Remember the good old days, when you could casually choose from a library of options for viewing and sit back without a care in the world? Didn’t it feel good to immerse yourself in enlightening content, that refills your pool of knowledge about notable events and the pioneers who activated currents of change?
This was my uninterrupted disposition until the fateful arrival of 2020, a brand new year ushering in a decade that started off terribly.
So much has transpired within the past few months that it’s hard to summon who that person was before a deadly virus became the gruesome reality that has killed more than 250,000 Americans and counting. Also, tragically displacing millions of unemployed heads of households, who have been criminally discarded by the same system they’ve spent all their lives sustaining for meager paychecks.
My personal stake in the highly-anticipated 2020 was dashed by the ominous feeling that hovered on New Year’s Eve. It was unshakable and a bit disconcerting.
As usual, I blamed the negativity on the residue of hangups and the anxiety of returning to the routine of a seasoned hustler, who is cautiously planning for the long-awaited comeback.
Of course nothing I envisioned was realized because of the derailment that affected many others in the same boat — indefinitely stuck at sea.
For sufferers of mental illness, who don’t need the doom and gloom encompassing the world to feel like utter shit, because of the unpredictability the beast, this season of sickness and death, exacerbated by the uncertainty of what lies ahead is exactly what threatens to unravel the track record of fragile stability.
We know that a staggering number of lives have been lost to COVID-19, and sadly many more will follow during this grim holiday season, as evidenced in the dismal illustrations of rising new cases and hospitalizations all over the country.
But we don’t discuss the death count resulting from the mental anguish of self-isolation, encouraging debilitating loneliness, that dangerously interprets the hopelessness that goes way beyond the shores of reason.
We have been privy to unfathomable losses when it’s connected to celebrity or professionals linked to pop culture, and we briefly mourn, retweet and repost pertinent links for those who struggle with suicidal thoughts or are aware of someone who fits the description.
For me, the only way to cope with the abrupt nationwide shutdown that was preceded by sudden departures of familiar faces within my circle, and a celebrated icon who perished with his beloved daughter in a senseless accident, was to indulge in bad habits for temporary relief.
My alcoholic intake for three straight months was reckless enough to kill me, and I’m certain that I’m a candidate for long-term damage, but I was able to put an end to my slushy misery when the repercussions of what I was doing began to interfere with basic functionality.
Staying sober for almost five months has been the gift that keeps giving, as I maintain the regimen of a healthier lifestyle, that includes allowing the really bad days to overwhelm and frighten without pushing back, because the internal battles require a level of physicality for combativeness.
There’s also the relentless search for a sense of purpose that can’t be found when you’re drunkenly daydreaming to the supplies of your Pandora station.
We are all going through it, in fact this is the first time in my entire existence, where tragedy has been expansive throughout the globe, attacking with relatable force and the unification of a quest to unearth humanity.
So when real life is the horror movie without an ending, we naturally turn to fiction for that much-needed escape and permission to decompress.
And while we can’t overstate how incredibly lucky we are to have seamless access to countless goodies, thanks to the competitive era of streaming, and the giants that author what appeals to a variety of palettes, there’s also the unexpected quandary of making selections that don’t add to our stress levels.
Amazon’s first entry Mangrove from the highly-touted anthology film series Small Axe curated by British filmmaker, Steve McQueen, also stars Black Panther’s Letitia Wright, who coincidentally plays the role of a Black Panther in the film based on the true story of the Mangrove Nine, who protested the unwarranted harassment and brutality targeted at a West Indian eatery, by London Police in 1970.
Obviously, I was eager to familiarize myself with an unfamiliar story, under the tutelage of a visionary director and top-notch talents, but not even half-way through the film, I began to feel increased anxiety and restlessness in reaction to the triggering centers of police brutality and the deadliness of white supremacy.
The brutal slaughter of George Floyd on the streets of a country that was built to host the graphicness of why Black Lives don’t Matter, is the terrifying reality that is accompanied by the visuals of Breonna Taylor’s home invasion that left her dead from multiple gun shot wounds.
We didn’t just discover how America’s systemic oppression and the injustice that remains undefeated, was purposely erected to allow for the dominance of white power and steady eradication of Black power, but when a deadly virus continues to demonstrate its prowess to spread and kill, regardless of how conscientious we may be, it tends to put things in perspective with hearts racing.
Real life is making entertainment a challenging concept, when you consider how my weakened mind state dictates what’s intolerable to watch, as the apocalyptic storm violently rages on without relief in sight.
The ability to adhere to “wokeness” through the dependable valves of creativity is no longer an easy feat or even an appetizing activity.
As a writer, I’ve spent more than six years churning out non-stop think pieces about America’s racial divide, and the active issues that that hold the Black community hostage with centuries of generational trauma, and for the first time ever, my emotional predicament is affecting scheduled output.
Trying to weather the cumbersomeness of extremes in the 24/7 breaking news cycle, and everyday life, that dares us with an avalanche of reasons why taking leave of our senses is a recommended status, isn’t an assignment that anyone would sign up for with glee.
It’s much too much, and the extended toll it’s taking eventually catches up and inevitably inspires the need to exercise our will to be as flexible as possible.
If I’m not able to tap into the creativity that I always assumed would provide the words to meaningfully express heightened episodes, then maybe it’s time to be useful in other ways that matter just as much.
There’s also adjustments made to viewing choices, and how TV shows and movies that would’ve been previously deemed as unworthy investments, have magically become the source of companionship that doles out the right amount of distraction and the cheery vibes that can’t be underestimated.
Being good to ourselves means submitting to self-care in whatever form it comes, and perhaps rejecting the lure of mind-altering substances has been the catalyst for a clearer vision and the motivation to appreciate the true definition of going with the flow.
I can’t feel guilty about choosing to binge-watch past seasons of Younger over highly-touted entries like Little Fires Everywhere that captures key components of normalized racial disparities, and therefore ticks the box for mandated viewing.
Mood swings toss you about, and there’s no guarantee of a soft landing, but while you’re in the air, it’s safer to grab onto whatever holds you up, even if it’s far from the range of comfortability.
We have to give ourselves the breaks we don’t readily garner from outsiders because if we’ve come this far, during this hellish year of maddening items, then we’ve more than earned the right to develop affinities for programming that won’t erupt volcanic tendencies we harbor.
Relax, release and relate to whatever makes you smile and burst out laughing with the heartiness from back in the day — in 2012.
It’s the life we all deserve.