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On the morning of my dad’s 80th birthday, the kids and I sent him a happy birthday video before school.
We live in different countries and couldn’t be together for his birthday, so I felt a bit sad. It was raining, and I decided to stay home and write. I fed the cats, made some peace tea, and lit a few candles. I snuggled up on the couch with my laptop and notepad.
Then, I saw a status on my newsfeed from someone who was feeling anxious about the “outbreak of war in Europe.”
I’m in Europe. We don’t have wars here anymore.
I looked outside.
It was still raining.
I scrolled down, and I saw another status saying “God help us all, it’s really happening.”
I decided to check it out.
I looked at the news. I knew there was something going on between Russia and Ukraine, but I don’t follow the news too closely, and it had never been a focal point in my thoughts.
I told myself, do not engage.
Do not engage in speculation.
My family is no stranger to war. My grandad was an RAF pilot who fought in World War II. He was shot down somewhere in the Middle East and was hospitalized in Cairo while my grandma was giving birth to my dad.
My dad was a war baby.
He was born in 1942.
There can’t be a war in Europe in 2022.
When I was little I found the news so boring.
I didn’t understand why everyone didn’t want to just watch cartoons.
The news was serious…and sad.
Cartoons were silly and made me laugh.
I always wondered why grown-ups wanted to sit and listen to someone talk about all the bad things that happen in the world.
I understood after some time that there is a certain advantage to keeping abreast of current affairs, so I would dip in now and then so that I looked like I knew what I was talking about at dinner parties.
But I still feel very much the same.
I don’t fill up too much on all the bad stuff that is happening unless it’s quite necessary.
I tell myself, do not engage.
Do not engage in negativity.
But I needed to know what was happening. And after reading BBC news and RT news, I went back to my social pages, and I became caught up in the throes of a full-on social media panic attack.
People mentioning World War III and referring to nuclear weaponry were the ones that stood out and called for the most attention. I know nuclear war is unlikely, that it is in the interest of everyone concerned to keep that a loosely veiled threat rather than an actual possibility.
But World War III? It’s not impossible.
I thought to myself, “Well, if European countries did start falling like dominos under the swish of an iron curtain, here in Portugal, we would be one of the last ones.”
We are one of the farthest frontiers of mainland Europe.
The situation is bad, terrifying for those more closely involved. And it’s certainly escalating.
“What is war mummy?”
My mind goes into overdrive.
What if this eventually escalates into World War III and goes on for years? My children will be 18 and 16 in nine years. They will be young men.
What if they get drafted into a war?
I tell myself, do not engage.
Do not engage in fear.
But they are my babies.
I keep thinking about that quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
We all know what that means.
It sends shivers down my spine now.
“Am I going to war mummy?”
Do not engage.
Please, do not engage.
“Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?’ Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, ‘Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?'” ~ Pema Chödrön
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