“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Does anyone else feel like we woke up in a movie written by someone on a really bad LSD trip? Not the cute little trip with yellow submarines or one-eyed purple monsters in polka-dotted bikinis. Did I mix those up? The songs my parents thought were groovy were weird but at least the colours were chipper. There was a fair amount of jazz hands and those tap shoes always added a nice flare. Everyone looked happy or maybe they were just high. It’s kinda hard to tell, but the illusion’s pretty nifty.
This trip we’re on is straight out of a nightmare high and whoever’s putting pen to paper needs to sober up fast. Splash cold water on their face. Poke them with a fire hot javelin because, you know, six-foot rule. Make the pen fall, so we can end this madness and get back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Is anyone else feeling an overwhelming exhaustion? My bones are tired. I think my cells are taking power naps whenever they think I’m not paying attention. My head throbs and my chest feels like there’s a storm cloud swirling right under my sternum. There’s lightning and thunder. Grey clouds are threatening rain. It’s a tornado of anxiety and worry that won’t blow over.
I feel on edge and ready to run, but there’s nowhere to go because there’s no safe place right now. There’s a monster out there but just like the one under my bed, no one can see it. I feel it. I hear it. Mom, can you come and take a look? Nope, it’s all clear but no amount of reassurance will calm me down. This damn nightmare is shared by millions of people, all over the world. What the actual expletive is going on?
This is one hell of a way to bring the world together! Sure, it’s a bit of a culture shock but at least we’re in this together. Right? Isn’t that a song or something? I don’t know. I’ve never done anything harder than morphine and then watched Disneys Fantasia. Really freaked me out, man! Seriously scared for life.
Where was I going with that? No idea. Redirecting…Now.
Over the course of our history, there are only a few times when we’ve been united in a common struggle. Usually, we’re struggling against each other like a giant game tug of war. Sure, I guess wars do bring us together in mind-bending ways. Ways, such as a global pandemic?
I’ve heard people compare this virus to a battlefront which, okay, I guess it’s one way to look at it. We are fighting a mighty enemy, but wars are fought by action and we’re being called to inaction. The best thing we can do, if we’re able too, is to stay at home and wait for this bastard to run out of steam. That means, we’re united in our inability to wage a war on what’s threatening our way of life. All we can do is…Sit. Stay. Wait.
I’m not very good at any of those things. Sitting, waiting, staying? I feel like a ball and chain has been shackled around my ankles. I feel a burning need to do something to help, something to make this better, but there’s nothing I can do. For whatever it’s worth, the only skill I have are the words I put to paper. I believe that words have power but in times like these? What good are the words I write when my family members are helping patients in hospitals and clinics? What good will they do when someone I love gets infected or someone I love, God forbid, doesn’t recover? What good are empty words when the world is brought to a halt by a tiny virus with a mighty right hook? I have no words for this situation!
I guess I do have a couple of words, but I’m trying to keep this PG.
They say, in times of crisis, we respond in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze. I back away if possible but I can’t get away from this situation. If I can’t run, I’m ready to fight because I’ll be damned if I’ll go down quietly. Except, I don’t know how to fight this enemy. There have been moments when I’ve frozen but that’s because I’m a planner. I take my time to analyze the situation and formulate a response. I’ve looked at this situation from every angle but the only answer I can see? Listen to the experts, then trust these strangers with my life and the lives of the people I love.
Well, f**k me!
I’m stuck in a moment of suspended animation with no way to save myself, my loved ones, or you. It’s…Frustrating and infuriating.
Anger, resentment, grief, and this overwhelming helplessness swirl around and around inside of me. They move so fast they’ve created their own jet stream. Faster, faster, faster it goes and then comes the lightning, followed by the thunder. It will bring the rain and maybe then I’ll feel cleansed for a little while but without an end in sight?
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out.” Anne Frank, so wise for someone so young, makes such an astute observation. She was locked away, hiding to save her life, and still, she looked for the good. That’s so amazing, but it’s a quality we admire, isn’t it?
As a society, we value kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, and decency. We cheer on the brave, the strong, and the selfless who show up to work even though they are walking into the line of fire. We honor those whose selflessness has gone above the call of duty. These people, who exemplify our ideals as a society, are heroes and should be treated with the utmost respect.
In times of peace, these ideals are held to be true and fiercely protected. We teach them to our children. We scold those who stray away. We hold them close to our hearts and offer them up as gifts to those we love. They are precious treasures but they shouldn’t be locked in a vault. They are to be shared, enjoyed, and cherished.
But in times like these, we so easily abandon our ideals and justify our actions. We claim it’s survival of the fittest but in reality, we’re so afraid, too exhausted, and some are so easily consumed by greed. Hoarding food, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper. Yelling at the person restocking the shelves, checking us out at the counter, or trying to give us the medical care we need with dwindling resources. Reselling medical masks, hand sanitizer, and household cleaners for three, four, five times their value.
What happened to our ideals and our values? When did they become absurd and impossible to carry out? How did we so easily let go of what we hold dear and reach for a poor substitute? Why do we turn primal after claiming we’ve evolved past the sins of our ancestors?
We look for an enemy we can fight because the real enemy is too small to see and too monstrous to battle. Fear brings out a bigotry that’s been simmering below the surface for God knows how long. Six months ago, how many people would’ve said they’re not racist? How many have discovered the truth about themselves? How many will even acknowledge the reality of their newfound hatred?
The things we value as individuals and as a society speak to our character. The choices we make now represent those values and history will judge our character accordingly. Then again, who’s worried about the future when we’re stuck in the present?
A lesson from the past then? The choices we make now aren’t new. The world may have changed drastically in the last few weeks, months, but who we are hasn’t. The decisions we make are the same as they were before but now they are tainted by fear, helplessness, frustration, and exhaustion. It’s not who we are when we’re standing strong; It’s who we are when we’re struggling to stand at all. That’s the measure of a person and a society.
When it comes to our values, our ideals, we’re faced with the same choices we had six months ago. Do we value money or people? Love or hate? War or peace? Equality for all or just a select few? The things we hold true during times of peace have to hold true at times like these. If they don’t? If we abandon them now? If they seem absurd and impossible to carry out?
Well, did we really hold these values to be true or were they nothing more than a utopian wasteland?
I’m afraid… No, correction, I’m terrified! I’m on the verge of tears even though I’ve cried a river all ready. I want to fight, scream, run, and hide all at the same time. I want to go back to a time when this wasn’t our reality and live in blissful ignorance. I want to skip ahead to a time when this is over and we’re back to living our lives, our own way. I want to punch a wall and throw a fit. I want to give in and give up, but I can’t do that because I made my choice.
My choice, as hard as it can be, is to hold on to my values and my ideals. As preposterous as they seem in times like this. As simple and childish as they may be, given our situation. As hard, absurd, and impossible as it may get? I want to hold on because letting go dissolves my faith, erodes my hope, and corrodes away my sense of self-worth.
Without these ideals, I will be left with shame, guilt, and an emptiness I don’t know how to refill. Letting go of who I am, who I strive to be, turns me into the monster of that low-budget movie, written by some hack on a bad trip. No, I’m not striving to be the leading lady or anything so preposterous. I’m trying to hold on to my sanity, my principles, and my faith in humanity.
For the next five minutes, forget that news and the politicians. They all have agendas and it’s impossible to wade through that sludge. Instead, look around your little corner of the world and tell me the good that you see right now. Me? I see neighbours bringing food to those who can’t leave their homes. I see a two-year-old, standing on a deck, laughing with a friend on the deck next door. I see people applauding frontline workers as they go to work and as they finish their shift. I see kindness, generosity, bravery, and love. I see new friendships blossoming and long time friends bloom.
I see the helpers stepping up to do what they can because, despite the worst of us, the best still shine a hell of a lot brighter. There is still hope. There is still goodness out there. There’s still something to hold on to so don’t give up on the good.
* * *
For reliable, up to date, information about COVID-19 pandemic please check out these sites:
- The World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019)
- The Centre for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html)
- The Public Health Agency (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health.html)