It started when I was first pregnant with our oldest daughter. My husband Paul put on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I found I just couldn’t handle the suspense. The nervous tension affected me so much I would have to walk out of the room until it was resolved and I could come back.
Now my inability to watch “serious” TV has progressed to a point where sometimes my husband and I can’t watch anything together at all. Paul is someone who reads only non-fiction – if he’s not learning something, then he feels he’s wasting his time. I, on the other hand, decided the week I graduated from college that I would take a break from serious reading and pick up a fiction book…a decade and a half later I still haven’t read another serious book. In fact, I used to be able to read any kind of fiction, but now if it’s too sad, too raw, or if I just feel the characters are making mistakes, then I put it down and never pick it up again. I prefer mind candy: something where a lot of vampires or demons get staked, or even, I’m embarrassed to say, romance.
The same is true of TV: Paul likes to watch movies by Warner Herzog, and now he seems to be watching a political thriller that has no background music, just hushed conversations in Danish. You can’t blame him, he’s European, and their theory of good TV seems to be, “the more subtle, the better.”
I’m very happy in my life, very happy with my lot. I love what I do, the people I work with, my Community, my family.
But a specter of darkness stalks me. It may be the inevitable futility of the work we do trying to catch up with me, it may be depression threatening me, it may just be exhaustion.
I believe that the Divine has called us to absolutely pour ourselves out into the work…but sometimes I have nothing left to pour out.
So I sit down to an episode of Life in Pieces and giggle at its silliness and let it take me out of myself. And then I can sleep, and when I wake in the morning, I have the energy to keep going again.
I have never thought of myself as someone who ignores the important stuff – I’ve always believed it’s so necessary for us to remain informed, to know about oppression in the world, to get outraged. The other night we put on Beasts of No Nation without knowing what it was. I absolutely recommend that movie, it gets you right into the head of a child soldier and it is haunting. But I could hardly make it through, I thought the movie might just pull me apart. I know eight year olds are forced to behead people with machetes in conflicts around the world, but it’s just too painful for me to watch it.
I know most people in my home country know nothing about Nicaragua, or about extreme poverty, even in the U.S. They would prefer to ignore it and every other hard thing, and they have the privilege to do so. This has always frustrated me, I feel like if people can live like that, the least we can do it acknowledge it, see if with our own eyes, talk to real people who live it.
But now I’ve become like that myself. If it’s not good news, I don’t want to read it. If it’s not funny, I don’t want to watch it.
I thought maybe this would pass when the children got older, but it just keeps getting worse. I can empathize with the willfully ignorant. I want to ignore all the important stuff and just escape outside of myself.
I could feel guilty about it, but instead I give into it. If a little television or mind candy reading helps me get up the next day ready to do battle on the losing side again, then so be it. I’ll hole up with my laptop and watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt upstairs while the sounds of hushed Danish political conspiracies drift up to me from downstairs. -Becca