When I was in elementary school in the ’60s, we used to have air raid drills. We would file out into the hallway, kneel down, put one arm under our foreheads and the other covering the backs of our necks. And wait for the all clear. Pretty ludicrous, as were the supposedly reassuring cartoon films we were shown about how to stay safe in a nuclear attack.
One day, when I was in fifth grade, our entire school marched down to the local air raid shelter for a tour. We held hands with the first graders, and the six graders escorted the kindergarteners. We all thought it was pretty neat—staying there would be like a camping trip! Our teacher, however, was so concerned for our well-being that he just let us just play and have fun the next day. We got pretty rowdy by afternoon, and he ended up yelling at us.
We all express stress differently.
That we could be seriously discussing the risks of a nuclear war, today, is beyond belief. In Ukraine, enemies battle over control of a nuclear reactor and bombs drop out of the sky onto schools. As I watch the news, I am at a loss for what to do, other than make contributions to legitimate NGOs that are assisting innocent victims of this unwarranted tragedy.
I feel extraordinarily fortunate to live in a place where my most difficult decision in all this is how much news to consume. I am trying to find the balance between staying informed and drowning in the deluge of tragic reporting. I don’t want to look away, but I also need to take care of my own health and well-being, or I’m of no use to anyone.
So, I am trying to be grateful—for family and friends, a warm bed, a home to call our own, a peaceful neighborhood, money in the bank, freedom of speech, the right to vote, so much more. If there is any lesson to be learned from these terrible times, it is never to take anything for granted.
I’m also trying to follow this wise advice from Oliver Burkeman’s “The Imperfectionist” monthly email. You can find his entire essay here:
“It’s been common in recent days to see people complaining that it’s hard to get any work done, or to get on with ordinary life in general. But this may be the moment for a judicious measure of tough love. Perhaps you just need to get on with things anyway! If you wait, instead, for all the existential threats to pass, all the desperate human suffering to subside, you’ll be waiting forever.
“So don’t wait. Not just because marinating in the news helps no-one, but because what you’ll be doing instead—meaningful work, keeping your community functioning, being a good-enough parent or a decent friend—that stuff actively does help. There’s something you’re here to do. And I highly doubt that it’s doomscrolling.”
Image: Screenshot from “Duck and Cover” film, 1952, via Wikimedia Commons.