I keep seeing things about the shutdown that took place two years ago. The world was shaken by a virus that shut everything down around this time. One thing I’ve seen which is of note is the comment that reads, “Two years ago, this was our last normal week together and nobody knew it.”
Today’s date is March 11, 2022. I am sitting across from my usual side of the country and taking notes on how to build a better mousetrap. Of course, I say this more figuratively than literally. My aim to improve are matched by my need to adapt to my surroundings. Then again, physical needs often take precedence over the needs of the mind. For example, let’s look at the way we dress. Let’s look at the importance of the external. “Optics are everything,” right?
Years ago, an old friend used to tell me to live fast and bury a beautiful corpse. Spring ahead to approximately 30 years later, this person is still alive but hardly.
We often lose ourselves. I suppose this is the point of my entry with you today. Perhaps this is the root of all my journal entries. We lose ourselves on a daily basis and unless we find a way to stay grounded, we can easily be washed away by the common insanities that we call life.
I recall a friend who used to try and convert me to his religion. He used to tell me that it is within us to sin. He would say that, “Unless you leash your tongue or crucify your flesh on a daily basis, it is within us to sin.”
I think of this more from a personal perspective.
Keeping away from the religious debates, I agree. Unless we take care of ourselves on a daily basis, it is within us to unravel.
By the way, let’s take this from a different perspective. What I mean is, nobody ever thinks it will be them. No one ever thinks that it will be them who lose their mind. Nobody expects to freak out or cause a scene. When it happens or when we lose out mind as a result of life on life’s terms, most people look back at themselves and wonder, “Where the hell did I go wrong?”
I can tell you where I went wrong but hey, hindsight is always 20/20.
And just to add color, what does that mean?
Hindsight being 20/20 means that it’s easy to have vision, understanding or complete knowledge after life takes place. No one I know is a mind reader. Yet, there are times when we know we are heading in the wrong direction. There are times when we can see ourselves falling in what would appear to be slow-motion. You want to stop yourself. You want to avoid the crash or the collision. But you’re stuck. You’re locked in, strapped to a situation and the aftermath brings us back to that same old question.
“Where the hell did I go wrong?”
It is clear that we are taught to brush our teeth. We are taught to eat right. Get a good night’s sleep. Bathe properly. Stay hydrated. Exercise. Be fit and keep in shape. We are trained to learn and to work. We are told there are no free rides, so get busy earning.
Otherwise, we can be left behind.
I was left behind.
I was left behind in school, which in fairness, I am not sure which was my last official grade in the public school systems. I am not sure how I was promoted from one grade to the next in elementary school. I could hardly read well. I could never read out loud in front of the class. My math skills were poor at best. I had no retention. I never had a teacher who could incentivize me properly.
Instead, I had teachers like Mrs. Owens who would openly and publicly criticize her students. She would say things like, “Take a D,” which made no sense to us because there were no D’s on our report card. We had “S” for “Satisfactory,” and “N” for “Needs Improvement” or “U” for “Unsatisfactory.” I had no clue what a “D” was. All I knew was the intention was mean and so was Mrs. Rowan.
I go back this far to allow for a background, which details the way we talk to one another. Or, more to the point, I want to show what happens to the mind without the benefits of personal maintenance.
It has always been amazing to me how we celebrate and honor the physical specimens of life. Yet, the mental or the emotional side of us is unmentioned and undiscussed.
Two years ago, our planet went through a shutdown. We lived through historical times together. We argued. We debated the severity of an illness. Scientists were replaced by politicians. In fact, politics became the new religion. Forget about what Gods you pray to. The more common narrative became who did you vote for?
At least, I can say this was so in my Country. We were split down the middle. We argued about mandates and race wars. We looked for scandals and corruption and lived through personal cancellations and character assassinations. Meanwhile, everything about our life was falling apart. Our social interaction was limited. Our ability to meet and interact was canceled. Life as we knew it changed and the further we grew apart, the more we wondered if we were ever close at all.
I read somewhere on social media: “It’s sad how the people you were once so close with can become just another stranger you don’t know.”
Life has a way of putting things into perspective. Life has a way of showing up when we least expect it and there we are, caught in the aftermath of results and choices and wondering “What the hell just happened?”
Imagine the stability of our life and the lives around us if we placed the same level of importance on mental hygiene and emotional fitness as we do on physical fitness and personal hygiene.
Could you imagine that?
The only positive thing that I can say I’ve seen come from the shutdown is the fact that all of our isolation and personal challenges has somewhat normalized the fact that everyone needs to address mental health.
I remember when the shutdown began. I was one of the so-called essentials. New York City looked as if there was a nuclear fallout. No one was around. Streets were empty. The offices and office suites at my place of work were seemingly abandoned with an almost ghost-like appeal. People left their things in an exact place. Shoes were left under the desks. Papers were on top of the desks. St. Patrick’s Day decorations were hung and they remained as they were for a very long time.
I recall walking through office spaces. I could see them in my mind’s eye. I could see the people sitting at their workstations but there was no one around. An eerie beam of sunlight crept in through a window to softly brighten an otherwise gloomy environment. My midtown location that used to hustle and bustle with crowds of people was silenced and hushed by an ominous force that kept us apart. There was no communication and the people who I knew on a daily basis became strangers and, in most cases, I never heard from them again.
A co-worker of mine lost five people in his family within the first few months of the Covid pandemic.
There were riots on the streets. There was news coverage about violence and panic. Meanwhile, alcohol and substance abuse was killing people in record numbers. Domestic violence spiked. Suicide rates grew higher and higher.
So, what the hell happened?
If you ask me, we found out what happens when we don’t take care of our mental fitness in crisis situations.
If you ask me, we found out how united we stand and how divided we fall.
What happened is we saw ourselves emotionally unravel when our physical surroundings were changed and altered.
I can say that I am seeing a rise in attention towards emotional fitness and mental hygiene. I am seeing the call to boost emotional intelligence in the workplace as well as in schools and in our society.
I say that’s a good thing.
I say that we need to pay attention to this.
In closing, I am reminded of a video that I saw of a man who stood on his balcony. He was somewhere in Italy. He was singing to his neighbors. Or, more importantly, he was staying connected and keeping close, even when physical rules kept him separated from his friends and loved ones, this man proved that there is always a way to stay connected, both mentally and emotionally.
Know what I say?
I say this is brilliant.
I don’t sing very well. But this here, this moment between us is what’s kept me going throughout the pandemic.
And somehow, I think I’m better because of it.
NOTE: This entry comes as I sit in a different time zone from my usual places. I am clear across the country and people are still people. Life is still life.
I am humbled. No, wait. I am in awe of how small we are and yet, a little thing like a friendly hello from an old friend or a note of love and support can boost a smile and become nothing short of incredible.