Trum­p­less days an eye opener

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - OPIN­ION - JOHN M. RICHARD­SON Dr. John M. Richard­son is an au­thor, high school teacher and ad­junct pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­sity of Ot­tawa Fac­ulty of Ed­u­ca­tion.

So, 2018 wasn’t the eas­i­est year for me. To para­phrase a fa­mous novel we teach in grade 10, it was the best and worst of times.

On one hand, a mar­riage, two births, teenagers un­fold­ing into mag­nif­i­cent adults, happy times in my high school class­room, the love of a good wife and rude health. On the other hand, an empty nest, two deaths, and the creep­ing sense of drift, en­nui and pur­pose­less­ness that can ac­com­pany mid­dle age.

Col­laps­ing into Christ­mas break, or more specif­i­cally, top­pling from my front door onto my couch on the af­ter­noon of Fri­day, Dec. 21, I re­al­ized that the mo­ment had come for rad­i­cal change. I needed some­thing to in­spire me to re­gain my old zest for life.

My so­lu­tion? I would stop read­ing Trump news for two weeks. In­stead, I would spend time with fam­ily, read books, binge-watch Nar­cos: Mex­ico, and eat.

Here is what I learned from my Trump ad­vent de­tox:

1. I re­al­ized that I had be­come a Trump news junkie. Like many peo­ple, I am shocked, agog, dis­mayed, dis­gusted and, yes, mes­mer­ized by the or­ange-hued real es­tate mogul and his hap­less, self-in­ter­ested at­tempts at tack­ling the world’s most com­plex job. My days be­gan with a dizzy­ing se­ries of CNN videos and my free time was punc­tu­ated by dopamine-in­duc­ing scans of news sites and sud­den, head­long dives into the ran­dom rab­bit holes of on­line cov­er­age. Will Mueller find a smok­ing gun? Will Trump be forced to cough up his tax re­turns? Does Me­la­nia love him? End­lessly pon­der­ing these ques­tions left me feel­ing list­less.

2. I saw that I am in dan­ger of los­ing the abil­ity to read in a sus­tained fash­ion. As Maryanne Wolf writes in Proust and the Squid: The Story and Sci­ence of the Read­ing Brain, there is no sin­gle sec­tion of the wal­nut-shaped or­gan de­voted to read­ing. Ev­ery­one who learns to read lays down a unique neu­ral path­way link­ing dis­parate parts of the brain.

3. I came to see that just about noth­ing truly im­por­tant ever re­ally hap­pens. When my Trump black­out be­gan on Sun­day, Dec. 22, the U.S. fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down had just started over Trump’s de­mands that Congress fund his wall. When I laid eyes upon the news again on Sun­day, Jan. 6, the shut­down con­tin­ued. Closely track­ing Trump ex­posed me to the vi­cis­si­tudes of his po­lit­i­cal life but lit­tle else.

4. I learned that read­ing about Trump keeps the weight off. Like a smoker try­ing to quit, I re­placed head­line-check­ing with de­vour­ing bricks of sharp Welsh ched­dar, slabs of nutty Jarls­berg and wedges of creamy Edam. I sup­ple­mented eat­ing cheese with munch­ing choco­late.

I have emerged from my per­son­ally im­posed, cold-tur­key Trump re­hab a changed man. I feel calmer, bet­ter rested, bet­ter read and more bal­anced. I am also about five pounds heav­ier.

Darn you, Don­ald Trump! You re­ally will be the death of me, one way or an­other.

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