Trumpless days an eye opener
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.