Nancy Roman

Measuring Refuge

A wise friend commiserated with me about the frustration and anger that engulfs me in dealing with some of the awfulness in the world.

I remember an old “Far Side” cartoon. I will not repost it here, because Gary Larson has asked that people not do that, and I respect him too much to go against his wishes. But in this cartoon, the dinosaurs are having a meeting, and the dinosaur keynote speaker says something like,

“The news is bad: The climate is changing, the humans are taking over the world, and we all have brains the size of a walnut.”

That’s often how I feel. The news is bad. It seems unrelentingly bad. And I have a brain the size of a walnut.

I can’t handle the bad news anymore. My walnut brain can’t cope.

But this smart and thoughtful friend gave me some loving, practical advice.

“Take Refuge.”

She didn’t recommend sticking my head in the sand.

“You are a citizen of this world,” she said, “and you have a duty to live in the world and understand what is happening. And deal with it. Participate.

“But you also have a duty to be kind to yourself. Your health – both mental and physical – requires you to protect yourself so that you will be strong enough to participate.

“So, yes, pay attention to the world – but not EVERY MINUTE.

“Take refuge.”

Her advice is transcendent.

I was reminded – and told her this story – of the time I was a teenager and was anguished over some environmental disaster, and my father said to me that I needed to find my composure. “You can’t change anything if everything makes you cry.”

My friend suggested I give myself a break every day – more than once a day – to unplug. (I dislike that word ‘unplug’ by the way, but it is literally the correct word here.)

I need, as my father advised fifty years ago, to find my composure.

So I am seeking refuge.

It’s so hard.

I admit that I am addicted to the news in general, and to Twitter in particular.

I heard someone say that the reason why social media is so addictive is the same reason why gambling is addictive. It is the quest for instant gratification. Your phone chirps and you say, “What did I get?” As if the notification were some kind of prize.

And on top of that, there is the satisfaction of just being “in the know.” I can see every moment what has just happened. I can be the most informed person in the room. And I love that. But of course, it means that I am not noticing anyone else in the room.

It also means that – much of the time – I am the angriest person in the room. Because I am addicted to the news. And I hate the news.

And I need to stop being angry.

So I need to shut off the news.

I need to seek refuge. I’m trying.

I am seeking refuge in books and music.

In writing  – my blog, my next novel.


In nature.


In spending time with my family.

In seeing old friends and making new ones.

In Yoga.

In painting.

athena framed

In enjoying a nice meal, a glass of wine, a cup of good coffee.

But I’m worried about how much refuge will be enough. I still feel such an urgent need to know what is happening. I just popped over to Twitter just now. I fell off the wagon that quickly.

Will a small bit of unplugging be enough? Can I do it?

Today, instead of checking my phone as soon as I got to my car after Yoga class,  I did not look. I made it for forty minutes.

And I did not look at my phone during lunch.

And I read a few chapters of a book at the hairdresser.

I feel anxious and unsettled. I NEED to know.

But here is what I am hoping.

I am hoping that those few moments of refuge will eventually calm me, not agitate me.

I am hoping that it will add up.

I am hoping that refuge is cumulative.


Dog kisses. Better than Twitter.




  1. This is good advice. Your critters can help. The news is mostly depressing and angering, but taking a break from it for a few days (!) can be a great relief. For example, I am going off to a language immersion weekend in an area with very little access to the media and theoutside world. It will be a relief and a great joy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember years ago going on a business retreat in the mountains of Colorado. There were no TVs and no cell phone reception. I thought I would die the first day… and I loved it the remainder of the week.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have said the same thing in my blogs. One cannot handle it all. Control it all. Understand it all. Maybe it’s because I’m older but I’m done trying to fix the world. I fix the problems I can around me, love and support who I can, and let the world do its thing. It’s too hard otherwise.


    • I know I cannot change the world, and everything I read just reinforces my impotence. I need to let the world go on without me – just for while.


  3. Dear Nancy, nowadys, news is filled with negative news. It is so because people are more interested in the what’s not working well. And the software companies figure out what you like watching and show you more of the similar thing !! So the best way to not see negative news is not watch negative news ! There are so many things which are going well. You can subscribe to good news (DailyGood), virtuesforlife (etc) to see the positve sides of life. It will help create a better balance for you, With Love, Preeti


    • Thank you, Preeti, you have wise advice. And it’s true that social media will just serve me up more of what distresses me.


  4. divaforaday

    your dad sounds both wise and kind, but then, is there ever wisdom without kindness?


    • Yes, my father was both wise and kind. He seemed proud that I cared so much, but wanted me to see that I needed to step back and stay objective if I wanted to be effective.


  5. About 4 minutes of news a week is my limit! We have become coffee snobs – meaning I want my coffee in a ceramic mug/cup, I want to sit and enjoy it, not rush off to something else.
    Love your post!


    • Thanks. I also love my coffee, and I often go out alone and enjoy some good coffee in a peaceful setting. And sometimes I send out word to a few friends about where I will be – having my coffee – and often someone shows up to join me. Which is sweet indeed.


  6. Mary

    I have felt like you, swamped by the bad whichever way I look. I too want to know whats going on. So now I limit myself to the headlines in the papers and on tv. This has to suffice.


    • I will try to wean myself off the bad news drug a few minutes, a few hours, at a time. I want to be aware, but not in a constant state of anguish.


  7. Hearing the news can be depressing, so much hate, so much pain and we wonder why


    • I don’t understand the hate. And it overwhelms me.


  8. Donna Walsh

    I love your drawing of Lillian (I think it’s Lillian). You are such a good artist. And I love the picture of Theo kissing you. You both look simply gorgeous!


    • Thanks… it’s actually Athena. She is like a little Lillian. And I will admit to using a filter for that photo of Theo and I.


  9. Oh, I so understand and resonate with this post!!! I feel unsafe if I don’t check the news literally every hour…what if something happened? What if we are war? What if the grid is going down? What if…. I think that we gain the illusion of control by being “in touch”. Trying very hard to disconnect and step back, but it is so hard! Thanks for this encouraging post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes! You have hit it EXACTLY. The illusion of control! I had a difficult time describing my anxiety – but that is at the root. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Spending a few minutes rubbing my dog’s belly is mutually beneficial. I slow down, take deep breaths, and he is in pure bliss.


    • How I love feeling my dog’s warm body up against me. It comforts me more than I could have imagined.


  11. Lovely post Nancy. I stopped listening to the news because it was having a negative impact on me. I choose to disconnect from certain things in order to reconnect to the things that bring me joy. Love your beautiful painting of the cat too.


    • Thank you. Painting and writing bring me the joy of creation. I’m glad you like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You can do it! It’s probably a lot like stopping smoking. News is as addictive as anything else. My husband is a news junkie and the TV is on all the time when he’s here. I retreat to the bedroom. I like to watch the morning news and the evening news and that’s it. I figure all the important stuff I need to know will be there. But social media..that I need to figure out how to spend less time on that.


    • Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and especially Twitter… they are taking huge chunks of my time that could be so much better spent.


  13. Nancy, You are preaching to the choir. I have bee overwhelmed with the horrors that are happening in the world. Lately they have been hitting very close to home. The past two days have seen me in front of one screen or another weeping uncontrollably. I can’t get my head around it, but as I talked about in my post from yesterday, can you imagine being a kid and trying to figure this stuff out? We all need refuge.


    • It must be truly frightening to be a kid today. And how in the world will we explain all this to really small children?

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for this. Refuge is cumulative. I, too, wondered at first if a little yoga here, a few pages of a good book there, sauna time and dancing was enough, but after a year of slipping away for a little bit every day, my answer is YES. All of it counts and it will save us and give us time and energy to keep creating. Last year I felt like I was riding in someone else’s car, but now I’m driving again and keeping my focus on the good stuff most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Riding in someone else’s car – and that someone is often out of control. That’s how it feels. With no brakes on the passenger side.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I think taking refuge is an excellent idea. I am always amazed at home many people don’t watch the news (or read it) at all. I think we do need to have at least a general idea of what is going on. But never before have we had so much information, from all over the world, coming at us at once. And it can be too much to process without becoming depressed and angry.
    So taking a break now and then from the internet (all forms), choosing a particular time of day to tune into the news, and focusing on the things we can control helps, I think. It also helps to remember that those who bring us the news want to up their readership or views, so they tell us the worst news in the worst possible way. It helps me to remember that there is lots of good stuff going on too, and that there has never been a time in history when there wasn’t lots of bad stuff going on. And often even worse than what we are facing now. So, for me, perspective does help. Great post!!!


    • Darn, I meant “how many people.” I really need to read my comments before I hit “post!” Sorry about that….


  16. Before the internet we got news in the morning and evening from the newspapers, hourly on the radio and on television at night. These days I don’t even watch/read it that often. I can’t and wouldn’t want to avoid hearing about important events but I don’t feel I need a constant stream of news. I think it would make me too depressed and angry. When I do want the news I want the unbiased facts and much of what passes for news now is actually opinion. I don’t do Twitter, I did briefly but decided it was not for me, but I don’t see it as being a source of factual news. I think that your father and your friend are right and you need to find a balance. Like any bad habit try to cut down gradually but allow yourself access to the real, honest truthful news not the opinion stuff. I like the idea of subscribing to a good news feed too if you really must have news 24/7. Personally I’d rather listen to the birds in my garden than most media people.


  17. Pam

    Lovely post, Nancy!

    I have always been a news junkie. My friends at college used to make fun of me because I would go down to the student lounge where the TV was and watch the evening news by myself (a long time ago). It reminded me of home and was comforting to see the familiar newscasters and hear about the goings-on of the day while I was in class all day. I just need to know what’s going on in the outside world. I guess I am able to cope because I don’t see myself as responsible for the bad things that happen, maybe. But I still have the need to know what happened even if it’s bad news. I don’t understand the hate, either! It does bother me some, but like you said, I seek refuge doing many of the same things you do. It’s necessary.
    I love the picture of you and Theo! Nothing like the comfort of a warm dog.


  18. I agree totally! I am also one of those people who needs to know everything that’s happening in the world. It seems now days all the news is awful and the negativity is really getting to me. I am going to take your wise father’s advise and compose myself by Unplugging for at least a few hours a day. How hard can it b, right?


  19. you are really great. i agreed with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. thanks


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