(Originally Published on Coffee over Suicide Blog)
So, we’re here. How we got here for the moment doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that there’s a pandemic, and we’re all being forced to stay away from each other for the time being. For all of us, this is almost apocalyptic. It’s change on a large scale for sure.
I faced my own personal apocalypse twelve years ago. It’s nowhere near the same scope of this, but I have been to the bottom of the barrel. I have seen the shadow of death. While there are a lot of uncertainties going forward, there are some things I know we’re all going to learn, and there are some things I know will help.
The World is Bigger Than You
There is a grieving process going on. Everyone is in their five stages of grief in some form or another. The five stages being denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. I came to acceptance really quick. The world has changed and is changing, and I’m along for the ride. It’s easy for me to surrender to this wave of change. The reason why it’s so easy is because I’ve done it before.
I lost everything over the course of a year. I had an opportunity that did not go very well. My anger and refusal to ask for help on things led me to go down a very dark path. There was a point in this path that I lost everything. I lost my job. I couldn’t qualify for welfare under my circumstances, and I had to figure out how to pay for rent. Food was running out. And it forced me to do a lot of things that were hard to survive. But through all that I was grieving over what I lost.
Until I hit rock bottom. I acknowledge what I’m writing about next may only be in my head. This was my experience and so take this tale as simply that.
So one day I was walking to my trailer in Show Low Arizona when I looked out into the distance, and I saw a shadow. It was in the distance, but it wasn’t that far in the distance. It was at the edge of the corner of my eye, but I knew that this was coming for me. And if I let it catch me, I wasn’t going to be here anymore.
This was death. Or rather, it’s shadow. Like I said, this may all be in my head, but at that moment I understood something very profound. One day I was going to die. Maybe that day. The fact that I’m writing here says I came through, but there was a great epiphany.
I had to learn that the world was much bigger than I was, and that one day I was going to die. Life is fragile, and everyone today is much more aware of that right now than ever. This virus is bigger than anything everyone has ever known. Governments, businesses, our very way of life is changing. Part of this process right now is coming to grips with those two truths.
The world is bigger than we are. That’s a good thing, but it’s a very uncomfortable truth. Our goals, our dreams, they can change on a whim. Much like how we can’t stop the rain, we can’t stop this either. Coming to grips with this does make grieving for what’s going on easier.
Fear, Anger, and Surrender
This is the hardest phase(s), and where most of us are at right now. If this takes a while, I get it. I went through this twelve years ago.
There are billions of different interpretations of what is going on right now. If you are in the denial stage, you are probably going to do one of two things. You either are going to panic about what’s going on, or you’re going to be angry about it.
If you’re afraid, it’s perfectly natural to be scared. Everything is just stopping. There is nothing normal about the world right now. There is a lot of shock and fear about how things are going to go and last going forward. Anxiety, pain, and maybe even a little guilt might be in the psyche. Let yourself feel those things. It’s okay to be worried or anxious.
I’ll confess that my biggest fear in this crisis is that I couldn’t go home to see my family. Walking away from my job to go from Vancouver to Windsor made me nervous, because everyday I was wondering how long I had before lockdown. I made it home fortunately, so my anxieties were eased.
I understand how people in that are working right now feel as a result, as I had to take a bus and two trains to go to work each day. The potential of catching something from someone amplifies these fears.
Perhaps the most important thing right now for those that are working is that you need a moment to acknowledge the risk to yourself. My travel combined with my work environment increased the likelihood I’d catch something. I accepted that everyday I went out the door. It was my risk to take and I owned it. If you’re out there right now, you have to do the same. Accept the possibility and do what you have to. That’s super hard, and I get it. But if you are out there, there is no other healthy choice. Accept what is, and move on.
To everyone else, don’t let those worries and fears rule you. If you are anxious, afraid, and feeling overwhelmed, disconnect from news, social media and let yourself cope. You need to unwind from this crazy. We all do. When you can adjust for it, don’t worry, there are plenty of things to read about this from the newspapers every day. They’ll be there when you come back.
The worst parts of ourselves come out when we’re scared. We hoard toilet paper, we are cruel to the people who have to be out there, we lash out, and so many other things. Again, it’s okay to be afraid. Acknowledge your fears, but we can’t become inhumane and unkind. What’s important to remember right now is that you’re not alone and that we’re all in this together.
If you’re angry right now, I sympathize. I was angry when I realized I was going to lose everything, and that there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Things I was counting on weren’t going to be there any longer. If you’re a small business, you have no idea what’s going to happen to you. Rents and mortgages aren’t being frozen in North America. I really feel for restaurants, bars and places that use their dining halls. In Vancouver, I remember going by this Jugo Juice. A father and two daughters are running this franchise, and rents are unforgiving. I would be surprised if that ever reopens.
I understand that anger, but it’s really good to let go. I would have been so much farther ahead in Arizona if I hadn’t been so angry. I was so determined to try and do things on my own, I missed so many opportunities to connect and possibly turn my situation into something else. Or even leaving altogether when I should. I probably would have more real teeth in my mouth right now if I had let go of my anger. I didn’t.
Things only changed when I realized the situation I was in. And that didn’t even happen then. It happened when I got a package from my sister. I couldn’t even get the energy to go get a job interview with Safeway in Show Low Arizona. I just was done. I was broken and burned out on my anger with this whole mess my life became. And then, I got pictures from my sister. Pictures I hadn’t seen in twenty years. They were me and her, and my mom and dad when they married, and it was so wondrous to see.
Was I so tiny? And I laughed because I remembered some things. I remembered what mattered most to me. Once I did that, I did the only thing I could. I accepted what happened to me and surrendered to what came next. I gave up the illusion of my control. Once I did that, my eyes opened to other possibilities.
The one advantage of uncertainty is that it creates possibilities. We all have skills, talents, and while they may not seem to be significant with the changes, there are ways to apply them. Let’s say you were a singer that depended on the stage for your income. Right this minute, going on stage in front of a live audience is impossible.
What about a digital one though? The one thing that everyone wants right now is content. A concert that’s put together even halfway professionally with some genuine spunk could help spread your name right now, maybe push some merchandise sales. Maybe you could approach a company for sponsorship for your next project.
Kickstarter and Patreon do still exist. Someone with a novel or comic, or a video game project might shift their revenue to here. Small businesses should move into digital realms a little more. Maybe there’s something new that is going to blindside us all. There are opportunities even now when all seems uncertain coming to the horizon. The smart individual is looking to create those things. The fruit of the work you’re doing right now may not manifest immediately, but the one advantage we all have right now is time.
We can all seek to do something different. We can become someone different. This is a pause that we can take advantage of in a myriad of ways. We can learn something new. Me? I’m starting to draw stuff. I’m taking pictures of things and I’m trying to copy, one thing at a time. Right now, I’m drawing ice cream cones. My end goal? I’ve always wanted to do comic books. I’ve written my fair share of comic scripts in my time. Some of them are pretty good, but the process of hiring and finding people to work on your passion products is quite difficult.
So now I can learn to draw, and release that content someday in some form. I can adapt, because I have the time to do so.
The Little Things Matter
So from the pictures in my last apocalypse, I realized what was important for me. Everyone has to find their own answer for that one. My advice? Chase your happiness.
We can’t go outside and hang out, and hug and greet each other. But we can learn new things, we can appreciate the little moments. Not much in life truly matters. This was the biggest lesson learned when I left stuff behind. I had to let go of everything I had when I left Arizona. Once I accepted that I had to, it was easy. I knew what mattered.
Even now, you can chase joy. Joy in this time is the true path to rebellion. This is a pause. Find that thing that makes you happy and go with it. We can still connect to each other. We can choose to make the best of it. That’s what I’m doing. I take this one day at a time. I don’t worry about when this will end, because I can’t control it. One way or the other I will be taken care of. The important thing is to while I am in this, to keep going and living as best I can. I’m grateful for what I have, and am ready for whatever is next.