Reasons Why I Need to Stop Living Under a Rock

Reasons Why I Need to Stop Living Under a Rock

One of my biggest weaknesses is my inability to process current events in a healthy way. I know what you’re thinking – this is a pretty terrible weakness to have in 2022. Nonetheless, my profound dislike of politics and the media runs deep. Whenever anyone around me starts debating about things like coronavirus or politics, I do this really weird thing where I completely close my ears off to any incoming sound. Meanwhile, I  keep my face in a frozen smile. Sometimes, this ears-closed-thing feels like a special talent, except that I’m unable to apply it to more worthwhile endeavors, like blocking out snoring sounds when I’m trying to fall asleep.


My tortured relationship to current affairs makes my life a little limited. For example, the fact that I majored in European History at an Ivy League school now makes me wonder if college was a complete waste of time (sorry, Dad!). I dread going out to dinner with strangers, who love to talk about the only thing we all have in common: that which is going on in the world. I also haven’t watched TV in three years, for fear of the news filling my brain with all sorts of negative realities.


I spent most of my college life learning about humans killing other humans. Now I prefer to crawl under a rock than read about it.


I’m aware enough of myself to know that this crawling-under-a rock business is simply a defense mechanism. Lately, though, it feels like I’ve been spending way too much time in hiding. I still recall an unusually cold February day two years ago when a friend came over to my house for coffee and said:


“This Coronavirus thing is really something, is isn’t it?”


And I just looked back at her with a totally blank face.


(A month later, we were in lockdown).


I hit an all-time living-under-a-rock low last weekend, when I came home feeling particularly happy after a spectacular 3-hour viewing of The Batman. It’d been a while since I sat in a dark theater and became completely engrossed in a well-written movie. By the time I got home, my head (and heart) was still in Gotham city.


“Mami, is it true?” my ten-year old said as I tucked her into bed. “Is it true that we might be at war with Russia soon?”


And I just looked back at her with a totally blank face.


“You have nothing to worry about, Sofi,” I said. “Russia doesn’t want anything from Spain! War is totally not coming here.”


Since my reassurance came from a deeply authentic place, Sofia was asleep in minutes.


“I don’t know what’s going on with Sofi,” I said to Carlos later that night. “She was all anxious about Spain going to war with Russia…isn’t that ridiculous?”


That’s when Carlos gave me the look. If you’re a normal person and you’ve never been in a situation like this before, let me explain. This is a look crazy people who hide under rocks sometimes get. The look says: You’re my wife and I love you dearly, but seriously, how can you be so ignorant?


“Ukraine is applying to become integrated into the EU,” he said. “And if the EU grants it, that means we’re totally going to war with Russia.”


I think I would’ve been okay if he’d stopped there. But because Carlos loves to talk about doomsday situations, he then went on and on about all the different possible scenarios, including the small (but still possible!) likelihood of imminent human extinction.


By the time he said “nuclear weapons,” I was on the floor, curled up into fetal position, and crying out weepy things like: I love our little family! I still have too many things on my bucket list! So many places to go! So many adventures to live!  


Eventually, I got myself up off the floor. Then I made another donation to World Central Kitchen. Finally, I went downstairs and snuggled into bed with each of my kids. I got real close, counted the freckles on their little noses. Suddenly it was 2am, and I was starting to feel like a crazy person under a rock again.


The next day, I questioned my living-under-a-rock life. Why do I run away at the first news of evil? Why can’t I be more like a normal person, able to understand and process darkness? Being less of a chicken would be good for me. For starters, I could carry on elegant discussions about weird but socially acceptable things like NFTs. I wouldn’t have to fake my way through 99.99% of adult conversations. And I’d probably be a much better role model for my kids.


We’re living in a time where worldwide crises bleed into each other. Each day, the possibility that we’ll extinct ourselves feels less and less surreal. Whether our final days are upon us, I don’t know. Ultimately, I can’t help but think that we’re reaching some sort of tipping point. A highly contagious and unpredictable deadly virus, volatile storms caused by thinning ice caps, nuclear weapons in the hands of an evil dictator…these read like plot points in a thriller, but they’re our day-to-day headlines.


As a writer, I can’t help but try and make sense of our screwed-up existence. Otherwise, what’s the point of it all? My conclusion after five days out from under the rock is that this must be some sort of test, a wake-up call. In The Untethered Soul, philosopher Michael A. Singer encourages to see death as our great teacher. “Learn to live as though you are facing death at all times, and you’ll become bolder and more open. Only then will you have fully experienced life and released that part of you that is afraid of living.” 


When we lived in Boca, Carlos went through a doomsday prepper obsession, an infatuation largely driven by the American media during hurricane season. As a result, our garage was filled with dozens of bags of dried food, flashlights of every kind, backpacks stuffed with survival kits, and various books on how to live in the wild.


Five years later, the dried food expired. The books were lost (or donated?) during one of our million moves. And now the flashlights are all in pieces, thanks to the kids, who love to fish out batteries and never put them back together again.


Even though we briefly considered moving to a remote, undisclosed location during the early Coronavirus months, I think we’ve both now come to terms with the fact that challenging times are here to stay. And there’s really no point in running away.


If a tiny chance of imminent world doom isn’t enough to make us question how we live, then what will?