If we’re being honest, I was doing much better when I was off the news. Somehow in the last several days, after the initial woe of the beginning of week three wore off, I decided that I was ready to dive back into watching and listening to news. I started back with my regular morning podcast, stopped protesting the evening MSNBC that my wife likes, and fell asleep to either the Rachel Maddow podcast or the Daily Show podcast. None of these things in and of themselves is terribly heavy-handed as far as reporting goes. They are all way left-leaning, straightforward, and some even lighthearted. But whereas I had gotten good at boundary-setting around my daily news intake earlier on in this whole shitshow, I got lax recently. And I am paying for it now.
I feel like there has to be a good middle ground between some and none. The Who seems to actually have found it. He says he limits himself to one news podcast per week and only watches a few virus-related videos every now and then. A quick review of the last 15 videos he watched on YouTube reveals only one about COVID (Boris Johnson’s hospitalization) and the rest, variations on a few different themes: “How The American Flag Got Its 50th Star”, “Unibrow Discrimination- Social Experiment”, “Best High school Football Trick Plays”, “The wildest political moments of 2019”, “School Janitor Surprises Students With Creative Rug Art Designs Each Day.” He keeps semi-regular tabs on current events, but doesn’t get swept up. He is actually my pandemic role model — handling disappointment, change, togetherness, social distancing — all of it — with admirable aplomb.
As for myself, tonight, after two hours of trashy reality shows on TLC, I flipped back to MSNBC and got sucked into a feature they were calling “Coronavirus: Into the Red Zone,” which was about a news team being granted access into the Italian epicenter’s ICU during their peak. It was not good for my psyche, to put it mildly, but I didn’t turn it off. Morbid curiosity and spin-cycle anxiety.
Not knowing what the future will look like sends me into a spiral. Will The Who be able to go back to school to finish out his fifth grade year? Will summer camp be closed down? Will we be able to go on vacation in August? Will we be allowed to publicly gather for a year until a vaccine comes out? Will the businesses I love survive? Will the economy recover? I turn to the news for answers, I think, but actually, these questions are unanswerable — by the news or anyone else. And trying to suss out nonexistent truth only makes me more anxious.
I think tomorrow I will go back to my old habit of allowing myself just a few minutes of daily check-in to make sure I’m not missing anything major. Other than that, it’s going to be books and comedy and music and work and taking walks and playing Rummikub and thinking about what my birthday cake will taste like on Wednesday.