I just put my 2-year-old down for his afternoon nap and, except for the whir of the heater and the errant coin bouncing around in the dryer, the house is silent for the first time all day. Silence, I’ve found, is a megaphone for whatever is happening inside my own mind. On great days, the silence is filled with hopeful enthusiasm. On somber days, the critics in my head scream louder as the room gets quieter. Today falls somewhere in the middle.
Across the street from our crumbly little bungalow is a parking lot. Our front door faces the back of a shopping plaza, that houses a health food store and gluten-free bakery, and a Save-A-Lot grocery store. In the parking lot are two tall LED lights that turn on in the evenings ensuring that our home is never completely dark. Today, under a blanket of gray, drizzly skies, a turkey buzzard is perched atop one of the poles.
Delivery trucks come and go and workers mill about below and he stands proudly overseeing the operation. Observing wild birds in the very unwild parking lot in front of my house makes me feel guilty for taking up so much space. They belong somewhere natural and free, not dodging vehicles and digging through garbage. They deserve more, and so do we.
Over the last few years, I’ve felt the urge to fly off to some remote place with fewer delivery trucks and more wild animals. I know I’m not alone in this. Many of us feel the same drive for more space, less noise. For me, It started two presidential elections ago when the world slid closer toward division and hatred than any time I can remember. Families pitted against each other as they took political sides, fervently backing candidates who don’t know or care they exist. We’re reminded how important politics are and that voting is our right and privilege as if the game is even fair. So we ingest mental and emotional garbage that’s labeled as news, and we do our best to give a fuck, in hopes that it will make us better people, but it just makes us sick. Sick and tired, sick and angry, just sick.
That level of manufactured rage isn’t sustainable. I truly believe we’re not built to give fucks about this many things at one time. From the beginning of time until the last decade or so, people didn’t have access to all of the information on the internet. And they certainly didn’t carry that information around in their pockets. Today we are so informed that it hurts, yet informed isn’t enough. We’re also involved. We picket, debate, tweet, and share our values for the world to see.
In the midst of constant social and political strife, the entire world caught a deadly virus. We locked ourselves in our homes, avoided crowds, stopped shaking hands, and found more to fight about than before. Unlike crises of the past that brought our country together, COVID has driven us physically and ideologically farther apart. We can’t agree on what’s fact, let alone what’s true.
I have no answers for these problems, which becomes more and more clear to me as I age. I don’t believe we can shove all our troubles back into Pandora’s box, nor do I believe they should be ignored. However, I think we get to choose the things in this world that are worth giving a fuck about. We’re not all going to choose the same things. But, unless we want to spend the rest of our lives in a state of constant outrage, I suggest we all choose wisely.
While the world we knew feels like it’s slipping away like a castle in the sand, the buzzards, hawks, and sandhill cranes still soar overhead in search of food and safety. It’s as if all of our troubles are self-imposed and nature is moving on around us. Since I can’t fly, I started a garden, because nothing feels better in this world of too-muchness than drawing closer to the things that nourish us. If the sandcastle of our society melts into the sea like some people think it will, I hope that my gardening skills will come in handy to sustain my family on our little plot of land behind the Save-A-Lot.