Commentary: Meet your neighbors, get outside to find light in a dark time
By Joshua Marin/Special to El Paso Matters
Most of us are finding out what people born before 1941 already knew — living through a major, global, historical event is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Nothing since the Second World War has impacted the population of the entire world as quickly or as deeply as COVID-19 (though the sacrifices many of us are being asked to make are significantly less than during the war).
That said, it is important to look for the light in the darkness. What I’m writing is meant to help people understand what good we can take away from a bad situation, and to honor life itself. This is what my family and I have observed so far.
Appreciation for normalcy and the little things
As someone who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, I never truly thought I would appreciate or miss social gatherings in the way I do. Coming from a large, Hispanic family means birthdays or weddings or despedidas every other weekend, on a slow month.
In the early days of my anxiety, sometimes I just wanted to stay home; sometimes, I didn’t want to see anybody. Lately, that had turned into almost never wanting to see anyone or do anything outside of my close group of friends who intimately understand the nature and consequences of my mental disorder.
If we ever get back to a point in life where I can sit in a circle around a fire, or hug all 40 at the birthday party, or dare I say it, take a sip of someone’s drink because they are proud they made it, I vow to appreciate every single one of those moments.
Right now, I sit on the opposite end of the table from the two people I live with. These kinds of small things build up to the most memorable and significant moments of your life. Every “movie” moment in someone’s life started with a handshake or a hug, or even a simple hello, from less than six feet away. Let’s never take that for granted again.
Connecting with our neighbors
When was the last time you actually took a walk through your neighborhood before “The Big Cancel” swept the world? Not up the street to get the mail, not across the street, but really around your neighborhood?
If I’m being totally honest, I had no idea what most of my neighbors even looked like before this all happened. This has given us an opportunity, and for me, even an inkling of desire, to wave and say hello to the people that have lived all around us for years.
My grandparents, who coincidentally were alive during World War II, have always emphasized the importance of getting to know and helping those in your neighborhood. For my fellow GenXers and you Millenials, this is referred to as “being neighborly,” and used to be largely practiced before the age of the cell phone.
In my grandfather’s time, people endured boring stories from whomever was in their proximity and he continues to pass that practice onto us, even now. This is why we are all seeing our neighbors all of a sudden.
The great outdoors
I consider myself to be an outdoorsman. While I certainly appreciate air conditioning and the magic of cinema, I have always had a great appreciation for the outdoors. I love to fish, camp, travel, boat, swim, play sports, go for a run, all of it.
My mental health is directly tied to how much time I can spend outdoors. Some of you are now discovering this about yourselves and I hope you will nourish this part of yourselves when this is all over.
Going for walks is nice. I’ve learned to appreciate well-kept yards, plants and landscapes, but none of that compares to the forests, lakes, and mountains I miss so much. To steal a phrase from renowned nature poet William Wordsworth, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”
When we look back on this pandemic, it is vital that we remember it was doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery store workers, teachers, city employees, and people on the ground that saved our society.
Thank you all so much for what you do. We literally owe you our lives.
I would never tell someone that a simple change of attitude or perspective can solve all of your problems. I know that isn’t true, especially for my fellow unfortunate brain chemistry brothers and sisters.
This particular change of attitude and perspective is anything but simple. Whether you like it or not, COVID-19 is going to make you reconsider your life and who you truly are.
I hope this helps you reconsider things through a lens that promotes and highlights the good in life and the world around you, instead of just how much you miss going to work or to the bars or out to eat.
Be well, stay home, and wash your hands.
Joshua Marin attended Texas Tech and the University of Texas El Paso, where he graduated cum laude. He is a freelance writer from El Paso, as well as a musician and in-arena announcer and writer for the UTEP hockey team.