“Daddy’s in the den shootin’ up the evening news.” ~Jackson Browne, “Redneck Friend”
Western culture is buried under a blanket of fear. We’re afraid of guns and school shootings, and many children have to pass through metal detectors each morning before entering their schools. We’re afraid of other crime, too – home invasions, gang violence, serial killings, terrorism…. We’re afraid of immigrants and drug abusers, of environmental collapse and deadly disease. We’re afraid of strangers and ISIS and the seasonal flu. The fear is almost addictive.
But, in a very real way, we have nothing to fear but the fear, itself.
Home should be a pocket of comfort, peacefulness and joy within the swirl of this culture of fear and busyness outside. Home should be a refuge from the constant barrage of fear-pushing that comes with living in a media-filled society.
Creating a home and furnishing/decorating/cleaning a house are not the same. Certainly, keeping the house warm and welcoming includes making sure the dishes are washed and the floors are swept, but turning your house into a home involves focusing on those ethereal, intangible qualities you care about most, whatever they might be. What do you want your home to exude? Peace, tranquility, calmness, serenity, protection, closeness, nurturing, liveliness, openness, love, spirituality, music, artistic-ness, stimulating conversation, casualness, beauty…?
But, how in the world do you accomplish this in today’s stressful, fear-encased world?
Be extremely selective about the media you allow into your home.
Most of us wake up in the morning to the daily paper or Internet news sites, and we go to bed with the evening television news or our laptops open beside us. Each day, we welcome into our homes the perpetrators of so much anxiety and worry. Instead of waking up smiling, opening our eyes to another brand new 24 hours, listening to the birds singing, and slowly sliding into our day, we turn on our phones, open our laptops or grab the newspaper from the porch. We read about trials and murderers, pedophiles and rapists, drive-by shootings and drug czars, terrorists and bombings, nuclear disasters and full-fledged wars. Then, before we drift to sleep, we turn on the television or surf the news sites to see if we missed any of the sensationalistic stories of the day.
That’s not to mention our fascination with disturbing television and movies. There are apocalyptic shows about zombies, the destruction of technology, nuclear holocausts, wars, and alien invasions. There are dozens upon dozens of crime and punishment shows filled with graphic murders, rapes and torture.
During these shows, our bodies are led into an artificially fearful state where we produce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol as if we truly were in a dire situation. And, instead of feeling this way on rare occasions like we did in the past (such as when we found ourselves needing to run from a charging rhinoceros), we feel this stress for hours and hours at a time. Every. Day.
Do we need to see and hear these scenes? Are our lives more fulfilling because we do?
Video games are oftentimes worse: bloody wars, crazed zombies, emotionless assassins and murderers…. In some games, you can choose to play, not the hero saving the world, but the villain destroying it. You can abuse and kill women, rob stores at gunpoint, work for the mob, murder random civilians – whatever sort of violence you want to see on the screen, you can create. The more fear you incite, the more misery, the higher your score. And, most often this is all done against a backdrop of dark, angry, intense music.
Choose carefully the images and sounds you allow into your home. Be selective. Know what bothers you and your loved ones, and avoid those things. If this isn’t something you’ve tried before, recognize that changing might be difficult, at first. We feel like we’re missing out if we don’t know the plot of the latest action thriller or every detail of every news story. Our colleagues at work do. Or friends and neighbors do. Shouldn’t we? It takes time to feel comfortable with this not-knowing.
You’ll learn about the big news stories whether you want to or not. It’s almost impossible not to. Talking on the phone with family, surfing Facebook or catching a quick glimpse of the news while you’re out and about may prove to be quite enough.
Allow quiet and calm to seep into your home.
So many of us are uncomfortable with silence. We fill in every quiet moment with chatter – whether it’s from the television, the radio, or our own constantly churning minds. Take a moment to sit in silence, at least at the beginning and end of each day. Wake up a few minutes early and savor the stillness. Be mindful of the dawn calmly lighting up the sky, the warmth of your coffee or tea, your breathing, your mind and body becoming fully awake. When you go to bed, don’t reach for your cell phone or laptop. Instead, read a novel or drink a cup of chamomile tea. Talk with your partner about their day. Then, take a few moments to breathe and be grateful. If you have children, allow them to experience stillness in a satisfying way, as well. Enjoy quiet mornings and bedtimes together. Find comfort in silence.
Prepare and eat meals together.
If you live with others, eat together as often as possible. Sharing food is, perhaps, the essence of what it means to be human. It’s an elemental form of satisfaction for us. Preparing the food, setting the table, perhaps saying grace or thanking all those who helped to bring this food to you – these small rituals are truly comforting and bond us to one another. Sharing food and camaraderie with others allows us to feel both needed and cared for.
Remember, though, to speak with mindfulness. Instead of bringing talk of the daily news or the latest gory movie to the table, discuss your day, your questions, your dreams. Talk about loved ones and carnival rides and school projects. Talk about anything that feels comfortable, but leave the culture of fear far, far away.
Spend time in your home.
Now that you’ve cut down or eliminated the media’s creeping insistence of fear and anxiety, choose to be home more. Enjoy the peace and warmth you’ve created, this small pocket of stillness where there are no talking heads screaming at you to be afraid, be very afraid! Raise your children in this calm and joyful environment. Laugh with the ones you love. Come home to tranquility each evening. Start and end the day in stillness, serenity and peace.
Don’t forget that the world is an incredible place.
In a culture brimming with fear, it’s easy to forget that the world is a miraculous, friendly place filled with caring and kind people just like you, but it is. It really is.