As we have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have heard on many occasions people comparing this to the Spanish Flu of 1918. From how the disease spread to how people reacted to the situation, everything seems to be similar. For me, however, history doesn’t have to go back that far. I only have to go back a few years, to 2015. This is when my personal pandemic started.
I have never been a good student of history. It always just seemed like facts and figures – things that had no relevance, and because of how I processed information, it was never anything that I would retain. Language, music, philosophy, I could eat that stuff up all day long, but history? Ugh… dull…
In 2015, something happened that caught me by surprise: I lost my job. At the time seemed to be a small issue, as I had a lot of contacts and skills, so I thought I would be able to ride it out and get past it quickly. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Days turned to weeks, then months, and even years. Every opportunity vanished before my eyes, and what started as a “metaphoric cough” turned into a full blown disaster. My world went from good, to bad, to worse, to out of control.
In the worst of times, I found myself not going outside, not eating right (if at all), not working out… The walls of my existence closed in on me. For me, there were no stores… no parks… no fancy meals… it was all closed to me, because of my personal economic and employment pandemic.
Fast forward to last week, and weekend. I was hating my house, feeling very vulnerable. There were times I just had to get out, but there was nowhere to go. Work was feeling tenuous. The walls of COVID-19 were closing in on me. Last night (maybe the night before… all the days are running together) I rode with Holly to get some takeout for her and Mackenzie. The restaurant she chose is one I love – PoShines in North Portland. But as I rode with her, I made the surprising decision to not get any food. At the time, I didn’t know why, but later I put two and two together. I was, in my subconscious and my emotions, repeating history.
Philosopher George Santayana is credited with penning the phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it“. To be true, even if we do remember it, there are some things we will have to deal with more than once. Any veteran storm chaser will tell you that lightning can and does strike the same place twice… or more.
“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”B.J. Neblett
Experiences are wild, weird and interesting, for they rarely exist in a vacuum. B.J Neblett said that we are the sum total of our experiences. But those experiences build upon each other, influence each other and even color our reaction to current experience. Have you ever woken from a dream and been angry at a loved one because of what they did in the dream? Yes, it was a dream, but to your person, the feelings and the response to those feelings are very real, and if we are not careful, will become the basis of how we respond to our actual life.
I took stock of the feelings I was experiencing. The uncertainty… the feelings that things were happening to me that I couldn’t stop… the feelings that my wants and desires were being set aside… the feelings of being alone. I also looked at my actions: I wouldn’t go to the store to get food, for no good reason. I wouldn’t interact with people, again… no reason. I had awoken from a bad dream, but was still feeling its affects.
How about you? Have you thought about why you are acting the way you are? Is your life no different, or are there subtle (or not so subtle) things that are getting under your skin? Well, there is good news… there is a way out of the crazy, but it comes…. yes, by knowing your history.
And by history, I don’t necessarily mean just your experiences. As bad as my employment drought was, and to be sure, it did affect me even after I was able to get the job at my current company – while that was my experience, it was not the totality of my reality. I knew that I had the background to be able to contribute to the success of any organization, so when the time came, I had to focus on that. I had other experiences and knowledge of who I was that was bigger than what I was going through at the moment. So do you.
The key is to find your rhythms, your disciplines, the things that make you you, that are not based on anything or anyone else. For me, even though life canceled itself around me, that didn’t mean I had to cancel what I did. So I made the choice that Tuesday nights would still be worship rehearsal. Wednesday would be Mandarin study, and the like. I can’t go to the gym, but I can still get up at the same time I normally would and do a workout.
I am not alone in this. Musicians who would normally be on tour decided to give concerts from their living rooms. Friends who would normally get together for Coffee or Boba did so virtually. My favorite, though was a group of runners who did a virtual 100 meter dash. Quarantine or not, the world is choosing to find ways to be themselves, to not let their situation choose for them.
For us, while we are in the middle of this pandemic our world can seem out of control, chaotic, and reminiscent of some of the worst times we have experienced. But look around… there are also some of the best things happening. Kindness has blossomed in so many ways. People are thinking about community, not just locally, but globally in ways that have not been seen in a long time. In Atlanta, at time for a shift change, an entire community of people took to cheering from their balconies for the health care workers who are daily putting themselves on the front line to care for those who may be exposed to this illness. The awesomeness of people, and of this world is shining, and we can shine just as much.
So, as I work at ditching the feelings that have been prompted by old experiences, I would encourage you to do the same. Adjusting to new normals does not mean changing who you are. Find your normal in the new, do what makes you you, and create history, rather than just repeat it.
I may not be a fan of history (I have gotten better), but I am of some good goofy comedy. There is a series on Amazon Prime right now called “Horrible Histories”. I don’t know what makes it more interesting – the fact that the acting is so crazy, or the fact that everything they present is actually true. Anyway, I was able to find some of their stuff on Youtube, so here is an example