May 28, 2020
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my attitude. I’ve been wondering, why are these days so dispiriting? My family is, miraculously, all here in Los Angeles and everyone is in at least decent health. My city has never looked better, with its scrubbed-blue sky and barely-congested roads.
Plus, I have the sweetest dog, and now we get to be together all the time.
Yes, I know there’s a deadly virus lurking out there. Yes, the country is on the verge of economic collapse. But this moment…. this day… when I’m fairly healthy and we have enough money to pay the bills … why at even the best times, do I feel kind of sad?
On Sunday, I read this editorial in the New York Times and it hit me: the sadness is at least partly due to our collective, American mood. Every day, it seems, there’s some new horror, another injustice, a different reason to scream at each other. We’re all so angry, so angry we’re enraged, and that rage makes us sad. Meanwhile, our leader taunts and rails and posts falsehoods to Twitter. And then we’re madder still, either because we hate what he says, or we hate that others seem determined to get him wrong.
But here is what we should have: someone to congratulate us. This is hard, this staying inside and waiting at home and twiddling our thumbs until the pads get callused. We should have a leader who says “Thank you!” and “Wow, I’m so proud of all of you!” and “You are setting an example for generations to follow, with your determination and courage and sacrifice.”
Because we are. We have shut ourselves down, at great cost to our personal lives and our financial futures, putting our mental health in peril, and not necessarily to save ourselves. To save everyone.
We’ve heard about the Greatest Generation, those folks that braved the Depression and then turned around and won World War II. But we are upstanding, too. We are worthy of praise. We thought we were soft and iPhone-addled and addicted to Easy. Look at us now. Some of us, I grant you, are trying to pretend that none of this is happening, and their determined ignorance increases the danger for everyone.
But most people are trying. And that’s kind of incredible, when you think about it. The economy isn’t roaring back anywhere, even in states where governors have declared they are open for business, because so many of us continue to stay home.
We don’t have a leader who sees our sacrifice or recognizes our valor. But we should remember that we’re doing something we would have sworn, as recently as January, was simply impossible.
It would be a balm to the soul to hear our leaders in Washington say this . But they are too busy fighting. So I’ll say it.
Thank you for wearing a mask.
Thank you for staying home.
Thank you for washing your hands. And washing your hands. And washing your hands.
Thank you for not hugging your elderly relatives, though you miss their embrace.
Thank you for not going out to dinner, or the movies, or the theater, or any of the other venues and events that make life exciting and fun.
Thank you for letting your children watch hours of screen time, though it breaks every rule you so painstakingly laid down since they were first able to sit upright and stare at a TV.
Thank you for not working, even though you need the money.
Thank you for working from home, even though there are days you want to hurl that laptop across the room.
Thank you for entertaining your children when you have no more fun left in you.
Thank you for working, even though it puts your life in danger.
Thank you for working out alone to videos in your living room, instead of at the gym with your friends.
Thank you for cancelling that European vacation, that Alaskan cruise, that jaunt to San Francisco.
Thank you for not visiting your parents who live across the country, even though they are frail, and you don’t know when you will see them in person again.
Thank you for not cutting your hair, or coloring your roots, or getting that mani-pedi you miss so much.
Thank you for not touching others, not exhaling onto others, not offering your hand, or reaching out to kiss a cheek — even when that means no one touches you anymore, and you touch no one.
Thank you for managing to live with the same handful of people, and not killing them in the process.
And thank you for getting up each day, and doing it again, and doing it again.
We need this. We see your efforts. And we really, really are grateful.