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Under Siege

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I feel under siege, everything feels like an emergency from the fear we're on the cusp of a World War to the fact I missed my dentist appointment and he's going to charge me for it. Why am I so strung out?

I'm sure in the past I wasn't this panicked. Back then when kids played in the yard, dad came home, put on his slippers while Spot the dog brought him the papers and Mom was cooking up a meatloaf that couldn't be beat. Maybe back then we were all in our right minds. But now there's no time to stop and smell the meatloaf - the busy-ness is too busy, frazzling us all.

These days if mom is making a meatloaf, she's furious because she just got back from the office after working 12 hours straight plugged into her computer, a slave to her inbox. The more she answers, the more they breed into the thousands and now she has to cook a meatloaf? There is no rest. Where the hell is her husband? Why can't he do it? After dinner she reads that the meatloaf will eventually clog your veins with fat and kill you. On top of this new scare story she is already worrying that the kids are on ketamine or cutting themselves because of the pressure of getting into Oxford by the time they're 13. In this world our innocent little brains are never at rest from wave after wave of shock and horror. If you sit down at the TV what will you see? I'm not talking about some vampire death orgy TV show where everyone's necks get sucked out by the first ad break. That's a great show and really no different from old West shootouts we used to watch as kids.

I'm talking about the news. If God forbid you accidentally hit a news channel, you will be invited to see, in close up, not just a report there's been a plane crash but the camera goes right into the homes, up the stairs, into the bathrooms of the victims' relatives for a close up as they cry into the lens and plead to their dead loved ones. It seems to have become really important that we don't just hear about a disaster, we have to be close enough to smell it. Now the camera has to film the corpses then pan up into a close up of a wailing mother.

Finally, we snap back to the newscaster with smiling teeth on top of an exposed cleavage the length of the Nile giving us "What a tragedy, the victims suffered ninth degree burns and some limbs were found 3,000 miles away from the wreckage. A dog was heard barking and that's the news for tonight, see you tomorrow morning where we'll chose the final entrée for pie of the week." You are left shaken and mortified from seeing all the suffering and your little brain registers that pain as if it happened to your own children.

We all have mirror neurons that pick up other people's suffering, this is why everyone cries at the same time in a cinema. If you don't believe me, just try sitting in front of the screen of Toy Story turn around and watch what the audience does when the girl cowboy sings. Wonderfully, frustratingly, terrifyingly, we're all in this together. The madness will continue until we realise we have to stop looking, turn off the TV, burn the newspapers when there's some hope, privacy and only watch things we can do something about rather than sit helpless watching the disasters unfold.

I'm on tour again this autumn with Sane New World - my guide to keeping sane in a busy world. You can also catch me in Edinburgh at the Assembly Rooms 1 - 7 August. Full details are over on my website.

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