Sleep, my pretty, sleep

NS March 14th, 2011

As I stood at the sink this morning washing dishes, I found myself continually glancing out the window at the glorious sunshine and our freshly-cut-for-the-first-time-this-year lawn. I smiled contentedly and thought of all the things I wanted to get done today.

With Noble Girl at school and Noble Boy at the childminder’s, I had nearly 6 hours of time in which to tick things off my to-do list. Census forms needed filling in, car tax needed renewing, a session on breastfeeding and newborn care with a client tomorrow evening needed preparing, many emails needed sending and at least three posts needed writing, for various blogs (both mine and others’). I also thought I’d squeeze in a walk and perhaps a chapter or two of a new novel on a park bench somewhere, if I had time.

But then I made the mistake of turning on a BBC talk radio show while I finished my chores. I listened with increasing levels of astonishment as various Londoners called in to explain why they wouldn’t be donating any money to the Japanese disaster relief funds being set up. They have enough money, it’s a rich nation, they have the resources and efficiency to do it themselves, what difference is my few quid going to make, who knows where money donated to charity really goes, the audacity of said charities in having admin costs and paying salaries, blah blah blah blah blah. Heard it all before. Doesn’t make it any less annoying to hear, but at least it wasn’t particularly shocking.

And then we have an older woman, one claiming to be horrified by what’s happened in Japan, banging on about how her Christian faith tells her to extend sympathy and help, but…BUT…

What about the war? she says.

Jesus. Will ‘the war’ ever go away in Europe? I’m so sick of hearing about ‘the war’ that I almost wish another, more awful and far-reaching one would start just so I wouldn’t have to hear about this one again.

Beryl from Merton, or whoever she was, goes on:

Japan never admitted to or apologised for the atrocities it committed during World War II, according to her. At least the Germans had the good sense to be ashamed and hold themselves accountable. But not the Japanese, no. And it’s just not quite right, is it? To give our few hard-earned pounds to a rich country that hasn’t come out and said sorry for killing scores of our boys in uniform 60-some  years ago. Could it be that earthquakes and tsunamis and other natural disasters are God’s way of punishing us for past mistakes, for not treating each other and the planet a little more kindly?

I’m sad to report that the radio show host didn’t tell Beryl to fuck off and take her brand of ‘Christianity’ somewhere it might be better appreciated (I don’t know — maybe Hell?), but I certainly did, right there in my kitchen.

It made me so angry and despondent at the human condition that instead of doing any of the things I’d meant to get done, all of which involved dealing with, speaking to or thinking of other people, I instead switched off the radio, put the computer in sleep mode and spent the rest of my day reading a novel, from start to finish, while drinking enough tea to sink a British battleship. When I put the book down briefly to boil the kettle, stretch my back or go to the toilet, I’d think of Beryl in Merton and, in order to protect myself from the sense of frustrated rage that threatened to darken my mood on this bright Spring day, I made like a laptop and put myself into sleep mode too.

If you’d have seen me or tried to interact with me at that time, I’d probably have held up a sign that said, ‘Noble Savage isn’t available right now. Her sense of morality and indignant rage have reached levels not advisable or compatible with the Spring 2011 operating system. In the meantime, please be appeased by this rhythmic and colourful graphic.’

When I emerged from my literary cocoon and was forced to interact with others at the school pick-up, it was like someone had moved the mouse and woken me back up. God, what melodrama! Why do I get myself so worked up and allow Beryl in Merton to represent The Entire World, Ever? I thought I’d gotten a handle on this when I finally stopped reading the comments on online news stories. At least I’d recognised the impending meltdown and shut myself down before any lasting damage could occur and ruin my day. A day spent absorbed in a book is something I haven’t done in quite a long time and was a much-needed respite from the daily grind.

If I had a shrink, she might call that progress. Or she might say, “See you next Wednesday…and for many more after that.”

9 Responses to “Sleep, my pretty, sleep”

  1. Kelly says:

    I have had similar episodes too many times to count. Once after an awful HipMama dustup online, I found myself. I was too upset about the online asshattery to really be “there” for my child; I was literally driven to distraction. At that point I knew things had to change. I left that online community shortly after that and I’ve tried to screen a bit. Like you, I read a lot of social justice stuff online and like you, I avoid comment sections, etc. etc. But mostly, for me, it’s about checking in with my body and any attendant stress or anxiety that might be ramping up.

    Some days all I can do is like you – put myself in “sleep” mode for a bit. It’s a great strategy. I admire or maybe even envy those who don’t have these meltdowns, but I really do, and that’s just how it is for now.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Expat Mum says:

    I also try to avoid comment boxes if I know they’re going to be full of gobshite like Beryl’s comments. On the other hand though, sometimes it’s good to know that these people exist and have these opinions. Not that you can so much about them really.
    Expat Mum´s last blog ..The REAL Tiger MomMy ComLuv Profile

  3. I’m impressed that your reaction was as reasonable and considered as it was; I wish I could train myself to do something as sensible as sit down and read a book instead of slobbering like a rabid dog. In similar situations, anybody looking into my windows would think I was on the verge of a breakdown as I, variously, mumble and shout and gesture skyward as I furiously stamp around the house. Alone.
    It could’ve been worse – you could have been listening whilst in the back of the cab…The amount of times I’ve listened to some cretin on a cabbie’s radio accompanied by the cabbie’s assisting monologue…yeah, you can’t say it any more, can you, but, she’s right, in’t she? really, though, in’t she? It’s always struck me as odd that there’s all these things you ‘can’t say anymore’ yet they still seem to get said quite a lot. More’s the pity.
    Mistress of Boogie´s last blog ..Just A MumMy ComLuv Profile

  4. elizabethm says:

    The moral of the story is never to listen to radio phone ins. I don’t know why they attract the most self absorbed and witless of people but they do. I am quite impressed that retreating into a book was all you did. I am pretty sure I would have been shouting and throwing things.
    elizabethm´s last blog ..Thinking about foodMy ComLuv Profile

  5. April says:

    Ughhh…..the people screening the calls for those shows sure do know how to pick the most obscure people with the opinions that will stir up the most controversy..the people will use the most inflammatory language and drag several other unrelated subjects into the limelight.
    If it’s any comfort….think of all the non government organizations that are drumming up loads of support and making a difference. They would not be able to do what they are doing without the support of individuals giving. Here are a few organization where you can go to their website, donate, and see what they are already up to as far as delivering relief the disaster areas.

    Obviously characters like Beryl are in a minority….they have always been around, but we have not always had a media that flings them into the limelight for all of us to have to listen to!

    Glad you had a good day reading though!!!! Lovely :)
    April´s last blog ..Relationships…too much like hard workMy ComLuv Profile

  6. geekymummy says:

    Ugh. We dropped a fucking nuclear bomb on them to end that war. On the innocent people of Japan, not their armies.

    I suppose they only way to understand or excuse is if she was raised during the war, she would have been a young child and been very impressionable, and the jingoism that was imbibed by everyone at that time has just stuck in her mind. We can’t imagine what it was like to grow up during the war.
    geekymummy´s last blog ..Prayer TreeMy ComLuv Profile

  7. [...] At The Noble Savage, Amity Reed writes “Sleep, my pretty, sleep”, about working to keep mental health when the world seems a dark and scary [...]

  8. I recently said something similar, but it wasn’t about indignation. It was more just feeling overwhelmed by all the upheaval and destruction that’s happened in the last 12 weeks (first Egypt, then Libya, then Japan… and those are just the most recent, headline-grabbing events).

    In those moments, I turn the radio off – honestly. I feel horrible, but my heart can only take so much. I have my own bullshit to deal with and it’s as traumatic as anything I’ve ever dealt with even if I’m not dodging bullets or running from tidal waves. I luckily avoid any bullshit radio callers – I don’t know what I’d do if I heard someone saying awful things about all those people whose lives hurt my own heart…

    Anyway, all this to say, I know where you’re coming from. I put my head in the sand, but I don’t feel badly about it – it’s my own form of survival. I have to be present for other things.
    Jessica – This is Worthwhile´s last blog ..8-14 am WW- Big yawnMy ComLuv Profile

  9. Charlotte says:

    I don’t blame you for hiding away from the world. It’s astonishing that people can’t find compassion in their hearts. However, I do think that the Brits are abnormally hung up on ‘the war’. The Germans, as far as I can tell, have acknowledged their role, faced up to their atrocities, taught their children about it and are doing everything they can to learn from it and make sure it never happens again.