The evening news – I used to be such a fan of it. I’d tune in to Brokaw, Jennings or Rather or Wilson every night, transfixed by the chaotic goings-on in the world.
Even at the height of my busiest years, with young children and a career that demanded a good deal of travel, I rarely missed a date with one of these gentlemen. I considered it my duty to keep myself informed.
Has the news changed, or have I? No doubt we certainly have non-stop access to U.S. and world news, or some version of it. It’s on the television, on our phones, in restaurants, at airports, even in our bedrooms. We’ve become a nation, and perhaps a world, of doom and gloom, protests and clashes. Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten how to laugh.
Humor has been my go-to superpower for as long as I can remember. An awkward, nerdy girl, certainly not one considered cool or popular, I learned early on to use humor to deflect the mean and isolating comments that only kids can make. Humor got me through the illness and death of my mother when I was a teenager. It got me through a marriage that was destined to fail (and badly), and heaven knows it escorted me through all those years of parenting.
In the past few years though, I fear I came very close to losing that super-power to the non-stop brand of relentless news that seeps into our homes and minds through Facebook, Twitter, television, radio, and print. Even the best-informed, most conscientious of us need a break from the nasty reality bearing down on us from all sides. I decided a couple of years ago to just turn off all but one news broadcast. No matter what’s going on in the world, I limit myself to a one-hour fix, and that’s it. I did this for a couple of reasons.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I myself can only listen to so much negativity before my own thoughts take on that same flavor. An optimist by nature and a news junkie by choice, I saw myself leaning toward pessimism in my everyday life. Things that used to make me laugh, didn’t anymore. Instead of waking each day with a good attitude and even a sense of undiscovered adventure, I had begun to dread the day and every part of it. Steeping myself in unrelenting doom and gloom was changing me, and I didn’t like the change.
The other reason I began to limit my news intake is simply this: there are things I can change, and things I can’t. Why worry over things that I can’t change? In fact, why worry at all? Worry changes nothing and robs us of everything. I decided to focus on the things that I could change in the world (there are more than we might think if we don’t mind getting our hands dirty), and leave the rest where it belongs – on the back burner, on LOW.
Am I always successful? No. Not even close. But I am mindful. I’ve become much more careful of what and who I allow into my world. The world hasn’t changed; there is still strife and war, anger and yes, even hatred. But I’ve changed, and I’m better for it. Even humor, my best friend for all these years, had retreated with the onslaught of garbage that I was allowing to crowd my mind and my time. By making this slight but tremendous change in myself, I’m happy to say that my funny friend is back and healthy as ever.
There’s a reason we’ve always heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” I won’t attempt to explain the biophysical response that our minds and bodies have to it; I’d surely trip all over my words in trying. Rest assured though, that response is real and measurable. Laughter calms us. It provides a positive release. It soothes us, and those effects are contagious. Ever hear a baby giggle and belly-laugh? You have to really make an effort not to laugh right along with her, don’t you?
We gravitate to smiles and laughter. We relax around people who smile at us, and we’re very likely to smile right back at them. I believe that laughing adds years to our lives, years that we’d otherwise spend dreading, worrying or arguing with others. No, you can’t change what’s going on in the world, today or any other day. But you can change how you react to it.
And that reminds me, did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi, and the minister?
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL (Apr 2016, Skyhorse Publishing), was named Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with loving humor about the South. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she's not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. Follow Carole on Facebook (Carole Townsend-Author), Twitter @caroletownsend, or Instagram @carole.w.riter.