Friday, March 26, 2021

31. The World Is Not Ending Tomorrow...

...But If It Is I’m Going Down Laughing.

Some of my earliest memories was local NBC news and watching anchorwoman Kelly Lange tell us that Southern California was going to suffer a massive earthquake at some point during the 1970s that would cause massive death and destruction.  I lost a lot of sleep worrying about it.  The earthquake never happened.  

As mentioned in Lesson 38, I also heard a lot about the Manson Family running around Los Angeles planning to come into my room and kill me at night.  I lost a lot of sleep worrying about it.  The Family never came.  

In the 1980s, an overzealous and excitable relative of mine sat me down and told me how President Reagan and the Russians were building nuclear arms that would be sure to result in massive death and destruction. I lost a lot of sleep worrying about it.  The war never happened. 

Throughout the late 1990s the media focused on the Y2K frenzy. It prophesied that the changing of numbers in the the Christian calendar would result in financial and nuclear calamities all across the globe resulting in, you guessed it, massive death and destruction. I lost some sleep worrying about it.  The meltdown never happened.      

After September 11, 2001, the U.S. government had us believing that terrorists in Iraq were actively building nuclear arms with the intention of destroying more American lives. They used charts and graphs and red alerts to create confusion and widespread panic that massive death and destruction would be a regular way of American life. I doubted the validity of this, and didn't lose much sleep about it.  The ensuing violence (100+ murders per day for the past 20 years) came primarily from U.S. citizens, not “foreigners.”

After November 8, 2016, many of my close friends feared that the Election of Donald Trump spelled death for us all.  They paniced.  I slept.   

When COVID19 hit New York City in 2020 I took a break, I believed from watching the news that I might die.  So I slept a lot.  I made a will.  I did a lot of walking.  I ate a lot of pizza.  I watched the entire series of “Mom” at least four times.  I laughed out loud.  And I’m still here. 

I have been told everyday of my fifty years that massive calamity is going to kill me and frankly, I'm done. I am tired of losing energy and sleep to sensationalized catastrophes intended to hurt and scare me. The media, the government, the weather reports, my crazy relatives, Facebook hysterics, have all lost credibility with me in the fear department.  Or to paraphrase Cher in Mask, “If I dug my grave every time you geniuses told me I was going to die I’d be eating fucking chop suey by now.”

As I’m writing this there are 24/7 news networks reporting that I could die tomorrow from gun violence, domestic terrorists, COVID19 variants, and if they don’t kill me first then climate change or an early stroke surely will.  The intention behind magnifying catastrophic mass death and destruction is transparently ugly. Scare the masses, and they will be easily controlled. They will spend money on products they don't need, they will raise children with fear, they will get sick from fear, and then their bodies will need medicines and drugs to deal with the consequences of the fear. 

Every day and night in my therapy practice I see my own news:  People who have survived childhood violence learning how to value themselves and others;  people who have lost friends and family to COVID19 volunteering to help others in need;  gay men who have lost their friends to AIDS and COVID19 rebuilding connections and trusting touch again;  couples who have been in lock down demonstrating extraordinary patience and forgiveness; individuals who have considered suicide finding meaning and hope for their future.  These are the news stories that I witness every day,  a far cry from the "stories" the networks want you to know about.  My news show wouldn't get very high ratings, it wouldn't get a lot of clicks, but it is nevertheless deeply calming and rewarding.  
The world is not ending. Not today, not tomorrow.  I am not deferring my mental health to any person or media outlet that tries to tell me otherwise.  Will bad things happen? Inevitably. But fifty years has taught me that I have no ability to predict or control the events that affect me the most, and I've gotten pretty good at surviving the sad things that actually do happen. If I'm wrong and get murdered tomorrow, then I intend to go down well rested, with pizza in my stomach, with laughter in my heart.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist helping individuals and couples enjoy life with peace, purpose, and pleasure. His books "Absolutely Should-less" and "Rational Relating" help people experience connection with joy, serenity, and meaning. His work has been featured on CNN Health, The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today and more. He can be reached at or 347-227-7707

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