2021 is already shaping up to be a hell of a year. I can’t decide if the insane coup attempt and the record number of COVID deaths this week is just 2020’s horrible last, fetid dying breath or just the awakening roar of the beast that will be 2021. I want to be positive; after all, common wisdom holds that we choose our outlook on life and how we approach things will determine the outcome. On the other hand, holy shit, can we catch a break already?!
However, I honestly believe that better times are on the way, and there’s a lot of good reasons to think so. Yes, there was an attempted coup, but at the same time Democracy held and the verification of the duly and fairly elected president continued. Even if you don’t like the choice, it was what the people chose and Democracy continued. Yes, COVID is out of control, and there seems like no end in sight with the thousands of deaths each day and the constant struggle of social distancing, but a vaccine was created and being distributed, millions have already received a first dose, and second doses are already being administered. The days are getting longer, the nights shorter, and life is moving on.
My family, like so many others, have been struggling to find a way to be responsible with social distancing and also keep ourselves occupied and distracted from the reality outside our door and on our television. That has led to some very odd consequences as a result of all that time together. One of which is we are absolutely sick of one another. There are five of us, and we live in a moderately sized house, big enough so we all could be in a room alone if we chose to, but not big enough that we can actually escape one another, and it shows.
We’ve also developed a hive mind. We finish each other sentences, hell we say whole sentences at the same time. We have the same ideas simultaneously. Once we played a round of Rock, Paper, Scissors, four of us simultaneously, and we threw the same sign four times in a row, then three of us did the next two the same. It’s not healthy. My fourteen-year-old daughter will say something at the same time that I do, same inflection and everything, and the look of abject horror in her eyes was as comical as it is hurtful. I mean, I’m awesome.
But also, the feeling of depression and sorrow at what we are going through as a country has also permeated our family. Days go by in a blur, and simple activities seem arduous. It was a dangerous trend, and we saw it happening and could do nothing to make it better. Even Christmas and acts of kindness, like I described in the last Chapter, didn’t seem to help as much as we hoped it would. And I’ll be honest, this January 6th almost broke me. To see Confederate and White Supremacist flags marching freely through Capitol Hill hurt me more than I cared to admit to my family. I cried on that Wednesday and nobody saw. I didn’t try to hide it; I’m never one to hide tears, I just happened to have a moment alone and it all hit. I had stopped watching what I ate, I stopped trying to exercise, my teaching suffered the next two days, and I thought, “F*** it, why even bother at all. It’s all pointless.”
Then at dinner yesterday, my oldest daughter said something that brought it all back. We eat dinner together every day and talk about what good and bad things happened. For her “peak” she said, “I’m glad that we’re dieting and exercising together. It’s making all of this easier, and to see you two do it too and I really appreciate it.” We weren’t really trying to make them do it, and it’s no surprise that our kids emulate us, about half of their personality is copying what they see until they get older. But to hear it, to see her taking an active role in her own physical and mental wellbeing helped me drag my ass out of the pit it was in. In that moment I choose to see that optimism in her eyes, and it lifted me.
It’s been a hell of a start, it was hard to find a lot to be positive about, but when I looked for it, I discovered it. I hope you find it too, but don’t wait for it to come to you. Take control, and claw your way out of your funk by any means necessary, whether it’s by being better for yourself and your children, exercising, or by trolling crying MAGA assholes online, find your joy.
Previously Published on Stupid Optimism