I have a little paper journal that I’ve been writing in for several years now, ever since my first hospice patient told me she regretted not keeping a diary and advised me to do so. Every few days I update it with a few random sentences about daily life: Went to D’s 8th grade bball tournament. Driving practice with R. Currently watching ‘Billions’.

The last couple years I’ve sprinkled in inadequate pandemic updates, jarring little segues from Did a workout with Jodi! to 800K people dead. In the same way, I have now documented Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; while it felt almost sacrilegious to try and condense the horror of it to a few words (adjacent to the thrilling mention of an orthodontist appointment) it felt equally impossible to make no mention of it whatsoever.

It is of course a privilege to be pondering such things instead of, say, being actively shelled by tanks.

There’s a particular mental loop I’ve found myself in, over and over throughout the pandemic: feeling deeply affected by everything that’s happening, then berating myself for feeling anything other than gratitude considering my relative good fortunes, then going back to feeling terrible because what kind of monster just is grateful and enjoys life right now when there’s so much legitimate awfulness going on, and so on.

The main problem, although I suspect there are many additional downsides, with swinging between doom-wallowing and self-flagellation is that it’s hugely ineffective and really good for nothing at all except spiraling into paralyzing anxiety.

The only thing I’ve found to help with the onslaught of bad news is to detach from it. I don’t mean ostrich-style and oblivious — as you’ve probably noticed, it’s actually damn near impossible to opt out altogether unless you’re in a tech-free silent retreat or something. I just mean scanning the news a few times a day instead of installing a powerful and continuous IV drip of it directly into my amygdala.

Still, it’s hard to know where to send one’s despair these days. Is it over the lingering spaghetti-stain of a global pandemic? The endless shitshow of staggeringly fucked-up politics? Actual warfare footage being turned into upbeat TikTok content?

Sometimes it’s all about bringing myself back to the minutiae of my diary. Haircuts, sports practices, dinners, all the tiny moments that make up a life. Life goes on, whether or not you’re paying attention.

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Annie
Annie
6 months ago

Oh boy, I’m feeling the same things about the news lately. And my husband screaming at the TV and relaying to me every fucked up thing that happens does not help. I didn’t sleep well last night thinking and worrying about the world and health issues of various loved ones. It’s a shit show and I do want to go all ostrich on it!!

Elizabeth_K
Elizabeth_K
6 months ago

Do you read Mimi Smartypants? She has sort of the same/similar discussion now. How can you feel gratitude without feeling like an a**hole, and how do gratitude people feel so grateful without being OVERWROUGHT by the terrible things in the world. I’ll tell you my solution … no, I have no solution. Grateful for what we have, heartbroken and utterly lost at what so many are facing — in Ukraine, in Texas, in Florida … (anti trans and anti gay bills, respectively, as well as abortion fights …)

Carrie
Carrie
6 months ago

LOVE this. And the advice to keep a diary. I’m going to give it a shot…to document some of the small moments that, in the end, are everything.

Nicole
6 months ago

I’m not sure if I’ve ever commented before! I wanted to say I hear you. I have recently started a “line a day” journal because that’s all I can handle, and it’s just tiny everyday things. I just don’t even know what else to do. I find the international situation terrifying and overwhelmingly sad, and I just don’t know what to do. Just keep going, I guess.

Karen
Karen
6 months ago

I can’t remember… are you a podcast person? Brené Brown had a recent Unlocking Us episode with Karen Walrond about this exact thing. Really good food for thought.

My BFF was visiting this week and we’ve both been reading you since Diaryland. LINDA. we realized (thank you, way back machine Internet genius) THAT WAS ALMOST 20 YEARS AGO WTF.