With Humanness . . . Courage . . . and Eloquence
By Jorge D. H. Prósperi, 2020
To maintain a quality of Life . . . this is what the people of the world are being asked to do like never before.
That quality is often measured by what is done for those who can’t do anything in return – those who are invisible and voiceless.
It’s difficult to keep such a selfless thought in play during times of isolation, confusion, vulnerability and survival. We see frightening photos and videos of fellow human beings in alien suits. This can’t be real!
Hibernation – it may be necessary and very cool for bears, but we folks are used to other rhythms and tempos. We are not used to surviving.
Some hunker down. Some think chronologically of self, family and community. Some just buy more guns. I journal to keep my sanity in order to continue to contribute best I can . . . keep my humanity in perspective.
Therefore, take this essay – this tome with a block of salt. It is no more or less a sincere attempt to ease the mind, heart and spirit. Yes, it is long, tedious and detailed, but these are tedious times requiring attention to details and their management. Maybe you will have some time to peruse its possible relevance.
“Hey, amigo, why so many images?” I guess because I’m a visual learner – always have been and believe that words create images and images create words beyond images and words . . . each a pathway – at times intersecting at some truth.
“So let me get this straight, you are asking me at a time like this to remain imaginative, creative and even dream?”
Absolutely! More than ever. Don’t stop. As Steven Spielberg shares, “I don’t dream at night, I dream all day long.”
Another amigo asked, “Jorge, how are you surviving?” Made me think of the infinitive – “to survive” – like when I hear, “I’m starving!” Starving – really? Let’s pause a moment and consider that our ancestors long ago dealt with “survival” trying to scrounge for something to eat and at the same time not be eaten. Some words should be shelved until a time and reason for their appropriateness.
Unfortunately, surviving is not a new experience, particularly for some of our sisters and brothers throughout the world. For some, surviving is a daily reality – now more challenging by way of COVID-19.
For those of us with immigrant backgrounds that fled poverty, daily violence, revolution, political-religious persecution and/or ethnic cleansing, the COVID-19, while deadly, is an enemy that can be confronted with courage and one universal focus and response – together.
Lest we forget that all who suffered calamities did not have the freedom, options, choices and support to deal with resolutions. There were no press conferences to inform, protect and defend. Victims throughout history were surviving victimization, not from a biological alien, but from the human virus of dehumanization.
Lest we forget that once upon a time, native mothers slept with eyes open, poised to grab children and ready-packed belongings . . . and ran, ran for their dear lives . . . desperately . . . from hooves, blades and torches approaching. They knew terror without knowing why. Elders still remember and tell counterstories on the rez.
Descendants of slaves and colonized lands carry with them the multigenerational trauma of their ancestors and realize that the Coronavirus, while deadly, is a different type of challenge – unlike the counterstories of oppression preying on human dignity and freedom – dissecting natividad and latinidad.
Those born in the 1930s who experienced the horror of Nazism lived through unimaginable terror – living minute by minute . . . surviving. A horror that could not be quarantined. Those who survived knew how to sustain life . . . cling on to every breath refusing to consent and relent.
In 2020 families and children are imprisoned in cages like infected agents, with futures in doubt. Regardless of the inhumanity bestowed on them . . . they struggle to survive . . . they know how . . . a way of life.
All generations that faced cataclysmic oppression demonstrate core characteristics that can’t be measured . . . nor destroyed. A matter of Resiliency, Resistance and Persistence to maintain their humanity.
It is important to remember that (I repeat with emphasis) while the Coronavirus is deadly, we are ALIVE and must live with a will to live . . . even if quarantined . . . we have the freedom to make personal choices and get through such times with dignity and integrity.
The virus has humbled each of us and made clear that regardless of our place of birth, ethnicity, nationality, language, history and culture . . . we are all citizens of the world collaborating, uniting and fighting as one. Our blood type, pigmentation, religion does not matter to a virus.
The virus is a powerful alien that has presented opportunities for a new international learning curve. The homeless and the Wall Street CEO, even though separated by status and class, can be equally and unceremoniously victimized.
We have a chance to reboot our humanity.
All of us want to maintain a quality of life that now is restricted. We have been taken out of our comfort zones. We are creatures of habits and those habits have been interrupted by glitches, restrictions, and in some cases, no longer available.
The need for personal human interaction has been short circuited.
We have been asked to live our lives at a domicile – a woman’s/man’s castle . . . not only our residence, but our home. Where we not only exist, but live . . . there is a difference.
So how do we continue to live in our homes? How do we approach – reconstruct a new quality of life while being asked to remain at a distance from others?
Human beings are extraordinarily adaptable, clever, astute, courageous and with our powerful brains, hearts and spirits, we will survive the virus.
The following is a list of suggestions in order to survive Physically, Emotionally and Psychologically during our stay at home.
Physical Exercises at least 3 times a day – if and when is up to you! *Warning – It does require some discipline.
There will be a temptation to become sedentary watching the latest updates on the virus. It’s wise to do. But binge-watching Breaking Bad, The Wire or Sons of Anarchy – is not a good idea!
Fight the temptation. Don’t allow the TV to dominate. Make TV time a treat. Like going out to the movies – yes with popcorn ready.
For those who now work at home, take a required break every 20 minutes! Just walk around the house – stretch and move about. The work will be waiting.
Whether we are fully mobile or restricted to a wheelchair, fight the impulse to remain physically immobile. I say this with respect and full awareness that there are those who are restricted, bed-ridden and require special attention to maintain different forms of physical activity.
Keep moving. Don’t take shortcuts around the house. Those of us with stairs (who can navigate stairs) have a ready made stair-master. Up and down several times keeps the heart, legs and core in action.
Create a scheduled routine during morning, afternoon and evening hours to exercise at least 10 minutes. Select exercises that will provide comfortable and moderate range of motion and stretching. Time the workouts.
Those with young children will agree that exercise is part and parcel of keeping up with them. The younger the children, the more exercise. Get the children to exercise with you. Make it fun and a habit.
Those who have exercise machines are fortunate. Dust off that treadmill, recumbent bike, rowing machine and schedule your morning, afternoon and evening sessions. Remain consistent.
The internet is now filled with YouTube examples of fitness gurus leading exercise session. Try to select some that don’t scream back at you.
Weather permitting, take a walk twice a day. Even if its in your yard, driveway . . . get dressed to walk outside and walk. Look up – the sky is still there. Take deep, deep breaths.
If available and possible, go to a park and walk. Change the scenery.
Crazy, KRAZY suggestion. SING and DANCE!
Oh yeah! Shake that bootie! Move it all around, up and down. Regardless of the generation, you got the moves baby . . . now do the slide, the twist, the boot scootin’ boogie. Yeah . . . fast or in slow motion . . . feel that rhythm . . . turn that beat around . . . ¡Salsa! . . . not the one in the fridge!
How are the pets doing? Caring for animals during such times can be difficult as they require attention, exercise and proper nutritional care.
Animals shelters are challenged during such times because of pet owners who unfortunately no longer can afford proper care. Reach out to the Humane Society and donate what you can. There are Animal Shelters throughout the state that need assistance.
Keep in mind the farmers, farm workers, breeders, trainers and instructors who deal with livestock and animals 24/7 – 365. Their time, effort and costs are immense.
Time provides us with opportunities to do those things that typically we don’t want or like to do. No excuses – this can be a great time to clean out the closet, attic, the garage, basement. Make it a family venture. Throw away, store for future donations and consignment shops. CREATE SPACE.
Our emotional well-being is now being challenged as anxiety and stress are on the rise. How do we cope?
Each of us has our own emotional backpack we carry filled with emotional baggage and challenges. We own those emotions. They are real and ever present. So much has changed that impacts our emotions. Celebrations of special occasions, weddings, christenings, Bat mitzvah, Bar mitzvahs, Confirmations have been postponed or cancelled. Even a birthday party is now on Zoom, Face Time or a drive-by.
A friend painfully shared that she lost her mother and husband within weeks. A family member lost a husband, brother and sister-in-law within months. Family and friends now share condolences from a distance . . . funerals, sitting shiva . . . mourning at a distance. Visiting family and friends at a nursing home or hospital disrupted.
“Don’t mess with our sports!” The virus did just that! Our beloved Wings, Lions, Tigers and Pistons, regardless of their struggles, are our boys of summer, winter, spring and fall.
Alumni flags wave outside our doors . . . “Go Spartans! Go Blue!” Now just echoes. The madness of March calmed to a whisper. The virus even took down the Olympic circles.
We love our distractions that create a pause from the real world. “Let’s go this weekend to a museum, art gallery, concert, opera, play, symphony.” [Cancelled until further notice.]
A grandpa and grandma looking forward to seeing grandchildren at a recital, gymnastics, tee ball, soccer game, swim meet – cancelled . . . memories on pause.
Social Distancing now banning us from participating as an audience.
Disruption of planning and shopping for that special day and date . . . anticipated memories of a homecoming, prom, graduation . . . all on hold.
That much earned job interview . . . the first day on the job . . . that well deserved retirement party now postponed. Who knows now if and when . . .
Yes, we are highly emotional human beings. Oh, we try hard to balance and keep those darlings under wraps . . . but the virus tells us that we are all squashy-mush inside. Yes, we too guys! We can’t help it! Emotions are so much part of who we are . . . part of being human . . . so damn human. Isn’t it wonderful . . . isn’t it daunting?
And this is why we need to pay close attention to our emotions while navigating the rapids caused by the virus.
One major focus has to be our health.
Our health needs must be prioritized. What is our medical history that requires attention from a daily perspective? Do you happen to have an online MyChart account with your doctor or hospital? If yes, review the options and make sure you have a life-line to its information. Take control of how to navigate the system. Take notice of the changes regarding making appointments and new procedures.
For those of us who require specific medications, call the pharmacy and ask for their policies regarding availability. Some medicines require time to fill. Call your doctor, or Physician’s Assistant and ask for a plan by which to not disrupt your medications. Again, ask for numbers, names, pharmacy hours, pick up and drop off times. Pharmacies are now mailing medications overnight via FedEx. Regulate medications – pay attention to daily dosages. Maintain awareness and control.
Review specific short and long range Dr. appointments. Review minor out-patient surgery appointments or procedures. Do they have new hours and are now postponing non-emergency appointments? Arrange for transportation if needed ahead of time.
Lets keep in mind that at times we require professional care by doctors, nurses, interns, medical assistants, nurse’s aids, paramedics and the staffs that work for our hospitals that keep medical facilities functioning. Custodians, maintenance, security, volunteers at the door . . . they all matter and some have gone from caring for others to caring for self as the virus has victimized those on the front lines. How can we help? Awareness and maybe it’s as simple as staying home so we do not become a patient.
Dealing with financial realities can be challenging even during the best of times. Remember that knowledge is power. Monthly financial responsibilities will come calling and need to be addressed. Begin by taking an organized pro-active approach to managing and controlling incoming and outgoing finances.
Liquidity – is the flow of money we have weekly, monthly to pay our bills that requires MANAGEMENT!
Unemployment will become a reality for many families. Be aware that the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is already swamped with calls. It may take hours to get through.
The agency is strongly recommending to register and report claims online. According to the agency, it takes about 25 minutes to file a claim online. If online is not an option, then call at different times of the day and realize that you will need to be patient.
There is now an extended timeline on the number of days to report unemployment. An unemployed worker used to have 14 days to register for unemployment but now has 28 days. DON’T WAIT to register.
Become aware of your company’s/employer’s benefits packages, procedures and policies. If there is a Worker’s Manual, review it and affirm all information with the HR department. Don’t rely on gossip or rumors by coworkers. This is a time for fact-checking not generalities.
Mortgage companies and banks will come knocking on your door with lower interest rates. Know the difference between refinancing and modification.
There are different types of mortgages – 1. Refinancing with a specific process and costs (credits, points and closing costs) 2. Another is a process by which to avoid foreclosure based on financial hardship 3. Yet another is Modification with your CURRENT mortgage company that already has all of your information without costing points and closing costs. KNOW the DIFFERENCES as each broker and bank can differ.
Consider centralizing financial information on one sheet. Make a list of all potential expenditures. Keep a file of must-have important papers.
Get the names and numbers of each of the utilities and if needed, do some research on their current policies regarding monthly payments. If needed, take the time to call each utility. Ask key questions about new payment options that they are providing. Don’t guess – KNOW!
If needed, call your credit card company and ask for extended 0% interest payments. Most companies have a 6, 12, 18 month 0% interest programs. If they refuse, express your disappointment and call other companies that will abide. Keep track of due dates – deadlines.
If needed, do the same with car loan payments. Call the bank and/or credit union with the loan. Ask for extensions – not for a month or two but for 12 to 18 months.
Call the phone/internet provider and discuss with them cable, internet, phone bill. Know contractional deadlines and opportunities to change or drop the service. Be careful with long term deals. Request for short length of months. Review early cancellation dates and penalties.
This is a good time to share financial information with other trusted members of the family. How do I define TRUST? Those who unequivocally have demonstrated consistent credibility, honesty and selflessness.
Is there a will and testament? Designate where the financial information is located and explain the depth and breadth of details. There is no substitute for planning ahead. “What if . . .” scenarios should be discussed openly and honestly. It’s a matter of being responsible for all involved.
If there is a family lawyer or accountant, consider having a conversation as to questions you may have regarding your current status. Again, “what if ” scenarios.
Calculate any changes in current income due to unemployment and how best to distribute incoming amount across all incoming bills.
What needs should be prioritized? What discretionary income may need to be shifted to required expenditures. Personal sacrifices may need to be made.
Monthly fees to clubs, rentals, leases may need alterations. Plans for summer camps, vacations, anticipated purchases may need review and pause, at a minimum – plan ahead. If necessary, how will such changes be made? What about deposits already made? Who to call and discuss cancellation or reimbursement?
UPON ORGANIZING YOUR FINANCES PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION! Be cautious when asked to contribute to non-profits. Scammers and charlatans will be taking advantage of the virus crisis. Begin blocking calls from telemarketers. Don’t fall for ponzi schemes. A red light should go off if you are asked to contribute by way of a gift card, credit card, cash or check.
Do not provide personal information to someone who you did not call but who called you. Instead, make a contribution to your trusted reputable non-profit. Better yet, donate directly to someone who you know is in need. Sometimes the most in need may live across the street.
For those with stocks, bonds and pensions, call the broker and review current status. Be careful with transitional fees imposed by brokers. This is a time when they should be waiving all fees and making concessions. Use common sense and manage your destiny. Know when to “play them and fold them.” Remember, it’s your hard earned money!
Phew, now that the finances are somewhat in order, it’s time to pause. Shake off that anxiety. How else can we deal with our emotions, anxieties and stress?
Anxiety can breed anxiety. Remain calm. Make time to assess the situation at hand. What are the negatives? What are the positives? How do we deal with solving the negatives? Be pro-active – think ahead. Strategize, organize and execute. Supposedly we now have the time to do so.
We have been asked to stay home – quarantined. This was a personal challenge as I drove to stores never thinking twice wearing my home made mask. Yes, I digress to being stupid at times. My wife simply asked, “Hey, genius with the Lone Ranger mask, what would happen if you got into an accident and was hospitalized. What then? What about the virus you bring back on your clothes and designer mask?” We now order online or by phone. The problem being that deliveries are up to two weeks behind.
Seek scientific knowledge, clarity and honesty as to what the Coronavirus is and how it has impacted all countries and people. Deal with science not rumors or generalities.
Listen to your local and state officials. Don’t rely on political partisan news. Break away from “information biases” and pandering. This is a time for LEADERSHIP, CREDIBILITY, TRUST, TRUTH AND COURAGE – not political pandering.
There will be time in November to deal with the noise, the charlatans and unscrupulous politicians who use the virus for shameful political grandstanding.
Spend some time addressing any changes dealing with the upcoming 2020 election. Changes are coming to make voting more accessible. Voting by mail will be available but we need to know the process – know the changes. Remember . . . no virus can infect our citizenship. VOTE!
Find a time to explain to the children with clarity and honesty about the Coronavirus. Explain what specific rules are in oder to keep everyone safe. Become a role model and remain consistent with rules.
Children do best with structure, clarity and consistency. There may be times when some rules need to be put into practice that may alter their habits. Who knows how many times in their lifetime they may face such challenges.
It may take a few tries as families restructure how best to deal with children being isolated. Try to manage play time, homework time, video time, tablet time and TV time. Management should be in the hands of the adult(s) – parent(s) – grandparent(s).
Keep the education flowing as much as possible. My wife, who is a remarkable teacher, Face Timed with our 4 year old grandson in NY. She set up special times to select children’s books and she reads the story to him while showing illustrations. They talk back and forth at a distance. It provided some down time for dad and mom.
We are now moving into Zooming with other members of the family. Today we held the first “Spanish with Abuelo“ class with grandchildren (and their bud) in New York. ¡Olé! I loved it! The technology, as usual, caused some glitches, but we problem-solved together and figured it out. Our next session in Spanglish will be the book “Zoom” by Istvan Banyai – a story of the magnitude of our world – our lives. No virus will ever stop grandparents from loving!
To keep children focused for an entire day is a major job! Now you know why teachers deserve a pay raise without ever having to ask or strike.
Review lesson plans provided by the school, not to pester, but to monitor, remain engaged and aware. The learning schedule can be broken into time slots of 20 – 30 minutes – just like classes. Keep the sessions short and sweet with plenty of breaks. As the stellar horseman/trainer/instructor Chuck Grant often reminded students, “Ask often, expect little or nothing and reward generously.”
Reach out to family members and friends who may be interested in learning about Face Time and Zoom sessions. Yes, the technology can be difficult but it’s a great time to learn.
Yes, it does take a village – now in real time and space!
Read. Catch up on that novel, article, essay. While reading our emotions are at play. We relate and react to words, characters, plots, protagonists. We need escape during confinement.
Journal – Write. This is a tough one for most of us. While it is said that we go to school to learn to read and write, both tend to become challenges.
Writing for me is therapeutic. I can’t think of a day without writing something down that I thought about, felt about, need to express. It is ironic that I share this given that learning English was one of the most difficult challenges of my life. As a second language acquirer, English was a cold unforgiving wall. But I learned to climb over and through it and it now has become a trusted friend.
Even if you write for only 5 minutes, WRITE what you are thinking, feeling, need to say. Clear your throat of those pent up feelings. Free-write – don’t worry about grammar and spelling. Tell your story in your voice – in your style. No one is there to redline . . . no grade will be given.
Recently I received a text from a humble, intelligent and gifted friend. This is what she shared given our challenging times,
“There is a calm acceptance that eventually settles over all in times of challenge. This calm brings with it a rare sense of peace in what we can do, what we should and what we have to do. I liken this sense of peace to being alone in a boat after the oars have fallen out. The lack of options, after the passing of fear, brings this type of peace. We must simply drift in this new sea and have faith in the current that will take us.”
WOW! Simply WOW! Oh the power of language! Its inextinguishable flame. Just a text . . . filled with meaning . . . quiet emotion . . . calmness . . . if only for an instance. I do not share her name out of confidence and respect for her humility. But she is one hell of a writer! The quill is in her hand . . .
Meditate. Even if its for only 5 minutes. Close your eyes and for those few minutes disengage from the interrogatives of life. Put the who, why, where, when and how on pause.
Those interrogatives will be there waiting, so take a break, breathe deeply during those 5 minutes. Do this three times a day. Own those 5 minutes totally – unequivocally yours. Do this in a space where you will not be interrupted or disturbed. Hide if need be, but do this for you. Find the peace within you. It’s there. Feel it . . . embrace it. It’s your gift to you.
Psychological Exercises 3 times a day – if and when is up to you! *Disclaimer – I am not a psychologist – far from it – and most likely in need of therapy.
Perhaps the toughest survival skill may be how we deal with our psychological needs and journey while confined. I am not a psychologist and therefore this section should be left to the pros. So I tread lightly on this area that is not my expertise.
All I can share are personal considerations. In Ancient Greece, at the front courtyard at Delphi, the former shrine to the oracle Pythia, there was an inscription:γνῶθισεαυτόν. It translates to “know thyself,” a famous aphorism often attributed to the philosophers of the time.
The Coronavirus has provided us time to deal with retrospection and reflection. Yes, self exploration can be a painful examination. So perhaps it’s best to keep it simple and take baby steps. One consideration is to deal with conscious self awareness and with follow up questions.
What does it mean to become aware of our surroundings and ourselves? Do I just look around? Yes . . . begin there. What do you see? What has meaning? What has purpose?
To what extent do we stop to become aware of who we are? Do we edit and monitor such awareness?
What are my patterns of living, habits, strengths, areas needing improvement, personal values? What is driving my thinking and behavior?
What biases, prejudices, predispositions about others and difference do I harbor that require revision? Can I deconstruct my biases?
In what psychological language do I speak? How do I express myself to others? Do I make people regret that they ask me how I’m doing by projecting doom and gloom?
Do I pander and condescend? Am I a control freak out of control? Is my first reaction a criticism? How often do I compliment – recognizing/validating appreciation?
Does my voice carry hope and optimism? To what extent do I listen – truly listen allowing others to finish their thoughts without interruption?
Do I accept constructive criticism, deflect it or flee from it?
How do I view change and am I willing to change regardless of my age and circumstances?
Self awareness, listening to our inner voice, dealing with feelings, beliefs and biases is a tall order. The older we get the tougher the journey.
We often don’t have or make the time to deal with such heavy duty questions and challenges. Time now has been decompressed – there is no excuse. The virus has put a pause on time. We are now with ourselves most of the time – like it or not!
What I am proposing are not only considerations during our quarantined moments, but a life-style that enhances the quality of life into the future.
We can change – deconstruct – make alterations – adapt. But we have to believe it and live it.
We can begin by not only reflecting on our lives, but becoming aware of those who are part of our lives.
How aware are we of their needs, their feelings, their presence? It has been said that before we can love someone, we need to be fully aware of their presence in our lives.
Our time on earth is limited. While we can’t control time, we can try to manage it best we can. Let’s keep in mind that during the worst of times, we still have our will, our dignity . . . our civility . . . our humanity that we must hold on to with resiliency, persistence and resistance . . . with courage and eloquence.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimmed: And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d; But thy eternal summer shall not fade Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st: Now shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st: So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare