The past two weeks have been a real slog, despite the glorious sunshine. I have not felt very well, and continually exhausted. Sleep is healing, but too much is frustrating. And when you do not feel well, your body demands sleep. Yet, for me too much sleep makes me feel unproductive, which yields lack of purpose and the feeling of ‘yuckiness’. Moreover, in all of my reading and research, having ‘purpose’ is essential for finding happiness and joy. Conversely, individuals without purpose are at increased risk for depression and anxiety.
This recent slog has helped me clarify some thinking about COVID-19, and the unending conversations about what we can and cannot do in this pandemic:
- Can or should we visit grandparents?
- Is it ok for high school sports to start?
- When can we go out to eat again?
- Can we travel for Spring Break?
- Will there be festivals or concerts this summer?
- Is it ok to go to church?
- When will the kids go back to school? (Depending on where you live, this is probably the most important!)
Then there are the economic issues surrounding furloughs, layoffs, unemployment insurance, health insurance, potential evictions, staying current on investment property payments, the solvency of a small business, etc.
All these questions and concerns create uncertainty for individuals and families. And again, based on my understanding of mental health, uncertainty is a significant factor for risk of depression and anxiety.
And then there is the issue of mask mandates, which is becoming the topic du jour again with Texas and Mississippi lifting mandates and ending most COVID regulations. This issue, to wear or not wear a mask, along with the argument about whether the government has the authority to tell me to wear one has divided families, neighbors, and communities like no other issue I can think of in my adult lifetime.
Day in and day out, we are surrounded by the need to determine purpose, continual uncertainty, and an unending argument about a piece of cloth that covers our mouth and nose which will keep us safe. I know for many of us, life is a slog right now because we are tired and yearn for our normal life again.
During the past two weeks, this slog has come to a head in our political life in DC and Lansing. President Biden’s proposal cannot win any GOP support. Governor Whitmer and the GOP led legislature are bickering over appropriations and tie-barring money to changes in who has the power to open/close businesses. Yet, ‘regular people’ (the kind that Theo Huxtable defines in that classic Cosby show episode) are struggling with real uncertainty and financial worry.
This inability to work together across party lines and solve real world problems is harming our communities in ways that I do not think we will understand for years and maybe even decades. (Trust is at an all time low. No one is willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt. It seems as though we no longer have any type of shared understanding or life together.) In the meantime, what I do not understand is why our elected Michigan leaders cannot come together and rally around the following:
Hospitality Small Business Support. Clearly, the pandemic has leveled the hospitality industry. With the significant cash infusion coming from DC, the Governor, Legislature and Hospitality/Tourism Associations could create clear metrics regarding loss revenue for restaurants, hotels, performance venues and/or art organizations and develop a program to ensure business viability until herd immunity occurs later this summer. Stop arguing about what percentage a business can be open, and get the financial support to where it is needed. We are almost to the end of this pandemic, let’s stay safe and help our neighbors rather than spending time arguing about who is right in opening/closing certain businesses.
Eviction Prevention. Each county in Michigan is served by a Community Action Agency (CAA). Enlist the CAAs to work with District Courts, tenants, and landlords to lighten the loads on landlord/tenant claims in the District Courts, and ensure that tenants are not evicted when the federal moratorium ends as well as landlords receiving needed payments in a timely manner to ensure they do not default on mortgages tied to an investment property. We need to prevent homlessness, protect credit, and limit foreclosures.
Education Support. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Michigan Education Association (MEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Michigan Superintendents Association, and Legislature need to create program(s) to address the learning loss that is happening across the state. No matter whether students are in-person, virtual, or in some sort of hybrid model, the past three semesters have negatively affected students. As a result, a wide variety of additional supports are needed to address the corresponding learning loss. Our students need support like: Free Summer School. On-site before and afterschool tutors in the 21/22 school year. No cost trauma based mental health therapists. What is essential is that there is alignment between teachers, administrators, public policy and funding. No one will get everything they want, but students and parents deserve a coherent, comprehensive program to assist them in overcoming the learning loss that has occurred during the past three semesters.
We are all tired of the slog. Lord knows that I am. But we need to keep fighting and moving forward because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s come together and finish strong, helping our neighbors rather than chastising them. If we do, Michigan’s residents and businesses will emerge from the pandemic with a strong sense of purpose and certainty that we are in this together, ready for whatever opportunity or challenge comes next. Michiganians are a gritty bunch. Let’s do everything we can to build each other up.