The last several weeks have been trying ones. First we were locked down by Covid (and still are). Then came wildfires that generated millions of cubic feet of life threatening smoke, killed dozens and wiped out the homes of several 1,000 families as well as the natural habitat for hundreds of species. Then Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. It was and is scary and upsetting times. It is easy to think it would not get better. It is difficult to see a path forward (literally and figuratively).
During this time of self-isolation and perseverance, I have spent time reading, thinking, painting, cooking and pondering. I found it realtively easy to get down when inundated with “down-ness” from the political, environmental and economic fronts. At times things seemed a bit hopeless. As many of you know, I do not ever recall ever having a had a suicidal thought. That is just not how I am wired. Even in these dark times I have maintained a view that “it too will pass.” Concurrently, I am fighting the urge to be pollyanish and “pretend” that things were ok. They are not—pure and simple.
History has put folks through far worse episodes than what we are experiencing—although the wrath of #45 is near the top of destructiveness by presidents. War, deep depressions, plaques, despots and revolutions. However, there is a counter-intuitive finding. As reported by Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS) on October 13, 2009, the article Life and death during the Great Depression by
Analysis of various indicators of population health shows that population health did not decline and indeed improved during the Great Depression of 1930–1933. During this period, mortality decreased for almost all ages, and gains of several years in life expectancy were observed for males, females, whites and nonwhites—with the latter group being the group that most benefited.
What happens when there is a calamity? From my naive and unscientific observations:
- Life becomes more inward focused.
- Folks start to prioritize what is important.
- There is a reawakening of the importance of friends and families.
- We make room in our lives for things that are not centered on wealth—rather on personal growth.
My parents were born in 1927 (dad) and 1928 (mom). They were children during the Great Depression. At a young age, my dad went into the service during WWII. Their habits for living and financial management were permanently shaped by this experience. My parents often talked about the things which shaped them, not the things that negatively impacted them. Things like:
- Growing their own food
- Making their own clothes (my mother was an excellent seamstress and made most of my clothes until I was about 10 years old.)
- Learning how to fix things (my dad became a car mechanic).
- Playing with what they found not a “store-bought” toy (that was a term my mom used frequently.)
- Doing their chores and learning how “it takes a village.”
Rather than being scared or focusing on the negative, this experience gave them the drive and confidence to build a new life. I think it is time I look back to my parents and remember how they dealt with adversity. This perspective will aid me in my journey towards finding the good in these troubled times—and continue to do what I can to improve lives. I will continue to paint and to give away my work in exchange for a charitable donation. To date, more than 80 charities have benefited. This fills me with joy!