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Fight the Power: Learning to chill out during COVID-19 isolation

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If you don’t get out of these socially distanced days with a six-pack or speaking Spanish, it’s OK.

This is something I had to learn, amending some things I thought (and wrote).

In my last column, I talked about how precious it is to have this time and how we should essentially find a way to hustle to make it work. Wanna write a book? Craft your TV pilot? Paint your house? All of that is still cool, but what I have found is more important is to chill the hell out and not feel like a failure.

When my granny retired years ago, our family thought it was a perfect time for her to be the stereotypical grandparent from the movies. Smother grandkids with kisses, bake apple pies and cookies, wake up the family with blueberry pancakes in the morning (funny, in all the years I had with my granny, she never made pancakes, only grits every morning, like religion).

What we got instead was an elderly woman always wanting to clean. Our biggest joke with her was how much she wanted a foot stool so she could reach her curtains. These heavy ass Gone With the Wind curtains would, to most, be something to ignore, but for some reason, granny was obsessed with cleaning them.

When I got older, I realized that she didn’t know how to relax.

I remember hearing stories from my mom, telling me about how, in the house growing up, reading a book was sometimes frowned upon because you could be cleaning something instead.

This is why the stress of making lemonade out of quarantine lemons triggered me. If a day went by and I didn’t create a new song or write a blog or run three miles, I would truly hate myself and go into a sadness like Brooks in Shawshank Redemption feeding the birds.

I spoke to local psychologist Dr. Shari Dade, of the podcast 3 Psychs and a Mic on my own The Negro League pod, and she made a great point: To even have an opportunity to work on fly stuff during this time is a privilege. Sometimes survival is top priority, and it can look like doing nothing — but the results are everything.

“For so many people when they’re in high anxiety situations, productivity or busying themselves is a way to cope. A way to distract from stress,” Dade said. “But for so many people when you’re in a state of trauma, because basically what we are going through nationwide is global trauma, so many people in the midst of a trauma, it’s extremely difficult to be productive for a number of reasons.

“One reason is your body is in overload, so trauma causes fight or flight.” she continued. “It’s difficult to do executive functions like logic and create or focus on one thing. Productivity piece is lost because your body is trying to stay alive.”

This school of thought is still difficult to swallow, as I believe I’ve been conditioned to feel like I have to be productive at all times. Things came to a halt when she asked me, “What are you doing for me time?” I truly didn’t have an answer. It was like Good Will Hunting, when the doc asks Will, “What do you want?”

What I’ve come to realize is that people are generally good. We want to look out for others and we extend grace and understanding to everyone but ourselves. So if you’re having one of those days where things seem to be high stress, chill out if you’re able. Binge a show where you know all the episodes and words because that can be as valuable as learning how to order your food in French.

I’m a black dude, and we often shout things like, “white privilege.” Well, there are ‘rona privileges I need to check. To be able to sit down and ponder writing a book is a privilege.

I have no wife, no girlfriend or kids. There are countless people trying to juggle family life and keep a job simultaneously. There are people unable to think about writing a script because they have a loved one that is sick. And countless people are dealing with anxiety, worried about how long this will last.

I don’t have the answer for everything, but I know this: If you’re surviving, you’re doing more than enough.

Preach Jacobs is a musician, artist and activist and founder of Cola-Con and indie label Sounds Familiar Records. You can hear his podcasts and read more work at FightThePower.co.

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