Journal of the Plague Year 2020: Turn Toward the Light

Things are really tough now. When things are hard — personally or as a city or nation — it’s almost a relief to retreat into cynicism or hopelessness or blame. I hear it a lot from people around me. Everything from, “It’s too hard to wear a mask,” to “I’m done with this country. I’m sick of seeing us cut our own throats.” If you feel hope, you have to try, and there are hours and days when trying seems like a cheat and a pointless waste of energy.

For long stretches of my adult life, I was chronically ill. Most of it’s behind me now, but I lost a lot of time. Among other things, I was on a ventilator and had to teach myself to walk again after a nerve injury. Losing hope and giving up seemed like an excellent idea — really, the only sensible choice. In that situation, you come up with little tricks to motivate yourself.

Here’s one: Turn towards the light.

I often wondered if I was just doomed to fail. Is there any possibility that the nerve pain will fade and disappear? That I’ll walk without a limp, let alone dance?

Pretty early on, I decided to act at all times as if I would get better. I told myself, Just take it as a premise that this is possible, and work towards the happy ending. I figured that at worst I’d get partway there, and I’d learn and grow a lot through trying.

So that’s the first part: Assume you can win, and bust your ass accordingly.

I was reminded of the second part by watching an interview with the comedian Keegan Michael Key. He said that he found a video on YouTube of two white toddlers, white and black, hugging each other and playing. He said he plays it on a loop over and over, and thinks how he wants them to be friends for a really long time. He’s trying to find ways to bring kids together, and to make that friendship happen.

So, yeah, be realistic. Watch the news, know what’s gone wrong, and what could get worse. But spend time seeking out stories and images that reinforce your feelings of love and hope.

I found a lot of hope in this story about Carlton Wilhoit, a Washington, D.C. police officer who knelt before protestors. Wilhoit said, “At the end of the day, I’m black first. If I were to lose my job today or tomorrow, or if I were to choose a different career path, one thing that would still remain when I take this uniform off is I’m a black man.” That’s how I feel about working in the defense industry. I love my job, I’m proud to do it, and I do it better because I don’t set my human experience aside when I go to work. Wilhoit’s courage, and the police department’s acceptance of his gesture, is part of what will get us through this.

So, when you feel despair, turn towards the light. Assume it’s possible to win, and seek out sources of hope and inspiration.

Here are a few posts that make the same point in fictional form:

Sheltering the Flame, where Inglorion has a vision of a Gypsy child; Persephone Eats Six Seeds, where he witnesses the crime of his birth; and Heaven’s Just a Block Away, where Valentine mourns the loss of his love, and finds Inglorion building a shrine to the Bringer of Light.

Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Arizona: 22,233

Current hospitalizations: 1,092

Deaths: 981

Recoveries: 5,076

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