Flexing Haircut 100

So, yesterday I caught myself flexing on the lady givin’ me a $25 haircut.  Afterward, I walked out of the place and while driving home, examined a strange, yet familiar, feeling like something was wrong…(I’m a bit slow about these things)  Then it hit me “OMG I was totally rude to the lady who cut my hair!”

“WHY?”  I screamed to the mountains!
“WHY?”  I yelled to the sea!

The selfie I sent my friend when she asked to see my hair cut, “–nah, its OK..”

During this serious shitstorm of a time in history WHY would I flex during a standard life interaction with another human?  Here is what happen…  We started to share how the lockdown had effect us and compared notes.  I basically bragged about how fortunate I was that BOTH my jobs were essential and how incredibly busy I’ve been.  Then I handed the talking stick to her and she blew my mind.  She is in her early 30s, newly married.  Found out she was pregnant in March. Lost her job in March.  She filed for unemployment.  Received about two months’ worth when it stopped with no notice.  She called in an inquiry, the state said she did not qualify for unemployment and would have to pay all of it back.  She protested their decision. This resulted in her having to defend herself in court.  She won. Now the judge has ordered that the unpaid 6 weeks of unemployment be sent to her asap, which hopefully will arrive by mid-July.

“I’m all stressed out with the baby, my job, stupid unemployment being all messed up, and this virus thing. It’s horrible.”

Now, hourly pay at Supercuts Hair Salon ranges from an average of $8.10 to $13.36 an hour.  Let’s say she worked 28 hours a week because those cheap-ass companies don’t want to pay their workers health care so they keep them under 36 hours.  …and let’s guess she is making about $11.00 an hour, that’s $1848 gross, with 10% taken out for taxes that’s a check for $1664.  That is some hard-earned cash!  (BTW, this is the third time a person has shared a similar story with me about their unemployment payments being denied.  WTH Washington?) The only saving grace for the haircutter was that her husband’s job is considered essential and he has worked through the whole lockdown, keeping them barely housed and fed.

So here I was getting my haircut for the first time since November 2019, waltzing into Supercuts thinking I am a boss. Sons of the bitch!  This was rude.  I didn’t even think about how rude until my drive home.  Perhaps an evil side of my sub-conscious drove that whole event.  Perhaps I was forgetting when I was a new mom and we couldn’t freakin’ afford a gallon of milk!  I couldn’t buy new clothes for my kids.  We couldn’t even afford for me to go to work, in town–because we only had one car–and due to the cost of daycare!   I’ve been there.  Really I have.  Also, I’ve stood in the company with affluent upper-middle-class people who assume everyone in the room is like them. Going on and on about vacations, new cars, private yoga sessions, and seeing their doctor, one flex after the other.  Felt their words grind up against my reality.

Yes, I do feel like I’ll need a vacation after lockdown.  I’ll be honest.  But I must always use my words carefully.  I can’t control what others do, but I can control what the heck comes out of my mouth! Each home is having a different experience during this difficult time.  Please learn from my mess up.
Be kind to each other.

Day 74: Last Day of the Lockdown

“I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I best her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be signing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing.  She never hurt a soul. What beats they are.”

-Power, Audre Lorde, American poet, 1934-92.

The end has come.  Whatcom County in Washington State entered Phase 2 today.  In town the neon “OPEN” signs are on.  Emotional yo-yo beat down.  Took two aspirin and laid flat atop the bed.  I’ve been laying down too much these months, yet I needed it again.  Everything around me demands it is essential that I get up.  A chirping bird outside my window gave a speech, my phone rang twice with instructions.  At 4:00 p.m. I listen to the news on my old clock radio, but the man sounded much like the bird in the bush–they won’t shut up.  Take a breath, give someone else a chance to speak, I think.

credit- https://mynorthwest.com/1906245/live-updates-seattle-bellevue-protests/, June 2, 2020

I’m feeling a bit skewed. Disjointed. Unconnected, but not in a way you’d expect after three months of quarantine.  You see, outside my window there is order. Inside my TV is a disorder. Walking my neighborhood are masked smiles and friendly nods. Online our nation is shouting and demanding justice.  I watch from my desk and in my mind, I am with them.  I’m at the fence of the White House demanding Trump resign.  In the fog of Netflix and binge-watching–are these riots real?  Is this a dark comedy out of control?  Can it be touched? I could run with the crowds, get an eyeful of pepper spray, just two hours south of me.  Seattle is sweeping up glass.  It is nearby if I want it.  Feeling thankful for the peacemakers if they are indeed real.  Please be real. Please succeed.

Twenty years from now if someone asked you what it was like to live during The Great Pandemic of 2020, what will you tell them?  The lockdown is over and I don’t have the words right now.  Please call again later, thank you.

My mood expressed by a meme.

 

Day 65: One Hundred Million Suns

“What the wise do in the beginning, fools do in the end.”  Warren Buffett

Guessing by the news last week, Whatcom County will be asked to shelter in place another month.  I didn’t think we had it that bad.  Of the 1055 deaths in our state, Whatcom has experienced only 36.  Today the total death count for the US is 99,624 according to google search CORVID-19 alert page.  In March, I heard the scientist estimating the deaths nationwide could reach 250,000.  That’s not too many, right? Please let me out!  …I must be in the negotiating stages of grief now.

It’s 8:10 in the morning here.  A neighbor is having problems with their smoke alarm.  Each of our apartments has two.  I believe both were going off at one point.  I’ve had a morning like that.  Poor neighbor.  These alarms are set off by smoke not heat, typically triggered by cooking.  What I learned is to quickly grab a bathroom towel and rotate it like a helicopter blade under the smoke detector, turn on ALL the fans, open ALL the windows, even the door if you have to.  It’s the quickest way.  Whoever they are, they’ve been at it for 20 minutes now.  Sounds like they don’t know the towel trick.

In the back of my mind, I realize it could really be a fire.  Oil in the pan, a candle on a blanket, electrical… how fast would this building burn?  Let’s see 23 units, built in 1976, so its 44 years old.  Does that mean it will burn faster or slower?  What would I grab?

Last winter I thought about grabbing everything I own and leaving America.  I was (and still am) so discouraged by our country’s leaders I wanted to become an expat and relocate to Mexico, Spain, Cuba, even South Korea, anywhere but the United States.   Alarms in the distance warning us of trouble.  Complacency argues the trouble is “over there”, it hasn’t reached my door stoop yet, I’m fine, I’m safe.  Apathy says what are the chances it’s a real fire? Who cares? Everythings fine.  Laziness tells me pour yourself another cup of coffee, get back into bed and turn on Netflix.

Logic (not to be confused with Loki) tells me, it is not a fire.  Not anymore.  Listen.  The beeping is reduced to one alarm, and it corresponds with the low rumble of a large diesel truck, possibly 2 blocks over working on the road.  A new breezeway trail is being constructed through a field of blackberries. The fire alarms I heard over a half-hour ago have morphed into a backhoe going forward and backward clearing the sticky stubbornness.  A symphony of sound composed by the neighborhood this morning!  A lesson embedded of course, as all lessons are if we listen close enough.  The lesson I hear is to be ready for an emergency, be thankful, for what you have could be gone in less than 30 minutes, but primarily–when the tone changes the source has too.

**

I want to share this poem from my book “Fallen” 2017.

Another God

by Shannon Laws

I cannot sleep
next to you
The porch light
on the other side
of the curtains
tricks me awake

You look frozen on a canvas,
painted in oils by a master,
shadows lightly brush your shape

I study the back of your head
your ear lobe
a quiet beating vein
the hairline along the neck

There’s a frame of freckles
below the shoulder blade
They look like Orion poised
with bow, arrow aimed upward

I am not your Merope taken by blind force
I am Andromeda, wrists wrapped in iron
ready for monsters to decide loves fate

Gods visit the sheets of women
a vacation from eternity
Taste the finite in the kiss,
wipe their mouths with times mist

I will lose you as I lost others

Tonight your constellation glows in porch light,
while I dream of everything I cannot have

**

Here is my mood expressed by meme.

 


https://sanjuanislander.com/news-articles/government-news/state/31146/san-juan-county-qualifies-for-a-waiver-to-skip-ahead-to-phase-2-under-new-criteria

Day 45: Secret Socializing

Shower Thoughts: What if Earth is like one of those uncontacted tribes in South America, like the whole Galaxy knows we’re here but they’ve agreed not to contact us until we figure it out for ourselves.

For the data geeks:

Are you experiencing Lockdown Fatigue?  I am.  Somehow I am exhausted.  Everyday living is so much heavier. There was stress in my life prior to the pandemic, but now, EVERYONE around me is also stressed.  Can two negatives create a positive? Sure.  I’m trying to keep to a schedule for sleep, work and get outside, trying to write, and reach out to a friend once a day.  Trying.  It doesn’t always happen, but I think about doing it.  That counts for something, right?

*looking left and right*  …So, want to hear something super secretive? Some secret folks are meeting in secret places and are having secret social parties.  It is not unlike the Speakeasys of prohibition; underground bars that served liquor after it was outlawed.  Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933.  For every action, there is an equal reaction.  Yesterday a social post went out from Washington State Department of Health-

“We’ve been getting reports of “coronavirus parties” in which uninfected people are mingling with #COVID19 positive individuals intentionally to try to contract the virus. Bad idea! Gathering in groups in the midst of this pandemic can be incredibly dangerous and puts people at increased risk for hospitalization and even death. This kind of unnecessary behavior may create a preventable uptick in cases which further slows our state’s ability to gradually re-open.”

Stop the spread and stay home.  It’s hard and it sucks, but just do it.

Here is my current mood expressed in meme.  Take care and be safe. -Shannon

 


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_States

https://www.facebook.com/WADeptHealth/

Day 40: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Shower Thoughts: No other species is watched more while pooping than dogs.

Oh my goodness, day 40 has arrived!  It’s been 40 days since the official declaration from our governor to Shelter in Place, March 24th. We are in the middle of our 5th week. We learned on Friday, May 1st, the lockdown will be extended to May 31st.  How are you holding up?  Hope you are healthy and adjusting to your new normal.  As soon as we adjust completely, perhaps, going through all the stages of grief and loss, at some point we’ll be thrown back into the fire.  This morning I am thinking about the working class returning to dead-end jobs. I’m wondering what factors make a job a good job.

The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

Many Americans will return to their jobs to face a brilliantly obvious discovery, a very REAL tried and true FACT- they are underpaid.  Their previous jobs were unable to prepare them for regular emergencies such as a new transmission much less a pandemic.  Middle-class life is now 30 percent more expensive than it was 20 years ago.  Meanwhile, salaries, which have stagnated for decades don’t go as far as they once did to cover the necessities.  Do we really want to go back to “normal”?

Michigan

People with guns are starting to freak out.  Last Thursday, April 30th, hundreds of well-armed citizens waving MAGA signs crashed the state capitol of Michigan demanding that the country reopen.  They wanted to get to the House floor where representatives were in session but were blocked by state police and sergeants-at-arms.  In Michigan, it is legal to carry firearms as long as it’s done with lawful intent and the weapon is visible.  Lawful Intent?  hmmmm… In my town, if this lockdown extends another two months, my biggest concern is folks might just start biking naked or something.  But, there are many parts of the US where the breaking point could result in converting Doug’s Toyota Tacoma into a freaking ISIS tank and start patrols!

I’m wondering about the demographic that stormed the capitol.  Are they the same that was studied in various reports over the last two decades?  Did you know that the suicide rate for white middle-aged working-class men has spiked?  This group of Americans appears to be the most pissed off and depressed.  Why?

For white men without a college degree, the average growth in median wages between 1979 and 2017 was a negative number (−0.2 percent a year), even as median hourly earnings for all white workers grew by 11 percent in the same period. This wage deflation has had well-documented cultural ripple effects, depressing marriage rates as men’s appeal as partners fell along with their earnings. Without a stable family life, these men are more isolated, with fewer of the sorts of social buffers that might inoculate them against suicide or drug abuse. As a result, the rates for both have gone up.

For what it’s worth, I was raised in a working-class neighborhood in South Seattle and my folks had small businesses.  A part of me recognizes these men.  They are the sons of my neighbors.  My personal interpretation is that these suicide rates reflect a group of men unwilling to seek self-improvement in the form of therapy or education. Perhaps in their culture it is a sign of weakness, or maybe they do not believe they are wrong, mentally injured, or perhaps it is a simple financial barrier.  Adaptation to our changing world is difficult but necessary.

So, let’s move ahead a few months.  We have a Presidential election coming up.  Is Biden going to go the way of Hilary or Barak in his campaign outreach?  Will he be able to identify, and connect with the majority of voters?  …also could folks start voting out the sellouts in the Senate?  Seriously.  Otherwise, in my view, Trump will simply be more fuel to the unpredictable, unstable, despair bonfire.
F*ck Trump!

 

Here is my current mood expressed in a meme.  Thanks for visiting.  Be safe, stay healthy.  -Shannon

 


https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/14/heres-how-many-americans-are-not-saving-any-money-for-emergencies-or-retirement-at-all.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/hundreds-protest-michigan-lawmakers-consider-extending-governors-emergency-powers-n1196886

https://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/april-may-june-2020/white-death/

My book of poetry:
https://www.villagebooks.com/product/fallen-shannon-p-laws

Day 38: Raw Poetry

Northwest Washington is experiencing some rain this week.  Most of us are well equipped for walking in the rain, but if you can find a sunshine break to get in a mile or more of a walk it is perfect!

The monthly poetry discussion group I’ve been apart of since October 2015 is meeting on a weekly basis during the shutdown.  We call it Poetry Club: Pandemic Edition, find us on Facebook.  Somehow we have been discussing the work of Robert Frost for ALL of April.  We got stuck on his work and can’t get off that bus.   The discussions are stimulating, nonetheless, thanks mostly to the host Ron Leatherbarrow, who taught Frost at a collegiate level.

Here is the rough poem I’m sharing with the group for critique.  It’s a poem I found in my writing journal from 2017:

Sawdust
by Shannon Laws

“And, as my way is, I begin to dream, resting my elbows on the desk and leaning out of the window a little,” -John Ashbery

As I stand to look out the windows of the factory,
I wish I did not have to sweep this floor on such
a summer’s Saturday.
I imagine, past the trees and along the waterfront,
people are walking with inner peace.
And I envy them—they are so far away from me!
No one has to worry about working five hours of
overtime to help pay their bills.
And, as my way is, I imagine myself small, a doll
in the hand of a god.
The mill—a toy house and the window fills up
with the freckled face of the child that plays.
If the real world is large and I just a toy, still I would
want to run free.
Freedom is better than shelter and care, I bravely think.
But inward I know I only have what others have given.
So, here I am, under the press of having to shovel a
mound of sawdust into the bin.

 


My Netflix queue is Peaky Blinders, Ozark, Dracula, Outlander, the very silly DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and the original Star Trek with special effects remastered.  Star Trek could be a drinking game; take a shot of tequila every time a woman apologizes for almost being raped.  Oh my gosh, I did not know how sexist that show was!

Have a good day!  Be nice to yourself and those around you!  -Shannon

 

Day 32: TGIF I think…it’s Friday right?

Shower Thoughts: Last night my friend asked to use a USB port to charge his cigarette, but I was using it to charge my book. The future is stupid.

Happy Friday everyone!  Oh wait, IS IT Friday?  I’m not sure.  Let’s see- Traffic looks like a Sunday afternoon, every day feels like a Saturday, kinda, but sometimes the grocery stores are busy like it is Thanksgiving.  Hmmmm… I’m not sure.  What does it feel like for you?  At times, especially last week, it felt like floating in jello, honestly.  Existence is vague and with little reference of location and time.  My clock and calendars are handrails along a dark trail.

This is me in my car last week, getting ready to deliver some supplies to a high-risk tenant.  I’m still working *knock on wood* and happy to help folks.  I haven’t had more than a sore throat since last December, and I chalked that up to the pollen count.  However, on Monday I have a video appointment with my personal doctor and hopefully, it will result in testing.

Whatcom County in Washington State is offering very little testing opportunities.  An acquaintance of mine was tested about 8 days ago and laughed telling me about it.  He said it felt like a drug deal.  His doctor gave him directions and an address where he met two ladies, dressed head to toe in PPE, working out of an unmarked van in an alley downtown.  He was their ONLY customer.  I’m not aware of any mass testing operation happening in Washington like I see in California, where folks are qued up in mile-long lines perhaps at a stadium parking lot.  Of course, testing and re-testing will help our nation determine if the lockdown is working.  HAHAHAAAAA! …but it is not happening.

The Federal Government, State, and Local appear to be completely discombobulated.   Our ‘effin president basically confessed to offering more Federal aid and services to the Republican States AND (sweet Lord) wants scientists to look into UV and disinfectant injections to kill the virus INSIDE US!—???  Another WTF moment.  EVERY DAY is a WTF moment with this administration.  Unbelievable.

My current mood in meme form.  Take care of yourself and your loved ones.  Hit “like” to let me know you were here.  Wishing you good health. -Shannon

Day 30: Zoom Fatigue

Yesterday, Washington State entered its 4th week of lockdown.  On Tuesday, March 24th our governor declared that everything but essential businesses close and for citizens to shelter in place TFN.  Weeks prior folks and businesses started to practice social distancing.

So here we are.  What can we say?  What can we do?  We can stay creative, read more, exercise, work if we have it.  I heard of a new sensation called “Zoom Fatigue”.

Your screen freezes. There’s a weird echo. A dozen heads stare at you. There are the work huddles, the one-on-one meetings, and then, once you’re done for the day, the hangouts with friends and family.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we’re on video calls more than ever before – and many are finding it exhausting…”
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says

Do you think you might have ill feelings for a person with slow internet?  A study says yes, yes you are judgemental.

Silence is another challenge, he adds. “Silence creates a natural rhythm in a real-life conversation. However, when it happens in a video call, you became anxious about technology.” It also makes people uncomfortable. One 2014 study by German academics showed that delays on phone or conferencing systems shaped our views of people negatively: even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused.

This is a time of grace, allowing people more space, more time.  Be kind to the folks you encounter during your day.  I’m learning, a little kindness goes a long way right now.

Here is a poem from my first book Madrona Grove

WINK*

Morning sunlight, sun low stretch shadows long,
twinkle through the branches
that sway in the current, bath me, please
Stronger the light
Harsher the dark
Sun cannot be everywhere
nature’s landscape prevents it
God made or not

Crow flies by
nods it’s head
as if it remembers me
Your life so simple Crow
Please brood over my features
A wink when you fly by will let me know
They are fixed in your mind

The Sun may not always find me
Yet your wings move you amongst the penumbras
and illumination
Your nod,
Crow, brings me comfort for somewhere, by someone
I am remembered
####

My current mood expressed in a meme.  Take care of yourself, be kind to all.  -Shannon


“The reason Zoom calls drain your energy”, By Manyu Jiang22nd April 2020
https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200421-why-zoom-video-chats-are-so-exhausting?fbclid=IwAR3Qmi_9rA7gRAfYb_AIQhjVVksWuAoBlwWqJB5MeyYhSZG2nnqC-AyNHho

*Copyright 2020 Laws, Shannon. Madrona Grove: Poems Written Under the Canopy. Chickadee Productions. Kindle Edition.

Day 22: It’s All Good

Today felt like a normal day.  The middle of the week is busy-time. Busy-time is my normal.  I can’t help myself.  Perhaps, one day, I’ll be a free spirit like the porta potties in the video–blowing in the wind–but hopefully, I won’t be full of shit. hahahahaa!  Well, maybe a little.

1) an observed joy- I don’t want to jinx us, but the weather since the mandate started has been SO nice.  Spring birds are chirping up a storm, light breeze, blue skies, and sunshine= perfect.

2) a real concern- Today I saw the news clips from 4/13. Once again I’m absolutely flabbergasted by something our president said.  He represents many things that are wrong with our country. Yes, I am concerned.  Concerned and sadden.

3) a personal challenge- Remember to always bring a mask when I go out.

4) one personal success (no matter how small)- I checked off everything on my Tuesday to-do list.

5) a random thought (no matter how silly)- I believe I’ve experienced all five stages of grief during the lockdown– denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Here is my current mood expressed by a meme.  Take care of yourself, stay home, stay healthy, love one another.

 


“When somebody’s the president of the U.S., the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s gotta be.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/fact-check-trump-claims-it-s-his-call-when-reopen-n1182836

Noel Casler, a celebrity and comedian who used to work on the Apprentice, did a radio interview on CJAD with radio host Dave Kaufman and to say the interview was terrifying would be an understatement. He talked quite a bit about Donald Trump’s alleged drug habit, something that many people have openly discussed over the years. There was lots of buzz about him snorting Adderall and abusing Sudafed. But for some reason, everyone just…let it go once he won (stole) the election in 2016.

Then Casler moved on to the NDA’s and the reluctance (fear) that everyone in Hollywood has about coming about and saying what they really know about Trump and his family. People, sadly, put their own personal needs and careers over what is best for the country, so they chose to stay silent. Casler than talked about Trump sexually assaulting women – discussing the Barney’s dressing room, specifically.

https://crooksandliars.com/2020/01/ex-apprentice-staffer-noel-casler

Day 19: The Great Pause

The worldwide pause.  Will we forget these months?  As citizens of the planet- let us promise to never forget.  The deaths, suffering, confusion from our leaders, the kindness from neighbors, the debt, the empty shelves at the grocery and in many homes, the masses unable to pay rent, buy food, after only ONE month with no pay, the healthcare system strained, buying face masks for your family, exposed drive-thru workers, crops rotting, the temporary peace in Syria. The pandemic, The Great Pause happened.

Today I am supplementing my journal with this post by Julio Vincent Gambuto writing for “Medium”.  His words challenged me and I hope they help you as well today.

The complete article can be found here:  https://medium.com/@juliovincent/prepare-for-the-ultimate-gaslighting-6a8ce3f0a0e0


Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. That never happened. What are you talking about? Billions of dollars will be spent in advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms — a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it.

We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life, to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones, to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work.

The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.

For the last hundred years, the multi-billion-dollar advertising business has operated based on this cardinal principle: find the consumer’s problem and fix it with your product. When the problem is practical and tactical, the solution is “as seen on TV” and available at Home Depot. Command strips will save me from having to re-paint. So will Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. Elfa shelving will get rid of the mess in my closet. The Ring doorbell will let me see who’s on the porch if I can’t take my eyes off Netflix. But when the problem is emotional, the fix becomes a new staple in your life, and you become a lifelong loyalist. Coca-Cola makes you: happy. A Mercedes makes you: successful. Taking your kids to Disneyland makes you: proud. Smart marketers know how to highlight what brands can do for you to make your life easier. But brilliant marketers know how to re-wire your heart. And, make no mistake, the heart is what has been most traumatized this last month. We are, as a society, now vulnerable in a whole new way.

What the trauma has shown us, though, cannot be unseen. A carless Los Angeles has clear blue skies as pollution has simply stopped. In a quiet New York, you can hear the birds chirp in the middle of Madison Avenue. Coyotes have been spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge. These are the postcard images of what the world might be like if we could find a way to have a less deadly daily effect on the planet.

What’s not fit for a postcard are the other scenes we have witnessed: a healthcare system that cannot provide basic protective equipment for its front line; small businesses — and very large ones — that do not have enough cash to pay their rent or workers, sending over 16 million people to seek unemployment benefits; a government that has so severely damaged the credibility of our media that 300 million people don’t know who to listen to for basic facts that can save their own lives.

The cat is out of the bag. We, as a nation, have deeply disturbing problems. You’re right. That’s not news. They are problems we ignore every day, not because we’re terrible people or because we don’t care about fixing them, but because we don’t have time. Sorry, we have other shit to do. The plain truth is that no matter our ethnicity, religion, gender, political party (the list goes on), nor even our socio-economic status, as Americans we share this: we are busy. We’re out and about hustling to make our own lives work. We have goals to meet and meetings to attend and mortgages to pay — all while the phone is ringing and the laptop is pinging. And when we get home, Crate and Barrel and 3M and Andy Cohen make us feel just good enough to get up the next day and do it all over again. It is very easy to close your eyes to a problem when you barely have enough time to close them to sleep. The greatest misconception among us, which causes deep and painful social and political tension every day in this country, is that we somehow don’t care about each other. White people don’t care about the problems of black America. Men don’t care about women’s rights. Cops don’t care about the communities they serve. Humans don’t care about the environment. These couldn’t be further from the truth. We do care. We just don’t have the time to do anything about it. Maybe that’s just me. But maybe it’s you, too.

Well, the treadmill you’ve been on for decades just stopped. Bam! And that feeling you have right now is the same as if you’d been thrown off your Peloton bike and onto the ground: what in the holy fuck just happened? I hope you might consider this: what happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open.

What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped.

Here it is. We’re in it. Stores are closed. Restaurants are empty. Streets and six-lane highways are barren. Even the planet itself is rattling less (true story). And because it is rarer than rare, it has brought to light all of the beautiful and painful truths of how we live. And that feels weird. Really weird. Because it has…never…happened…before. If we want to create a better country and a better world for our kids, and if we want to make sure we are even sustainable as a nation and as a democracy, we have to pay attention to how we feel right now. I cannot speak for you, but I imagine you feel like I do: devastated, depressed, and heartbroken.

Los Angeles, pollution-free. Photo credit: Gabriel Duarte