Don’t Put Off Sleep Until Death

 

A friend is telling me about how her life never seems to slow down.

“I guess I can sleep with I’m dead,” she says.

Laughing, she turns and heads to her car – a four-hour drive is ahead of her for yet hotel bed, another meeting, and another day.

Life has a life of its own if you aren’t careful.

Ask yourself, or anyone else for that matter, if life is moving a bit too fast for comfort. Are we constantly trying to keep up with a schedule rather than pausing with nothing but our thoughts? Or are we so overly committed we find ourselves – absurdly – trying to schedule times to do nothing?

Finding the right balance is difficult. And in today’s world, one where our cell phone is rarely out of reach or text messages blindly intrude into even our most private moments, learning to erect walls or filters is becoming a survival skill.

My friend is not alone. And planning on catching up on sleep when you’re dead can be a dangerous for our health. Even the most finely turned racecar motors run a finite number of hours before having to be torn down and rebuilt. Even long-term stress on high-tensile steel eventually leads to a weakening state. Our bodies and minds are not any different.

I’ll admit I am working hard to intentionally carve out few minutes of each day with the expressed goal of not doing or thinking of anything important. While I’m not sleeping, I am trying to manage a mental balance of work, play, and life. Sometimes these moments are as simple as sitting on the front steps for 5 minutes actively listening for specific sounds – birds, plans, or even the wind pushing through the branches of trees. My phone and the hectic pace of life are, at least for those moments, on pause.

Last year a good friend sent me a book on the concept of mindfulness. He is not too unlike my other who friend who jokingly claimed she was deferring a good night’s sleep until her death. Both are highly driven, remarkably talented, and accomplished in all aspects of life. But to do so, takes balance on their part.

I’m learning is in order to take control of our lives we must first recognize the need to take control of our lives. To not is like driving a car without glancing at the fuel gauge. Eventually, both will run empty – ending in disappointment.

We owe ourselves – and those around us – the effort to pause and periodically redirect our attention. Whether meditation, reading a trashy novel, or getting in few hours of fishing is our idea of escape, we need to remind ourselves doing so is an important investment in ourselves. A life out of balance leads to unpleasant outcomes. Engines seize, fuel tanks run empty – leaving us stranded alongside the road alone and damaged.

Yes, we can all sleep when we’re dead – but no need to rush the appointment.

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Journalists Under Fire

I am a journalist and I am not your enemy.

I never thought I’d be writing the sentence printed above but I find myself motivated not out of fear, but concern for democracy. Furthermore, I’ve never felt so strongly about the role of the press as I do today. Today, possibly more than ever, we need a free and robust press. 

When I was a child, Walter Cronkite reported nightly about the Vietnam War. My first memories are of body counts, grainy black and white images of helicopters, and bloodied soldiers moved around on stretchers. Then in 1968, after years of reporting on the war, Cronkite told the viewers in a rare on-air editorial piece, ‘enough was enough’.

“It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate,” he said. 

Many historians consider this one the most powerful bullets ever fired in the war. The public, armed with a straight-talking source and indisputable facts, began decisively pivoting against the government’s powerful will and entrenched narrative of the necessity for the war. 

A free press was indispensable in 1968. A free press is indispensable in 2017. 

I also do not mean this column to be perceived as a political statement, although recent remarks from President Trump only underscore the urgency of my convictions. The wheels of democracy only function when an independent and free press plays a vital role on behalf of the citizens. And as of late, the future of a free press is being pressured to back down from providing an aggressive role in keeping elected officials and government bodies in check. This is a dangerous road for society – one that leads to a junk yard populated with other societies crushed by the weight of an oppressive government. 

Open discussion, complete a wide range of passionately and differences of opinions, are a hallmark of the American democracy. Collectively we’ve spilled blood, sweat, and tears to pay for this right to disagree. We should be alarmed with anyone tries to erode or belittle our process of airing differences.   

Thomas Jefferson, while developing the architecture of the newly formed government, believed so strongly in this principle he put his words to paper in 1787 to close friend.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” 

If Jefferson were alive today I am confident he’s feel the same passion in today’s world. Social media, 24-hour news cycles, and citizen journalists all play an important role in our democracy – as do an individual’s critical skills to personally vet and challenge what they see, read, and hear. We, the receivers, are the ultimate gatekeepers. 

Power is intoxicating. Human nature is highly questionable. Bad things happen to good people. The press is there to tell dig, uncover, and tell these stories for the public and those who cannot speak for themselves.

I am not your enemy.

– 30-

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Photo Credit: Walter Cronkite conducting an interview in Hue, February 1968. (National Archives and Records Administration)