It’s 7 AM in Brooklyn. I roll over in bed and tug open the curtains, revealing a soft grey dawn. Here goes another day, I guess. My feet hit the hardwood floor and I stumble toward the kitchen to make coffee. As the pot begins to simmer, hiss and percolate and the sacred java juice begins to brew, I begin my oft-dreaded ritual these days — powering on my iPhone for the first time in the morning and seeing what barrage of texts, calls, e-mails and information is in store for me that day.
This morning it’s my friend Lacey Ann. Like me, her recovery from Coronavirus has not been neat and linear. Among other lingering health issues, the virus has apparently affected her Circadian rhythms and her ability to get almost any amount of sleep at night.
“Sorry to report…no change last night, Danny. Still wasn’t able to sleep a wink through the night. I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” she texts me. This comes after the past several weeks of working together to try to come up with solutions to her sleep dilemma, trying rounds of natural sleep meds and any other form of natural sleep remedy I could think of. I even made a trip to a specialty store in Manhattan to snag some Melatonin-infused chocolates for her. I knew these worked because I had taken them myself a couple years ago when I was experiencing sleep difficulties. At the time I took two of them and I was out like a light for the entire night. “How many of the chocolates did you take?” I asked her.
“I took all 4,” she says.
“Holy s**t. If I had taken four of those things, I would have floated right up to heaven,” I responded. “OK. I think at this point, this is very serious. You haven’t had any sleep to speak of in *weeks*. You need to get to a doctor ASAP. Don’t wait. Call them right now, this morning.”
This episode represents one of hundreds of exchanges I’ve had with friends both near and far over the phone and via social media during the time of Coronavirus. The situations are different, but the common denominator is the same: we’re a generation that has been plunged into mind-bending, unprecedented, massive life-altering crisis. And we’re not necessarily doing all that well.
The challenges are as unique as each individual’s situation, but our common threads link our stories: we’re struggling with our mental health. We’re struggling with our strange new post-CV bodies and our physical ailments. We feel paralyzed and helpless as Donald Trump and his Republican sycophants leave the country in a state of worse wreck and ruin with each passing day, driving us straight off an economic, wellness, social and national security cliff.
It’s enough that some days, our level of functioning has been reduced to the barest minimum for survival. I couldn’t tell you what I did in the hours after I got off the phone that morning with Lacey Ann. Some days it feels like a dense fog just rolls in and envelops everything, obscuring any joy, meaning or greater purpose for life.
What if we were more open with one another about the fact that the kids are not, in fact, OK? What kind of courage would it take to raise our hand and say “Hey, I am actually not OK over here. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this. I don’t know where the money is coming from to pay bills from this point forward. I find myself trapped in suicidal thoughts on a daily, if not hourly basis”?
Over the past decades, we have largely seen a systemic breakdown of community spirit in America, replaced by rampant consumerism and narcissistic individualism. We’ve turned our faces away from one another and buried them in smartphones. My challenge to you today is: if we’re going to survive from this point forward, we had better get serious about rebuilding community, strengthening relationships and checking in on one another. Chances are, you’re far from the only one experiencing an off day. When we’re able to talk about it and share our struggles with one another, it diminishes the power and dead weight of our individual pain.
I don’t have all the answers or really anything even close. I just know that from now until some indeterminate point in the future when the Coronavirus crisis is behind us, there are going to be many “off” days. There are going to be days when that fog feels paralyzing, all-consuming and utterly disorienting. In those times, we need to be able to reach out and find our way home through the power of community.
As Diana Ross sang years ago,
“Reach out and touch
Make this world a better place
If you can.”