By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Get a dog if you want to feel better, said a medical doctor. I agree, but I am not an animal lover…
We never imagined 2020 to be a crazy year—turning the world upside down.
We all have lived through a lot this past year. It’s hard not to be saddened, traumatized, or angered towards the pandemic: causing ICU rooms to be full of dying patients, coffins piling up, healthcare workers being exhausted saving lives, people lining up for food, schools locked down and students frustrated with remote learning, and helpless individuals being isolated in their homes.
Reports have found that 57% of the people have experienced depression and anxiety in the U.S., with young people being hit the hardest. What is scary is 11 million people have seriously considered suicide. The pandemic has created a mental health crisis in the U.S.
I don’t belong in any of the aforementioned categories. However, I do have my moments of stress and gloom. And I could sense those low moments creeping up to my body every time. We all have our coping mechanisms. The worst would be binge eating. That’s not a good form of self-relief, it’s punishing your body.
When you are tense or down, find ways to distract yourself. Don’t just sit and do nothing. It’s a blessing that I have had more ups than downs for the last eight months. No matter what affected me, I managed to lighten my mood by singing and dancing, laughing at YouTube programs, walking in parks, calling friends, and writing.
If there were any merits that grew out of COVID, it will be changing my perspective towards life. Had I learned in 2019 that I would not be allowed to travel in 2020, I would have been upset. Now, I not only accept it, I am actually grateful for being safe at home.
What right do I have to feel sad, complain, or blame when I have a job and purpose every week, my family is fine, and there is food on the table and a safe haven I call home, while others are dying and suffering and at the end of their rope?
2021 won’t be easier, at least for the first half of the year. Social distancing will continue for months. As more and more people get vaccinated, we might see the lockdown being eased. For the past year, I had been dreaming about traveling and visiting wonders of the world once the country opens up. Now, I realize those are unrealistic wishes, but they are not the most compelling acts on top of my list. With the world so unpredictable, I have looked within myself, what I need to work on to deal with the present.
What New Year’s resolutions should I make to prepare for uncertainties and challenges lying ahead?
What should we do to make life easier in 2021?
Make positive changes to cope with the future
I have relatives who became much happier after they got a dog. My aunt prefered to talk to her dog rather than her late husband.
So get a pet, be it a dog, cat, or bird. Dogs give their owners unconditional love. They never judge you. I recommend a dog because you can take them out for walks and give you a lot of fun and companionship. Dogs like to play with people, but cats… I have no comment. One friend said she sleeps with her cat, which is comforting. Here is another dimension that I don’t know about animals!
Birds are fun to watch. But birds can be pricey. If you can’t afford to buy a bird, go bird-watching in the woods. It’s just as fun. Or find other animals that you can play with from time to time to take your mind off from worrying about things you can’t change.
What I miss most in this pandemic is attending concerts. Music saves millions of lives for both musicians and non-musicians in this period of miserable isolation. What better fun than to sing karaoke together with friends from all over the world on Zoom. I admire musicians who are able to perform together on Zoom. It takes lots of effort and time to coordinate. That’s a milestone in these abnormal times. Many musicians make good use of their time during COVID to write songs, including former Beatle Paul McCartney. At 78, Sir Paul is writing and producing many new songs while in England. Apparently, some people can make good use of the lockdown.
I took piano lessons on and off in 2018 and 2019. I don’t play well. But that’s the fun of it when I mess up. And I mess up a lot. Music makes you forget your troubles when you are deeply involved in the activity.
To make it fun for myself, I asked some staff members and a couple of friends to share with me their 10 favorite pieces of music. It’s a way to understand your friends better and learn some beautiful songs that I am unaware of. I am still listening to new music on YouTube.
Learning to play a musical instrument is another option, but it’s not for everyone.
What would I do without music in this extraordinary year?
Ask for help
I don’t like to admit that I am a weak woman. My life goal is to empower and inspire other women. Ever since I was a child growing up in a divorced family, I hid my vulnerabilities. Revealing my family secrets meant that I would possibly be scorned and lose face.
After paying my expenses and tuition at the University of Washington one quarter, I had less than $20 in my bank account. I never told anyone or asked for help or sympathy, not even my best friend. I figured she didn’t have much money either. So I shouldn’t say anything. Part of the reason was, I was ashamed to tell people I was poor. Relying on myself was the best policy, I thought. My unwillingness to share my vulnerabilities lingered for a long time.
After being in the news business for a while, I have become more comfortable sharing my inadequacies. When people ask me about something I don’t know much about, I tell them I don’t know the answer.
Still, it’s not my cultural upbringing to volunteer telling my problems. But COVID gave me a new perspective, and I am open to sharing about myself in my writing. I still have to learn to do it face-to-face.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change,” said Brene Brown, author of “Daring Greatly.”
Maggie Warrell, author of “Brave,” wrote “When you don’t ask for help when you need it, you deprive those who’d love to give it of the opportunity to do so. Everyone is worse off.
“When you ask someone for help, you aren’t putting them out, you’re pulling them up. Our lives are richer when we share our gifts with others, not poorer.”
Author Charlie Makesy of “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” wrote that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. And oh, “crying is strength,” too, he added. I love that.
And Oprah said, “Vulnerability is the cornerstone for confidence.”
If you are weak, there is no need to apologize because you are normal, and you are human.
“How can I help?”
This pandemic has shown the good sides of many. People have stepped up and offered to help those who are in need. A successful businessman played Secret Santa and gave $100,000 to the poor, according to a CBS report. Lots of restaurateurs and generous donors have donated meals to first responders. Food banks have increased their distribution to hungry families and individuals. People are doing whatever they can to help others.
Each of us should ask ourselves, “How can I help?” in this health crisis to make life easier for others. Last July, a stranger emailed me and asked how she could donate recyclable masks to seniors. Where could she drop the masks off? It’s unwise for Chinatown senior residents to wander around to get a mask during COVID, and I had no idea which organization would be willing to do so. So I volunteered for four weeks, delivering masks to a senior apartment building. Every week, former professor Julia D. Viglione, a tai chi student at the Seattle Kung Fu Club, would sew about 14 masks and slip them through Asian Weekly’s mail slot. I would then deliver them to the seniors. Sometimes, I bring along copies of the Seattle Chinese Post for the seniors. It’s an excuse for them to get out of their apartment and for me to connect with them. So for four consecutive weeks, I delivered a bunch of masks. It became quite an event for seniors to receive the free masks, and an unexpected adventure for me.
2020 is a life-changing year. We all have unique experiences, skills and connections to offer. Let 2020 bring out the best in you to change the lives of the weak and needy.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.
Julia Douthwaite Viglione says
How lovely! It is times like this that make us search within for new ways to create meaning and connection. Our work with the masks was an adventure for me too! So glad we met. Thank you for the inspiring words.