Maybe there will be good news next week. And if there’s not, perhaps I’ll just turn off again.



The Ridiculousness of Fear

There’s something absolutely ridiculous about fear and what it can do to us as humans. I have not felt it for a long time, and now that I am, it almost causes me to laugh hysterically – like I do when I’m nervous – at the control it can have over our state of mind.

I have started a new job. Something entirely new, unknown and that is frightening in its overwhelming nature. But why do we feel fear when it comes to the unknown? Is it that element of being out of control? I think is where my fear has stemmed from in the last two weeks.

Fear is not something I feel often. I worry sometimes, and I might stress about little things, but being actually frightened is something I haven’t experienced since a crazy Tasmanian who lived in the same guesthouse as me in Japan came to my door basically threatening to beat me up. (Don’t tell Mum about that one.)

Since I embraced a Buddhist approach to life so much has changed in me. (And obviously, you don’t need to be a Buddhist to be fearless.) I stopped seeing things in the shadows, I stopped thinking negatively, and I took on a very ‘what will be, will be’ attitude, which is honestly, as I have written before, the single most freeing epiphany I have ever experienced.

There was a Buddhist monk I met once in Nepal, who as he was talking, had a bee crawling down into the neck of his robes, and he was laughing away at it – “it will only sting me if I think it will Jacqui, it’s fine!” – I try to think of scary moments in this sort of way. If you are fearful, then you make the experience worse, right? If I swat fearfully at this new job and everything it throws at me, it will make it worse, I will be defensive rather than strong. I should be taking it head on.

I have climbed to the base camp of the highest mountain in the world, and have walked across Spain twice with only the belongings on my back – never being completely sure where I would end up in the evening. I have done things that used to make me fearful – a spinning whirlwind of terror ride at Oktoberfest and swimming in the open ocean. I’ve walked around Tashkent with no Uzbek or Russian, just my smile and sign language to get around – but I survived all these things.

I’m quite possibly being a bit of a princess about this. A new job? How crazy can it be? My best friend reminded me that I have controlled (at times!) classes of 30 kids at once, running from class to class all day, always ready for what would come next. As if I can’t do this – an administrative job that yes, is a massive step up from where I’ve been before – but still, there’s not even one kid running around!

Being a teacher was, for me, a lot about pretending that I was in control, acting as if I knew exactly what was going on. That I wasn’t scared of the students, that I was in charge, not them. I’m always thankful that I did amateur theatre as a youngster – it’s amazing how quickly I’ve mastered my “everything you’re telling me I completely understand” face for this job.

In the end perspective is always there to bring me back to Earth. Someone I care about just found that she is quite sick – how fearful would she be feeling? But it was something as trivial as a new job that got me thinking about how fear can override our lives, and how I need to find that peace that allows me to walk into a dark room without jumping at shadows, and walk into that office every day holding onto that same feeling.

Speaking of jumping at shadows – my peace was tested this week as I returned home to find a life-sized cardboard cut-out of my housemate standing at the bottom of the stairs.

And for the record, I did jump a little.