A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
I hate to admit it, but yesterday’s bombings in Brussels hit me extra hard. I was sitting here yesterday morning, looking for a picture in the archives, when the news flash came across my screen. I wasn’t surprised. Police have been focusing on Belgium since the Paris attacks in November. At the moment, it seemed just another sad facet of the increasingly violent reality in which we live. Push forward. Keep going.
There was something different this time, though; something I have more difficulty explaining. Kat and I were having a rare quiet lunch at one of our favorite Mass Ave. restaurants and instead of enjoying the brief moment without children I couldn’t shake the feeling that something in the universe had changed that morning, and not for the better. There was an emotional shift toward that feeling of impending doom. This was before I heard of the Peruvian mother of three-year-old twins who died at the ticket counter. Neither had I seen the pictures and videos of broken glass and strewn bodies. Brussels, somehow, was different.
Be sure, security forces around the world are on heightened alert and I don’t expect they’ll be too friendly with anyone they see wearing only one glove as yesterday’s suspected bombers did. At almost exactly the same time, without knowledge of the Brussels attacks, the US military conducted an airstrike against an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula training camp in Yemen. If we’re counting body bags, we killed more of them than they did us. Is this feeling of doom really necessary and warranted?
Politics isn’t helping. The US presidential primary race has done a very good job of demonstrating the Dilbert principle of the least qualified rising to the top. If Scott Adams were to illustrate the current nominees, he’d have nothing but a row of pointy-haired bosses lined up making excuses and blaming everyone else for all the world’s problems, making the most bizarre and nonsensical statements, each trying to outdo the other’s stupidity. Given that from this set of clowns we are destined to choose our next president, it is difficult to imagine the next four years going in a positive direction.
Top that with tensions in East Asia. Every time North Korea lobs another set of missiles into the Sea of Japan or China sends warships into portions of the South China Sea claimed by Japan, I get nervous. I have a son stationed on one of the bases in Okinawa. It doesn’t take a great military strategist to figure out that should tensions escalate into actual fighting, our first line of defense, and offense, is going to come from those bases. Marines have a history of being the first into a situation. That does not give me any comfort at the moment.
My dreams last night played off this feeling of impending doom. In my dreams, I was supposed to be on a multi-city European photography tour, but I missed my flight at one of the stops and was stuck in, of all places, Brussels. The dreams weren’t necessarily horrific in any way; they centered on the frustration of not being able to find anyone who could help me catch up with the group. But that challenge of not being able to find help when it was needed lasted all night long. I was rather relieved when my alarm went off.
So, how do we shake this feeling of impending doom? We all know that we can’t be productive with such negative emotions dominating our lives. Is this just common anxiety run amok? If so, Kat’s continual charge that I need to chill would seem to be appropriate. Oh, but did you know that physical issues such as cardiac arrhythmia and myocardial infarction can also cause one to have feelings of impending doom? Ah, and apparently too much Nutmeg can cause hallucinations and feelings of impending doom. Anything that interrupts the natural, steady heart rate can result in us feeling as though the entire world is about to end. I’ll be sure to take my blood pressure meds this morning.
Beyond all that, though, I think we have to take control of the information we receive and how we respond to those things we cannot control. I have a list of things that I think might help. Mind you, I’m not a medical or psychiatric professional, but a quick survey of materials didn’t give me much faith in the ability of professionals to address the situation, either. So, let’s go with this and see what happens.
- Limit the amount of news intake. I’ll admit to being a news junkie and there are times when I can stayed glued to news feeds for hours. Now is not a good time to do that. I’m limiting myself to twice a day, no more than 30 minutes each time. Your limits may vary.
- Spend time with people, live, in person. Now is not the time to be a social hermit. We see the worst in people when our only exposure to them is Facebook. Having real conversations with people helps restore our faith in humanity as a whole.
- Give a pet a rub, unless your pet is a goldfish, in which case just watching is probably enough. Pets have a wonderful way of absorbing our anxieties, giving us a chance to relax a moment, get our breathing back on a normal pattern, and giving us a positive feeling.
- Indulge in a comfort food. Singular. One. Mine will be chocolate. While this isn’t a good time to overeat, the pleasure of a comfort food releases happy little endorphins that boosts our moods and gives us a more hopeful feeling.
- Go for a walk. Again, it’s that combination of removing yourself from those stressors, getting some exercise, and being out in nature. Precautions might be appropriate for those who have allergy issues this time of year, though. Sneezing and runny noses don’t help.
- Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. I know, every health professional on the planet just screamed in anguish at that one. Let’s get real, though. If we’re all going to die (and we are), we want to feel in control of what takes us there. The pain of lung cancer is preferable to being a bombing victim because we’re the ones in control. Yes, it’s a bad habit and you really should stop. But a couple of puffs of a pipe or a good cigar can be therapeautic. And if you’re smoking green rather than brown, all the better.
if none of those work, then perhaps it’s time to consult a professional. I would recommend starting with your family doctor. Cardiac issues really do impact our emotional state and feelings of impending doom. We can shake this, though. If we don’t, we seal our own fate.