Life has a way of putting things into perspective and that was never truer than it is now. Driving home from running brief errands today I teared up looking at the green trees and the blue sky laced with beautiful fluffy clouds. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve driven down that particular street over the past thirty years and never so much as glanced up to see the magnificence around me. I had this humbling moment, as my eyes drifted into the heavens, of realizing how much useless unhappiness engulfed my life at times over the years. Completely, unholy, useless bitching that polluted my mind and my life. In fact, some (if not most) of the things I was most unhappy or worried about never happened and in retrospect I wouldn’t have been unhappy had I taken time to pay attention. Wasted precious time lost over something I thought was wrong … when in every possible instance everything was just as it should have been.
We all get stuck and walled in by the self-defined parameters of our own lives. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “busy is as busy does” applies, whether we are busy raising our children, trying to make a living, or figuring out our future. We start “busy” as children going to school, graduate to adult life and our own version of “busy.” And somewhere along the way we have expectations of “should” and “ought to be’s” and all those “should and ought to be’s” becomes a hot plate for dissatisfaction.
At some point in life we begin to complain or worry about useless things.
Fast forward to around November 2019 when something quite out of our control arrived on the planet. Now, our world-wide human family is facing the most horrific of circumstances. We have no control over what is before us nor can we determine how long it will last. No amount of trying is going to stop COVID-19 from growing. It doesn’t need a passport or VISA and certainly no wall is going to protect us. All the precautions we should rightfully take will hopefully “flatten the curve” but we are all in this for the long haul. Perhaps a year from now most of this will be only a memory of how we were personally affected by these shockwaves; but for now, they roll over us on a daily, if not hourly basis.
Finding Your Happiness Joystick
There is no prescriptive pharmaceutical, no vaccine, for this mighty virus. But there is an emotional and mental vaccine we can administer on our own. Years ago, while in my 20’s, I had a mentor who carried me through my own personal crises of many moments of useless unhappiness. He reminded me that every limitation I faced held within its hands a blessing and, as an example, pointed out that the depression also created many millionaires. It is true that many suffered, and I would never minimize the suffering of people then or now. But what he was trying to ask me to do as a single, uneducated, very poor single mother who was terrified she was going to be able to care for herself and her young son, was to find the blessings inherent in my situation. He always asked me, when I was most panicked or worried, “Are you okay right now? What are your blessings?”
Steps to Dig Yourself Out of the Sadness, Depression, Anxiety, Anger or Fear Caused by COVID-19
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Lao Tzu
Baby steps. First and foremost take care of yourself, keep you and your loved ones safe as much as possible. Once that is accomplished, rid yourself of risidual useless unhappiness. You cannot get rid of what you don’t see.
First step. Make a list of some of your own useless unhappiness. Hint: Almost all of them were mental projections that were truly useless. Here are some of my own.
· Being upset when someone didn’t call me back and I felt disrespected and/or ignored.
· Being angry when my husband didn’t do as I asked.
· Being dissatisfied with my body, wishing I was thinner and taller.
Second step. Once you have re-membered the useless unhappiness in your own life, reevaluate. Here are some of my own based on the list above.
· In almost every instance, the person who did not call me back eventually called. They were simply busy, and I had taken it personally.
· There were times when I was truly grateful my husband didn’t do as I asked. It would have been a disaster if he had listened or given in to my request.
· Looking back at pictures of my younger self, I realize now that the unhappiness over my body was driven by media and social standards. I was never going to be tall and skinny, EVER. Totally useless unhappiness.
COVID-19 has humbly put my life into perspective, but in a good way. I am not saying that I am not concerned, or even a little frightened by the nature of this pandemic. To be otherwise would be foolish and perhaps cause me to dismiss all the recommendations being offered by experts such as Dr. Fauci, the US leading expert on disease. We should take this with as much seriousness as we can muster and implement the necessary precautions set out by the experts. We must be willing to sacrifice in the coming weeks and/or months to ensure we do not contribute to the pandemic in any way.
In the meantime what we can do is take hold of our virtual joystick of blessings that this pandemic brings. Here is what I have gleaned of my own blessings in this very trying and troubling time.
· All the crap I worried about until now was truly small stuff and useless.
· I have communicated more often with family and connected with more friends over the past month than I have in years.
· My husband and I are spending more quality time together, getting to really appreciate what we each bring to our relationship. From learning to laugh again at our eccentricities to appreciating the mutual support and love we give to each other. We have rediscovered the value of why we are together in a very different, beautiful way.
· My patience is being tested but also is being used more these days, a virtue I have always wanted to develop!
· I have stopped shopping for useless crap because I think I want it or because some social media or television ad tells me “I must have it.”
· I am spending time going through old pictures, cleaning out closets, learning to chef again, and enjoying meal preparation together with my hubby.
· A walk through our neighborhood is a beautiful outing for me. Simple and one of pure joy. The birds don’t seem to notice there is anything wrong. I appreciate that respite from the streaming news.
· The simple things in my life are far more important than the complex meanderings of thinking I need to be, do, have, or become something different.
· My mind has let go of what does not matter. The only thing that really matters is my family and safety of those I love. We each have our own personal circle of what matters to us and when we all do our part, those circles touch and change everything.
I don’t know what your gifts are (or if you can somehow dig them out after reading this) but I hope that within the folds of this tragedy each of us can find lasting useful happiness, the kind that cannot be diminished by any useless unhappiness. It’s the kind of thing that will carry us throughout the days and weeks ahead. It might even carry us through the rest of our lives.
Your joystick might be a little rusty, might feel a little stuck, but truly all it needs is for you to take hold of it and move it ever so gently away from useless unhappiness. Try oiling it with a phone call to a friend, kissing your babies or children or partner, or hugging your pet. That always seems to help.