Just dropped in (to see what condition my condition was in)

Mickey Newberry 
The First Edition

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered and disrupted all aspects of our daily routines. We wistfully look back on our pre-pandemic lifestyles and harken back to the “good old days” — which, upon reflection, really weren’t that “good.” 

So exactly what did the pandemic take from us? Or better yet, what did it reveal to us? Can we, honestly, say our lives were better? Was there more civility, more love, or even more tolerance? The short answer, in my mind, is “No!” All the ills and outlandish behaviors that characterize our pandemic lives existed pre-pandemic — albeit, sometimes bubbling under the surface, and sometimes not hidden at all. 

Simply put, the pandemic brought these issues out in more vivid detail. So the real question is, what has changed in our lives because of the pandemic? Well, I have a theory. In a word, I believe the pandemic took away the distractions that allowed us to think we were engaged in living the good life!

These distractions included, but are not limited to the following:

  • Going out to eat
  • Spontaneous travel for a change in venue
  • Watching TV to see people worse off than us
  • Being more concerned about the lives of celebrities than our own
  • Joyfully and in a detached mindset watching dystopian movies thinking such realities would never happen in our lifetimes.

The fact of the matter is that we’ve avoided eye contact with our mundane and repetitive existence. This pandemic has forced us to take a deep look at our lives, our relationships with family and friends, and with our own mental state. Upon reflection, what it revealed to us is scary. We discovered the shocking reality that we have been going through life but not living life.

By the way, living life is never easy — and it is especially challenging during this tenacious pandemic. Sure, some of us wear masks, take vaccine shots, and social distance to protect our physical being. Yet our mental state remains most vulnerable. We can’t put a mask over our mind. Every day, we see videos of people losing it in public settings. Yet rarely do we acknowledge that these public meltdowns are a culmination of minor breakdowns having finally triggered a public display of our anger and rage.

As a result of public policy or a personal decision to self-quarantine ourselves, we are now face-to-face with the people we live with on a day-to-day basis. Suddenly, we are paying closer attention to who is front of us — the people we thought we knew. As one pastor said recently, “I didn’t know how crazy I was until I was locked up in the house with just me!” 

Idiosyncrasies that we’ve long ignored become irritations and vexations. In many cases, we discover that we are no longer willing to continue “going along to get along.” Our minds are overloaded with consistent reminders that life, as we knew it, is morphing into another reality. This new reality is terrifying.

As we impatiently wait for this scourge to end, we must “work” overtime to stay alert to what’s happening to our mental state. In the spirit of sharing, here are some coping mechanisms that I’ve employed to keep myself mentally centered — I think … I hope!

Realize that your family and friends are also wrestling with the same, or in some cases even more significant, mental pressures. Try to be understanding and gentle as possible.

Take time to reflect. By reflection, I mean cultivate the ability to really see oneself observing oneself. If certain behaviors didn’t bother you before, ask yourself, “Why am I allowing them to dictate my attitude now?” Get a grip on your mind and move on.

Work on creating a “pause button” in your mind so you can appropriately respond and not react to every perceived insult or indignity.

Do not assume that people have it out for you and are targeting you for some reason. Most times when a person is acting out, it is not about you — it’s about them and whatever demons they are fighting.

Recognize and use the awesome power of a smile, a kind word, and a pleasant demeanor to change the attitude of people you interact with daily or occasionally.

Edit the so-called news you take in daily from the mainstream media and the social media platforms. Good news doesn’t sell as well as bad/negative news.

Remember, while we are evaluating the mental state of those around us, it might serve us well to check in on ourselves to “see what condition our condition is in.”                                        

Kwame Salter is president of The Salter Consulting Group LLC.

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