Monday, April 11, 2011

Lesson #15: The World Is Not Ending

One of my earliest memories was watching the NBC news in Los Angeles and seeing anchorwoman Kelly Lange tell me that Southern California was going to suffer a massive earthquake at some point during the 1970s that would cause massive death and destruction.  The earthquake never happened.  I lost a lot of sleep.

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.  The war never happened.  I lost a lot of sleep.

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 destructive.  The meltdown never happened.  I lost some sleep, but not a lot.

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 widespread panic that massive death and destructive would be a regular way of American life.  I didn't lose much sleep.

I have been told everyday of my forty years on this planet that massive calamity is going to kill me and everyone I know, and frankly, I'm over it.  I am tired of losing energy and sleep to a piece of fiction that is intended to hurt and scare me.  The media, the government, the weather reports, my crazy relatives, have all lost credibility with me in the tragedy department.  I am completely absolved of buying into their hysteria and fear.

So now, when I get a load of the latest catastrophic craze called "2012," all I can do is snicker.  The question, "What's the point?" is completely rhetorical, because the goal of predicting mass death and destruction is so transparently ugly.  Scare the masses, and they will be easily controlled.  They will vote with fear, they will pray with fear, they will spend money with fear, they will raise children with fear, and then their bodies will need medicines to deal with the consequences of the fear.  Period.

The "news" has never served any purpose except to instruct me how terrible things could get.  My "news" is very different.  I live in a city where I see acts of kindness, grace, and resilience every day.  I witness people on the subway giving up seats for one another, helping each other with directions.  Two days ago a woman came after me in a subway station after I dropped one of my gloves.  This is a far cry from the New York City the media wants you to know about. 

At my last job in an outpatient drug clinic, I witnessed my own "news" every day.  I saw mothers give up drugs in order to raise their children.  I saw men learn to use words to express anger instead of their fists.  I saw two dozen adults vote for the first time in the 2008 Presidential Elections.  And I saw people making conscientious choices every day to give up harmful addictive behavioral patterns in favor of more serene and gratifying ways of living.  This is the "news" that I know, and the "news" you will never see on CNN.

The world is not ending.  Not today, not tomorrow, not in 2012.  Will bad things happen? Inevitably.  But forty years has taught me that I have no ability to predict or control the events that hurt me the most, and I'm pretty good at handling the sad things that do happen.  If I'm wrong and get blown up tomorrow, then at least I'll die well rested with low blood pressure.  What do you think?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

**If you are in the New York City area, please come to Damon's "Fabulous at Forty" workshop on Monday, April 25th, at 8pm, at 208 W. 13th Street, Room 410**

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