I’m exhausted

Here’s my February column for the Holland Sentinel…

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by the news.

The House impeachment hearings, the Senate impeachment trial, the 2020 presidential campaign, the Iowa caucuses, the State of the Union address, the daily drama of it all—it’s too much. I find myself talking back to the TV, which can’t be healthy. I do it even if no one else is in the room. I also grumble aloud while reading the newspaper, mostly animal sounds, not actual words. Frankly, I don’t recognize myself anymore.

I did a news cleanse after Christmas and spent a wonderful week in California with my children and grandchildren. I glanced briefly at the headlines in the morning because, well, I get up earlier than anyone else and couldn’t help myself, but I spent most days playing, laughing, and being silly, which seems to delight the grandchildren, if not their parents. I can’t wait until next year.

But now I’m right back to old habits, as if there had been no cleanse and no detox. I don’t dare look away.

I’m old enough to remember the Richard Nixon impeachment drama. I was on the editorial staff of my college newspaper at the time. Hardly an issue went out without an editorial, filled with outrage, calling for Nixon’s impeachment or, even better, his resignation. There were no more surprised people in the country than our tiny staff when the president announced his resignation on August 8, 1974. I forget what there was to editorialize about over the following months.

Strangely, though, I don’t remember feeling stressed by any of that Nixon impeachment drama. What I remember was feeling delighted when Gerald R. Ford became president. The excitement was short-lived, but real. Ford was from my hometown, after all, and he was my Congressman. I had even received a letter from him congratulating me on my high school graduation. (I was somewhat deflated when I found out that all other graduates received the same letter.)

I know I’m not alone in feeling whatever it is I’m feeling these days. The American Psychological Association, in a recent study, found that “the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress” for more than half of Americans (57 percent).

According to a Pew Research Center study, almost seven-in-ten Americans feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days, compared with only three-in-ten who say they like the amount of news they get.

Apparently, people on both ends of the political spectrum express news fatigue, but Republicans report more of it than Democrats. Once again, according to Pew, 77 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Republican-leaning independents feel worn out by it all, while only 60 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Democratic-leaning independents are feeling elevated levels of fatigue.

What’s puzzling about all of this is that I’m feeling so bad at a time when the economy is so good. I should be a lot happier than I am, shouldn’t I? The stock market is up, unemployment is down, and TVs are really, really cheap. It doesn’t get much better than that.

And yet, the stress I feel is real. I wake up each morning wondering what new tweet, accusation, or outrage that I need to be concerned about. I watch the panels of experts on the cable news programs offering their opinions, competing with each other for screen time, and I’m tired of it. Even the late-night talk shows offer mostly political humor, which is hardly relaxing.

I know from previous experience that Sentinel readers will try to be helpful at this point. Suggestions will be offered by email, and personal experiences will be shared. Someone will write and say, “Here is what I have found to be helpful.” “Turn it off entirely,” they will say, “or at least limit screen time, which is what we do with our children (except on Saturday mornings when we want to sleep late).” And all of that would be good advice too, if this were the sort of issue that could be resolved by making a few behavioral changes.

But my sense is that those few behavioral changes are not enough to address this particular problem. The problem is deeper; the causes are more profound. Something is wrong with us, something I can’t quite put my finger on, and it won’t be fixed any time soon, not even with an election.

I am generally a hopeful person, which is different from being an optimistic person. I am able to face each day, no matter the circumstances in my own life or in the country, because my life is grounded in hope. I attribute my hopefulness of course to my faith. But the hope with which I have lived my life has never felt as threatened as it does right now.

Photo: Am not sure what to say about that, except that I sometimes get bored while listening to the docent during castle tours.


About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

10 Responses to I’m exhausted

  1. Susan February 7, 2020 at 8:18 am #

    Thank goodness there is someone with whom we can rely. Keep sharing your thoughts. They are worth hearing and sharing.

  2. Sandra Steffen February 7, 2020 at 8:25 am #

    Couldn’t agree more Doug!!!! Hope this note finds you & Susan well & hopeful as we can be under the circumstances!!!!

  3. Keith Cobb February 8, 2020 at 8:33 am #

    You’re not alone, Doug. I’m also exhausted…….and hoping!

  4. Adriana Madderom February 8, 2020 at 11:10 am #

    In Holland ( not Holland Michigan, but the real Holland…with tulips, wooden shoes, windmills and ‘The Anne Frank House’ in Amsterdam) we were astonished when we heard that Trump
    would be president after Obama. I hope that everyone will see that this man is a narcissus and also a bad actor. He really thinks that money is one of the most important things in life.
    How wrong can a president be? Wake-up America!
    Adriana Madderom

    • Sally Snyder February 9, 2020 at 2:20 pm #

      I am very much awakeSdriana! I am grateful that Trump is our president. America has never been better!!! Look at Nancy Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler and the do-nothings that hate Trump. Do you follow them! If so, WAKE UP.

  5. Douglas Brouwer February 8, 2020 at 7:54 pm #

    Hi Adriana, I don’t know if we’ve met, but am grateful for your comment. I’d love to know how you found my blog. I’ve been to Amsterdam several times and love the city. I come away proud of my heritage.

  6. Georgia Hamilton February 10, 2020 at 1:51 pm #

    Doug, I couldn’t agree more about our political situation! Yesterday I went with a friend to see a one woman show called, “The adult in the Room.” The woman played Nancy Pelosi. Quite informative and timely, I might add. she covered family history, how she came to politics and her position in the House. It ended with a phone call (to her staged office) and while it wasn’t said (that I remember) the audience knew it was a call from her colleagues in the House indicating they were moving forward with the impeachment inquiry.

    all of this to say, while it is all very depressing I do believe we need to be involved in whatever way we are able.

    Good to hear your thoughts!

    • Doug February 10, 2020 at 6:04 pm #

      It’s been a long time! Good to hear from you, Georgia.

  7. sharon February 11, 2020 at 4:40 am #

    Dear Doug, i am so with you about the frustrations of the news, waking up in the morning wondering what tweets ruined, bashed, demoted or insulted someone. It is so horrible. I feel personally attacked. Where is the respect of other people??

    Yes, faith is what carries us from day to day, that is definite! Appreciate your Blog so much. Keep up with the good work!

  8. Marion Robbins February 11, 2020 at 10:55 pm #

    Could it be that Diogenes has found the honest man he was so desperately seeking?
    Could it be that Mitt Romney is that righteous man? (Psalm 112: 1-10)
    If so, it’s a start!