Yesterday, my husband and I sat on the bank of the Roanoke River. In an instant, the breeze, the sun, the coffee hit me in just the right way, and I was BLISSFUL. In my heart, I was saying, It doesn’t get any better than this. Then an inner voice screeched: Wait a minute! There’s a pandemic! Race relations are horrific! And you’re this happy? What’s wrong with you?
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. I realized I already know the answer to those questions I asked myself. There’s nothing wrong with me except that I’m getting healthier. I’m walking the walk instead of talking the talk. For years I was a marathon journaler. I would go deep into mental masturbation about a troubling situation and come out on as many sides of it as I could fathom. In no time, anxiety itched again—first just a little, then it grew until there I was scratching furiously in my journal once more.
Now I know, trouble comes, bad things happen, and there are a dozen horrific things I can latch onto and feel lousy about. Mental health happened when I stopped latching onto those things.
I no longer nurse wounds and worry myself silly. What I do now is acknowledge what’s going on. Yes, there’s a pandemic. I’m never without my masks. I listen to Dr. Fauci. I carry hand sanitizer in a grapefruit scent that makes me happy when I use it.
And yes, there’s racial tension up the wazoo. But I’m mindful of kind people of all races, and I believe kindness spreads. I send good vibes to protesters, and I interact honestly with whomever it makes sense to engage with about the topics of race, racism, bias—about what I know about being Black in this society for decades, and about how I believe we can move to a new and better place.
With all that going on, I’m still happy because things can always get worse before they get better. But as the old folks and the religious have been known to say, I woke up in my right mind and breathing on my own. If that’s the baseline, then I’m thriving. So I’d best tap into that good fortune and enjoy it while it’s here. Whether it comes as a great walk or talk with my husband or daughter or family members or friends, or a great meal and a good glass of red wine, or that the bumblebees are just having a party in my oregano bush, I’m down for it.
Perspective is everything. Things haven’t been great every day of my life. Every relationship has its dark spells. Then there was that season when my mother went down hill fast. There was a year when I worked so hard and under so much pressure that I prayed daily not to have a stroke before I found a new situation. And there have been plenty more…..
I believe a commitment to mental health involves making the best of what’s happening right now. It helps if we’re expecting (with fingers crossed) that it’s liable to get better. But it really is (I’d bet dollars to doughnuts) about seeing something good right where you are.
So I’ll go back to that previous paragraph and tell you what “being okay right now” looks like when life’s not so great:
- When my relationship was in that dark spell, I listened to all this motivational stuff about releasing the past and opening my heart. And it worked; I felt gung ho and motivated one day at a time.
- When my mother was going down hill fast, I started my day with a magnificent cup of coffee from this particular little shop—because I knew that was going to be the highlight of my day, and everyday needs a highlight.
- When I had all that self-employment job pressure, I put myself on a tight budget and delighted daily in how much I didn’t spend because I was setting myself up to make less money.
So I’m all about being blissful—even during these harried times, and I’ll take every opportunity to find something delightful. And don’t you be afraid to give yourself over to delight. It simply makes life better. And that’s what it’s all about. Being alive. Making the most of it. Raising energy. One deep breath at a time.