The Only Voices I Hear These Days Are in My Own Head
by Debra DeAngelo
Possibly the strangest experience from my two months of flood-induced homelessness is being unplugged from the mainstream world. There’s no television allowed at the inn, and although I was tempted to get a portable TV, I respected the rules and refrained.
No TV. Why couldn’t it be something easy, like giving up cigarettes.
TV is my pipeline to current events and opinion about them, which yields column material. I would mainline news programs if I could. Yes, they’re that addictive. True, I could follow things online, or in magazines or newspapers, but it’s not merely the information itself that attracts me. It’s how the information is communicated.
I soak up the arguments and discussions, and observe the facial expressions, body language and inflections. I absorb the sound of the words and sentences, and form my own perceptions. Reading perceptions that have already been filtered through someone else’s brain isn’t the same as forming my own.
I enjoy the patterns and cadence of spoken language, and when roughing out a column in my head, I “hear” the words, and they flow out through my fingertips and onto the monitor. Hearing how other people express themselves gives me new ideas for expressing myself, and I often craft phrases and sentences in my head and then say them out loud to others to observe their reaction because it’s a clue about how they’ll react to the same written words.
And you thought I just sit down and type stuff.
But – no TV, no voices. Only the ones in my head, that plead “Can we go home yet?” over and over and over.
Sadly, no. Apparently it takes longer to repair one little tract home than it does to drill into a mountain in Chile and rescue 33 miners from the center of the freakin’ earth. At least I was minimally aware of the rescue, thanks to NPR and the internet. But I wanted to see their faces as it was happening, in real time. Overwhelming joy and relief in a person’s eyes can’t truly be captured in words.
Even with print journalism, I’m out of the loop. I only had time for one newspaper (besides the Express, of course), and that was the Enterprise. And working two jobs, sometimes I didn’t even have time for that. (Forgive me Dunning, for I have sinned… I have fallen behind on The Wary I on more than one occasion.) But home delivery requires a home, so I put my subscription on hold. There went my contact with regional news, along with my favorite soap opera, “As The City On Far East Grant Avenue Turns.”
Yeah, yeah, I could catch up online. But I stare at a computer monitor all day. The last thing I want to do is spend more time at the computer. I mean, besides Facebook, of course. Which totally doesn’t count.
So, layer my Decline To State voter registration (which means almost zero political junk mail and no robo-calls) on top of life in the news void, where I only catch snippets of news the way something flashes by in your peripheral vision while you’re driving and then it’s gone, and it feels like walking in fog. You only see what’s immediately around you… all else is pale and blurry. I have relatively no awareness of things I formerly was acutely aware of.
Like elections. I know there’s one coming up. But I’ve missed most of the conversation about it, and in particular, have missed the onslaught of political commercials. In my pre-flood days, I watched most everything on the DVR, which means zapping through commercials. The only commercials I was subjected to came during live newscasts. If Meg Whitman inserted herself into my consciousness — the psychological equivalent of eating juicy cherries and then biting into a mushy, rotten one — the “mute” button would make the scary lady go away. Now, without TV, my life is virtually Meg-free, except for an occasional rotten cherry on the radio – I love making her vanish just by pushing a button.
So, for the first time ever, 99 percent of the pre-election hyperbole has vanished from my awareness. I know Jerry Brown is pulling ahead, and that there’s a proposition to legalize marijuana. That much sounds pretty good. If we can bring back Governer Moonbeam, can we bring back legal dime bags too? Just a thought.
I also know there’s some wingnut Tea-bagger who’s proclaimed she’s not a witch as her campaign slogan. Has someone checked to see if she weighs the same as a duck? (You won’t get that unless you know the airspeed velocity of an unladen European swallow.)
Other than that… endless phone calls to contractors and insurance adjusters, and multiple visits to hardware stores to stare glassy-eyed at faucets and light fixtures has scooted politics pretty much off my radar screen. Sometimes there are more important things in life than shaking your pom-poms for the Red team or the Blue team. Like life itself.
Does it feel good? Not exactly. It feels calm. Beyond the ire and angst, and the endless yap yap yap of talking heads, there’s peace. It’s probably how taking lithium feels after decades of bipolar disorder – no highs, no lows, just even keel.
But one night last week, I inadvertently tested that theory. I discovered that you can watch entire episodes of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC.com. So I did. About halfway through, my keel started wobbling. I had a sudden urge to turn just turn it off. Which is really weird because I LOVE Keith! I LOVE politics! I LOVE elections!