What happened to you 2020

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here; I guess it’s been this never-ending shitshow that is 2020. Honestly, not a day goes by and I’m not greeted on my news feed by some human suffering.

Some days though… fuck… they all hit at once. Today, I learned Marc Maron’s partner, Lynn Shelton, a known writer, producer and filmaker, died due to an ongoing illness recently. Maron is one of my favourite podcasters, who runs the WTF Pod (check it out, it’s great); his recent broadcast though, in which he pays tribute to Shelton, completely crushed me. It’s fucked up enough to be caged in our own prison due to COVID-19, to suffer the lack of social contact, to not see our friends or loved ones for months and months on end… but it’s another to lose someone close during this awful time. Maron’s shaky, emotional voice cut right through me; because I don’t know what I’d do if I ever lost my partner to illness; I know already what it means to lose a loved one to cancer, the ultimate evil in the universe, and I gotta tell ya, that shit stays with you; it stabs you with the question over and over again: why? Why this person? Why not some piece of shit causing havoc and pain somewhere in the world? If only we’d get to choose who stayed and who didn’t.

I then learned of an Airbus A320 going down in Pakistan; all but two people survived, and many others died on the ground when the aircraft plummeted into what is one of the poorest, yet heavily congested areas in Karachi, the nation’s capital. At a time when no one, and I mean no one is flying, on a plane not even loaded to full capacity, and boom, disaster. Like, what the fuck. What did those people do to die like that? Why? Why can’t Trump’s fucking orange face just like, suddenly explode with the same haphazard occurrence of an airplane engine suddenly deciding to not work anymore?

Again, if only we’d get to choose.

I don’t know man. I don’t know what the fuck to make of this world anymore. COVID-19 has impregnated itself into our culture, our subconscious. I have friends who are eager to get together, to hang out; today I desperately wanted to go hang out with my buddies at the studio and play some jams; I’ve been yearning for months to blow some tunes into my tenor saxophone. But then there’s what if; what if COVID is lurking around the corner; what if it’s just waiting to fuck one of us- or all of us- up? I mean, it takes one person to infect half a goddamn village; it’s not that hard. And that’s why I have a hard time going with all the “yeah, we’re open, all good now” mentality that’s been floating around lately. Truth is, nothing, and nobody, is okay. Nowhere is safe. This isn’t paranoia, it’s the spawning ground COVID fucks us in, over and over again. It’s the lax mentality that it takes advantage of, and uses against us. And honestly, it hurts. It hurts a lot. I want to see my friends, my parents. I want to hug them and squeeze them and tell them all I love them so much. But I can’t. I know I can’t. For their own good and for mine.

Perhaps that’s the biggest impact COVID (fuck, so sick of this word) has had on us. It’s created a prison, a cage, all around us. Even between us. Even between our own sanity. With every day melting in just another day. No trips. No shows. Nothing to look forward to whatsoever.

Yet, little curious things started happening once the lockdown fell in place. I started building a lot of Lego. Like, on a whole other scale. I rebuilt sets from my childhood, using pieces I never even thought I had. I connected with a whole online Lego community I never thought existed. I got the chance to explore myself more, to really get a feel of what passions me and what doesn’t. I’ve been able to pay off chunks of debt that I thought I’d never escape. All these things just… kind of rose out of the ground, out of nowhere. In my desperation to lie on a tropical beach, drinking, rolling around in the sand beneath the shadow of a large palm tree, I built a beach; complete with a palm tree and a drunken, somewhat morose me looking beyond the turquoise waters.

Between the messy hair, mismatched clothing, thick alcohol aroma and unshaven face, this Lego minifig is scarily accurate

That’s just it. I brought the beach to me. I know I can’t hop on a plane to go to Cuba, or Jamaica, or Mexico, or St. Martin. I know I can’t hop on a plane and go to my long-dreamed-of land of Japan, where I can roam the streets of Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima and bask in all the wonder and beauty. So I built a temple, one that was straight out of my childhood:

The Emperor’s Stronghold, a true Lego classic

In the weirdest way, it all felt a tiny bit better. I could create a world without a real world, just using my imagination. It’s childish, it’s infantile; but it worked. It alleviated the pain, the reality that we all face right now; this seemingly-never ending prison of our own making. At the end of the day, isn’t that all we can do? Get through this alive and in one psychological piece?

It seems easy, but don’t kid yourself, it isn’t. It’s not easy for anyone. Not for introverts, not for extroverts. Everyone needs love. Everyone needs human connection. We are designed to interact, to mingle. To go out and explore, to discover, to feel new experiences. The virus has abruptly cut all that off, so what do we have left, other than ourselves, and those nearest to us? No, Lego hasn’t made things easier; in fact, there are days where I don’t feel like building- or doing- anything. There are days when all I can hear is my own fear bouncing back at me off the walls. It’s awful. Everyone knows that. But in midst of all the anger, the fear, the frustration, it has kept me alive; my partner’s encouraging words have kept me alive, and while not all of us may have that luxury, the challenge is all the same; find the thing that keeps you alive, keeps you happy, because all the death and suffering in the world will just continue to pull you down, to the point where it flips open the lid on your own suffering and your own demons.

We’ve heard it a lot, and it plays out like a really lame cliche, but it’s true; we must go on, we must endure. In the last two months, I’ve known two people within my own social circles who have lost their lives; more or less related to COVID. Nearly three years ago, I knew one of the closest person to me was slowly being consumed by a terminal fo rm of cancer. Life’s unfair, life’s shit. But we are alive, aren’t we? Still breathing, still kicking, still screaming with passion, dreams and ambitions.

Between’s Maron’s heartbreaking podcast, the dark news from Pakistan, and all the collective sadness in the world today, I just had to remind myself; hey, I’m still alive; not quite the time to close the curtain yet. Gotta keep breathing, gotta keep fighting, and, in my case, gotta keep building.

Find what keeps you alive and keep it close, really close; because no one will care if it’s silly, or it’s stupid; you do what keeps you going and keeps you alive to deal with the next day.

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