I've gotta be honest. I've had a bad couple of weeks.
It's all just getting to me: the election drama, the post-election drama, the isolation of social distancing, and the sudden onset of darkness before I leave the office every day. I've been talking to myself, talking to the cats, and talking to any deities that might fancy listening. This year is just an ugly quagmire of sadness. My days are mostly spent going to the office, working in near silence, then coming home and binge-watching sitcoms in an attempt to remember what comedy feels like.
Call me maudlin if you want, but I've lost my mojo.
I figured out something that helps, though.
For the past week, whenever I've needed a break from the cubicle, rather than slinking to the breakroom or playing on my phone, I've instead been doing something rather out-of-character: I've been taking walks. Nothing exciting, mind you. Just a stroll around a block or two, but it's been nothing less than revelatory. There's nothing wrong with getting a little fresh air and a leg stretch or two, but it's more than that.
It's been over a year since we closed our East Moline office and moved to downtown Davenport, and I've barely explored the area beyond our parking lot. Getting out and seeing humanity in motion, even from a safe distance, is a reminder that the world is still here. We might not be congregating for Thanksgiving celebrations, we might not be hanging out with friends in bars and restaurants like we normally would, but we're still around.
When you take the time for a leisurely stroll, you notice things you don't catch when you drive past in a blur or have your eyes glued to a cell phone.
Things I've appreciated this week:
- The outdoor downtown murals. It's like our very own hieroglyphics. Proof positive that art and people and magic flourish. A block away, I spy a different kind of art in the form of a wall tagged with graffiti. Yes, it's defacing someone's property, and sure, it's kinda tacky. But in those lowest moments of seeing spiked pandemic numbers and wondering if we'll figure out a way to perservere, I've been reminding myself that someone figured out a way to scale a building, cross a roof, and hang upside down over the edge with a can of spray paint just to make that tacky accoutrement to an otherwise non-descript wall. We're nothing if not determined.
- The Bix statues. Okay, so maybe this is a bit self-serving, since our company is the primary sponsor of the Bix 7, and the statues honoring the annual road race are at the edge of our parking lot. But those statues are really impressive up close. I've driven by them countless times, but never actually walked up to them. Turns out I was missing the best part: the sidewalk of engraved stones, where sponsors and donors can have custom messages paved right into the footpath.
As someone who routinely stares downwards when walking around, this was a great discovery. There's everything from birthday shout-outs to memorial tributes to what even appears to be a brick sponsored by Nike. It kinda makes me want to sponsor one, were I independently wealthy and/or skilled with a chisel and a plucky DIY attitude. But if I ever sponsored a brick somewhere, I'd want a non-sensical message to confuse future generations as much as possible. Imagine this sea of heart-warming bricks and then right in the middle is one that reads "PUT SOY SAUCE IN CHOCOLATE MILK. TRUST ME. IT'S YUMMY." Or, I dunno, "COMMEMORATING THE GREAT ARMADILLO UPRISING OF 1982." Or, simply, "MMM BOP." I mean, if you're going to leave a legacy, it might as well be one that makes people go "What the...?" or get a lousy Hanson song stuck in their head against their will.
Better yet, I should sponsor a brick that just contains a bunch of non-sensical conspiracy symbols, like a pyramid and one of those all-seeing eyes and an ankh or something. Just the perfect amount of mystery to send future generations on a wild goose chase for absolutely nothing. Or I just sponsor HALF a brick with the message "IF TREASURE YE SEEK, HEAD THREE CLI--" and then purposely leave the rest blank. Just because I want humanity to survive 2020 doesn't mean I don't want to drive them insane.
- The new downtown YMCA. Man, it looks spiffy. If it feels like nothing is progressing in 2020, peep an eyeball at that construction.
- The raucous ruckus that can only be a train crossing the Government Bridge. Normally, that noise would drive me around the bend. But in the middle of a pandemic, it's a symphonic reminder that things carry on. 2020 might be a weird year, but trains still run and cars still drive. Goods and services still need to get from Point A to Point B. It's a horrible, beautiful noise.
- Downtown lofts. There's a ton of them, and they're pretty cool from the outside. I like my house, don't get me wrong. But it'd be pretty cool to live in a converted loft with huge windows and a roof you can chill out on.
- THE SKY. Have you guys looked UP this week? Every night, I leave the office to darkness, which is repellent and depressing and an annual adjustment I hate to make in ANY year, let alone one of frustration and sadness and scary times. But if the sky is clear, you can look up right now and see Jupiter and Saturn hanging out by the moon. You can see Mars red and brilliant to the east. COVID might have the world in its clutches, but not the universe.
Tonight when I got off work, I just stood there for a bit in the parking lot, staring at the sky. For all we know, one of those dots a kajillion miles away could have another dot rotating around it full of eight-legged spider-monsters living their best spider-monster lives. Maybe they don't have to wear masks or socially distance or vote one spider-monster into office while a different spider-monster claims its rigged. Maybe they're just having fun and patting each other on the back (or whatever the spider-monster equivalent to a back is.)
We're in the home stretch on this thing. Vaccines and hope exist, even if they're hard to see right now. If 2020 hits you hard, don't worry. Well, you probably SHOULD worry a little. But then take a breath, put on a coat, walk around the block, and see the world continuing to thrive and survive. if you look hard enough, you might just be able to find something to be thankful for this year.