I’ve never been all that good at unplugging.

Last week, thanks to a faulty battery in my phone and some holiday traffic on Michigan Avenue, I was forced to spend a bit of time disconnected and without an electronic fix. This time though, the minor inconvenience turned out to be majorly beneficial.

It was one of those cold days in Chicago when the windows on jam-packed buses fog up so you can barely make out anything on the other side of the glass. After a long lunch with a friend and a few stops to finish shopping for everyone on this year’s “nice” list, I hopped aboard a 3 to make my way down Michigan Avenue and back home to meet my husband who’d been out of town for a few days.

I grabbed a seat toward the back of the bus, and as is my usual modus operandi, I opened the Facebook app to keep myself busy during the commute home. The post at the top of my feed was a friend in Berlin reporting that he and his wife were “safe.” It was both comforting and unnerving to read. Between lunch and my errands, I’d been away from any news outlets for several hours. What were they safe from? I quickly opened the Washington Post app and skimmed the “breaking” story of the Berlin Christmas market attack. I got a few sentences in when my phone shut down. My battery was dead.

Since I’d forgotten to recharge the extra battery I keep in my purse, I was forcibly “unplugged.”

I wish I could report that I took it in stride, but I didn’t. I cursed.

Then I took a deep breath. And then I took a few more deep breaths.

Before the next stop, I quickly cycled through several pretty intense emotions. I was elated my friends were not in harm’s way. I was frustrated that I couldn’t learn more about the attack. And I was frightened.

Alone on a crowded bus, I couldn’t reach out to anyone I loved because my phone was dead. I couldn’t distract myself with something else because my phone was dead. I couldn’t do a deep dive into that attack to fill my head with facts because my phone was dead. I was stuck. I was stuck on a city bus with my thoughts, forced to process a slew of emotions while surrounded by bundled-up strangers. (Translation: I had to attempt to keep it together.)

Sadly, it wasn’t that hard to keep it together because the fear I felt wasn’t unfamiliar. It’s a feeling that I’ve become accustomed to. Haven’t you? It’s that fear that creeps in each time there’s a terrorist attack somewhere far away. It’s the fear that shows up every time there’s a shooting nearby. It’s the fear that’s been simmering, for me, since the election. It tries to convince me to stop reading the news. It tempts me to stay safe inside my bubble. It wants me to bury my head and ignore the violence, injustice, bigotry, hate, division and hurt splashed across the headlines every day. It suggests that I blame others and lash out and point fingers. It wants me to stay quiet, and isolated, and insulated.

I sat on the bus that afternoon watching each stop roll by. The traffic gave me some time to think. The quiet gave me some time to reflect. Being forcibly unplugged turned out to be an opportunity.

Here’s what I came up with…

  1. I’m going to keep reading and watching and educating myself, and I hope you do too. Even if some of the stories make us angry or frustrated or scared, we have to stay informed. We have to listen, we have to be discerning, we have to be considerate. Knowledge is powerful and motivating.
  2. I’m going to keep finding the good, Mr. Rogers style. Even though so many news stories focus on the bad, there is still good happening in our world. People are still finding ways to do good and to be good. Remembering that good, highlighting that good, and celebrating that good will keep us all sane even when the world feels crazy. The positive stories can serve as fuel to keep us energized.
  3. I’m going to act. I’m going to be a part of projects like One20.Today. I’m going to find ways to be the positive stories. I’m going to make a difference in my community and encourage others to do the same.

I’m going to keep finding the good, Mr. Rogers style.

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I’ve never really been a new year’s resolution sort of gal. I’ve always believed if you know you want to make a change, why wait? So I started right away. Well, I started once I got home and recharged my phone’s battery.

 

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