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WARNING: It's Cold!

It is cold today - as in really cold. Our little weather station outside reads -7 degrees Fahrenheit, adding the caveat “feels like -17.”

Oh, is that so?

At least we had plenty of time to prepare for this cold snap. Four days ago, the My Radar app started sending me alerts. Winter Weather Advisory! It would warn me, “Expires in 4 days and 13 hours.” We bought food (we were buying food anyway), finished up our barn-house roof, and planned to check on the animals more than once a day.

And like clockwork, on the appointed day and hour, the cold and wind set in.

Last summer too, there was a tornado watch in our area. My phone alerted me and then immediately un-alerted me (“Tornado watch ended”) every ten minutes for the entire afternoon that a tornado was in my location’s 50-mile range.

I also receive several “Breaking News” alerts a day from the New York Times. Almost always, at least one of them is about ex-Pres Trump’s taxes or subpoenas, the other about a soccer score or tech billionaire’s shenanigans.

And then this afternoon, I received this:

Maybe it is just me, but I seem to recall a time not so long ago when we weren’t “alerted” to everything in such a dramatic way. When extreme weather played out and didn’t receive a name like a Bomb Cyclone or Atmospheric River. There was a period of time when “Breaking News” was only a periodic occurrence, a term used sparingly when a news event was in progress and was of the utmost importance.

To be fair, it is supposed to be the coldest Christmas in the Midwest in 40-years, according to ABC TV, which actually is newsworthy. And having time to prepare, particularly in a world when weather is becoming more severe, is a great thing.

But we have to recognize that the urgent verbiage attached to so much in our lives takes a toll on our bodies and minds, especially because there is so little we can do to change the situation. The past few years of political and economic chaos and COVID were plagued with not only intense events but with a language of immediacy. We must act NOW! And use lots of exclamation marks to express our own pressing emotions!!!!

No wonder we are a nation, and a world, full of anxiety. The World Health Organization credits COVID with a 25% rise in anxiety and depression. Phobias, panic attacks, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and post-traumatic stress — are all on the rise. Kids and teens are experiencing stress, depression, and anxiety at all-time highs too.

I get it: “bomb cyclone” makes people click on your weather report, when “high winds and intense cold” might not. But what if we all took the language down a few notches? Instead of preoccupying ourselves with the up-to-the-second urgency of the news, we could call our neighbors to make sure they are prepared.

We could let each other know where to call in an emergency and maybe set up plans together as to how we will deal with disaster if and when it strikes. Then maybe we’d sleep well at night again, regardless of the weather outside.

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