Getting Back to “Normal?”

Seems to me like so many people want to get back to “normal” right now in too much of a hurry. We probably need to slow down a bit on that one.

Because now we have an explosion of COVID variant infections and the stubborn unwillingness of so many idiots to get vaccinated. The COVID virus and vaccine disinformation being spread on social media by these misfits is downright criminal, and the Republican Party is not just complicit: they are at its root.

We’ve seen this story before. These seem to be the very same yahoos that have denied climate science, always refused to allow us to lend a helping hand to those in need and fueled the Republican’s party’s fascination with fascism.

While a distinct minority of our population, maybe 40% at best, they are able to put all of us at risk in vicious ways with the power their elected congressional representatives wield to obstruct anything that would actually reduce human suffering.

It is incredibly sad and aggravating, isn’t it? And we’ve been dealing with this ridiculous nonsense for the better part of the last 50 years really.

So for that reason alone (and many others) it’s been a heck of a long haul the last year or so coping with COVID, the vicious attacks on our democracy and the accelerating insanity of the climate crisis.

It’s been tragic for many people and stressful for pretty much everyone, unless you’ve been greedily raking in the dough, which has been true for the privileged class in this the “Second Gilded Age,” as pundits like Robert Reich are calling it.

That’s the irony and the righteous pissoffedness of our current situation. A privileged class is really doing just great, the majority in the middle are working their butts off and are stressed and anxious as hell and more and more people are just hurting and suffering with little mercy at all, especially the impoverished.

So a whole lot of us have been stressed as hell, many as never before. Uncertainty by definition causes stress, and there’s been and will continue to be a lot of freaking uncertainty. Some of that uncertainty started to ebb with respect to COVID, but now much of it remains in a very serious way.

Maybe you lost or may still lose your job. Maybe you’re still trying to figure out how to feed your family or yourself or pay your rent. Maybe you or someone you know got sick or could still get sick. Maybe someone close to you died of COVID-19. Maybe you have a suppressed immune system and the vaccine isn’t as effective for you.

And there are so many unanswered questions.

What’s really going to happen with the economy? Are schools going to be safe in September? What about the many evolving COVID variants? What about the anti-vaxxers? Will we finally get some gun violence legislation? Can we pass any progressive legislation at all? Is voting going to be harder or even impossible for some people next time? How are we combating systemic racism and police brutality? What’s the next ugly stage of the climate crisis going to bring? What will the fascists and racists embedded in our political system do next? Will there be another Trump led insurrection?

So there’s still a ton of chaos and uncertainty floating around, but our penchant was to breath a little sigh of relief as more intelligent people were getting vaccinated and the COVID hospitalizations and deaths started to temper. We were so desperate to see light at the end of the gruesome tunnel.

But now there’s this dang pandemic of the unvaccinated, putting a huge unnecessary burden on our healthcare system and creating risk to all of us that doesn’t need to be there. That unneeded additional uncertainty affects all of us, but some of us a lot more than others.

Because we were never “all in this together” in the sense that suffering is always horrifyingly preferential, targeting the most vulnerable: the poor, people of color, the elderly, indigenous people, immigrants, children and the infirm. That by itself causes a ton of angst. It’s unfair and wrong.

And while we do everything in our power to help others, we seem powerless to just fix so many things that have plagued us for decades, largely because that cruel minority keeps holding us back. They fear monger and accuse people with empathy and compassion of being “socialists,” as if that by definition was actually a bad thing.

Horse pucky. It’s pretty clear that those throwing the word socialism around as a label have no idea what it actually is.

So, I’m pretty sure that “normal” is not what we want to get back to at all, and we can never forget the price that was paid by so many people because the selfish and buffoonishly inept cretins in charge so badly bungled the initial response to COVID in the United States.

We would be stupid to ignore this reality. This COVID thing is still going to be around for a while and there is bound to be another virus like it coming our way some day, maybe sooner than we would think.

And our economy in the service sector will take years to recover. Our federal government is not immune from moving further in the increasingly fascist direction it had gone in, if Republicans in power can get their way. And then there’s the climate crisis getting exponentially worse day by day.

Crap like Qanon and white nationalists and a repressive, authoritarian Republican Party are real. Trumpism is not going away any time soon. The election that happened in 2020 was an inflection point in the history of our Democracy, but an infection point to what? That remains to be seen, and therein lies a monumental degree of uncertainty.

So what do you do? How do you keep yourself in the game? It’s okay if you didn’t exactly stay on top of your game the last year or so: many people really struggled financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. What happens when you get despondent or overwhelmed or anxious to the point of physical illness, given the chaos and its daily drumbeat of deleterious effects?

Those effects are different of course for everybody, depending on the nature of your circumstances and how you respond to them. And when things legitimately suck, denying reality and being cheery about it doesn’t help if it doesn’t minimally acknowledge the underlying pain and complexity of resolving it.

But I do think it’s okay and helpful to work at being realistically optimistic, and it’s not okay to be obsessively and morbidly pessimistic. While there’s still a lot to be concerned and anxious about right now, it’s dangerous to let it overwhelm us. We need to watch out about deeply ruminating, exaggerating or catastrophizing without relief.

I think it helps a lot of people to get energized and mobilized, and it helped me a lot to see so many doing that this last year or so. I was inspired by seeing people taking action to heal themselves and their society.

I saw people getting centered and taking care of their business. Self-care and positive social activism seemed to be the way to not get dragged down by the enormity of the chaos.

There seemed to be some common operative self-talk too, and it is consistent with what has worked for me. Fix what you can fix now, the simpler the better. Start by making your bed every day when you get up. It’s an accomplishment. And you’re in control of it. Then, move on to the next victory.

Get motivated. Get up and get moving. Help. Empathize. Love. Give. Donate. Listen. Vote. Volunteer. Speak out. Debate. Breathe. Meditate. If you’re not yet one, become a social activist. And be quite serious and emotionally invested in it. These are life and death issues we’re taking about here, and the most vulnerable are always the target. Protect them.

If we’ve learned anything from our recent experiences it is that radical self-care and care for others has become a critical imperative for all of us. Cultivating compassion, empathy and healing thoughts and feelings personally and for others is now the mantra.

Eating right, exercising and getting rest to stay strong helps. Using some discipline to change and remove unhealthy habits and thinking helps too. And nothing helps more than speaking your mind and taking action in defense of the people that are getting screwed.

The punch list of activism also includes working hard to make love the dominant emotion personally and as a society. Tuning out the dark forces of fascism, greed, hatred and racism and working hard to reduce poverty, inequality, human suffering, hunger, injustice and xenophobia.

And we all must be engaged in protecting the earth’s ecosystem. Focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable. Getting in “good trouble” when needed. “Being the change we want to see in the world.”

The more of us that are fully engaged, the better our chances are of changing the trajectory of the darkness that festers in so much of our country and politics. Moving to the light is key, and bold social action is the prescription that will heal the hurt we all have come to feel as routine in recent memory.

And there’s absolutely no time to waste in healing that hurt.

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