Before all the CoVid-19 stuff, I read the news exactly once per week. I experienced the entire Trump impeachment episode in weekly installments at brunch. I allowed myself the Sunday New York Times and the Sunday Atlanta Journal. Also, I did not allow myself to click on any “news” shared over social media. My only other requirement was alcohol. News is best experienced with an extremely spicy bloody mary or incredibly fizzy mimosa. If I made an exception it would be for a very local newspaper.
When I entered quarantine, I started breaking my own rules. And I allowed the news to creep back in, first on television and then from links shared in angry or snarky Facebook Posts or Tweets. Over Friday and Saturday night, I was sucked into images of reporters on the ground in big cites showing clashes with police, tear gas, and riots. I’m not saying that there isn’t a civic duty to be informed. But that civic duty does not require staring at the phone and feeling panic and despair.
Yesterday, I decided to reimpose the Sunday-only rule. Except brunch places aren’t open. And I was hanging out with my ten-year-old son. I turned off the news. I’m happy to report that I survived to tell the tale.
Here’s what we did instead of watching the news. I made a batch of cold brew coffee — a huge batch.
I found that making something, even a highly caffeinated beverage, was far superior to the news. And I was able to package some of this delicious concentrate up and give it away. We then headed out to the park to throw a football. I noticed that the park had a picnic area with a sail shade covering. I think I like the concept of sail shades. I took pictures.
From there, we were off to my office. While it wasn’t Disney World, I’ve always found an empty law office to be a fun place for kids. Even a pretentious leather office chair can be remade if you sit in it and read a Spiderman magazine.
About a block away from my office is a small independent bookstore. We discovered that they’re open for business provided that you mask up and douse yourself in hand sanitizer at the front door, which we were all too happy to do.
After spending a bit too much money at the bookstore (we chose books to harken back to a more positive time in D.C.), the next stop was a local sushi place. They give out these nifty little things to help kids use chopsticks. I’d only ever seen the rubber band thing before yesterday.
We were on a roll — actually two.
Later that evening, I decided to get in some miles. My goal was eight miles (no Eminem jokes please). But it was hot, and I went four. There was a protest happening in my town. I ran by the perimeter of it. Everything seemed peaceful. I even saw a law student of mine and waved.
I’m not sure if this is considered cheating or not. But we did watch the Dragon space capsule dock with the International Space Station. And we watched the launch on Saturday.
I don’t know if this is considered news or not. But it was a positive story. It was pretty cool. With all that said, these are no doubt troubling and tumultuous times. There is some responsibility for engagement. But that engagement need not be constant. In fact, there may be a bit of diminishing returns to constant attention to the news and constant back and forth about it on Facebook.
One of the books I bought yesterday was Austin Kleon’s Keep Going. I found something apt in my new book:
A friend of mine said he didn’t know how long he could wake up to such horrible news every day. I suggested he shouldn’t wake up to the news at all, and neither should anyone else. There’s almost nothing in the news that any of us need to read in the first hour of the day. When you reach for your phone or your laptop upon waking, you’re immediately inviting anxiety and chaos into your life. You’re also bidding adieu to some of the most potentially fertile moments in the life of a creative person
So, there you have it. On probably the worst news weekend of my life, I took a break from it all and regulated the part I let in my life. NASA, in partnership with a private company, launched humans into space again — for the first time in recent memory. I made some good coffee. Oh, I did cheat one other time, but only to pull a recipe for ice cream from the New York Times.
It turns out great. And it mixes well with home-made cold brew.