My word for last year is “shocking.” Everything shocked me. And I’m not one to be easily shocked. Startled, yes. Taken by surprise, absolutely. Caught unawares, often. Amazed, almost always. Stunned, you betcha.
But shock isn’t my go to reaction, my primary emoji. I tend to lean into the simplicity and elegance of one single black heart.
Truth is, I was shocked many times between January 1 and mid-March 2020 – everything from the burning fires of hell in Australia, the sudden death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the stepping down of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, aka Harry and Meghan, from their “senior” roles, the sweeping Oscar win of Parasite, and yes, even by the impeachment, of Trump, the Teflon Don, who gets away with everything, so why not this.
But in the third week of March, I was truly truly shocked. Shocked out of my fucking mind. This shock was so shockingly awful, and unimaginable, that it made the others seem almost pale in comparison, which is saying a lot.
It was a slow-burn shock that went something like this:
“Wait, what exactly do you mean by a Pandemic? Like in the Middle Ages? You’re kidding, right? Isn’t this just some kind of really bad flu thing? Wait, wait, double wait, we’ll all be working from home? Starting Thursday? That’s like tomorrow.”
In retrospect, I’m mortified at this shameful confession. There I was at my production desk, smack-dab in the middle of our cramped creative department, languishing in those final oblivious moments, swimming haplessly in the waters of artless naivete, blind ignorance and foolish denial. I look back on that brief oasis of rosy innocence and wish I could have pressed pause for a year or two. Fast forwarded to the happy ending.
That was the defining moment, the astounding realization. The unheeded apex followed by the delusional denouement. The pivot from before and after, then and this, there and now to WTF just happened. Where was I? Is this what Armageddon looks like? Am I lost in some teenage dystopian novel? Did I ignore a ton of memos on this subject? No. We don’t do memos anymore. Did the email with the subject line, “Pandemic heading our way. All non-essential services will be shut down” land in my inbox and then inadvertently – read carelessly – get deleted by moi? Possibly. Probably. Most definitely. Who takes a subject line like that seriously? Besides, I thought ad agencies were essential. Just ask our clients. On second thought, don’t do that.
That was the initial shock. And usually the first cut is the deepest, at least according to Cat Stevens and Rod Stewart, but in this case the cuts just kept getting deeper and grew more horrifying. Shocking.
Everything was turned upside down. Off-kilter. Topsy-turvy crazy. It was Alice in Wonderland on steroids. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more shocking, it did. One shocking shock after the other shocking shock. A proverbial fucking shock wave.
Oh shocks. Oh for shocks sake. Enough already.
But no. The shocks kept coming. And they continue to come.
The shocking killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor; the shocking cop shooting of Jacob Blake; the shocking gun violence and senseless deaths because of it; the shocking murdering hornets; the shocking massive explosion at a Beirut port; Joe Biden shocking everyone by becoming the Democratic nominee and Kamala Harris the VP candidate; Chadwick Boseman’s shocking premature death; the shocking West Coast wild fires; Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s shocking death before the election; Trump shocking some by testing positive for Covid-19; Eddie Van Halen’s shocking death; Joe Biden and Kamala Harris winning the election despite Trump’s shocking denial; Alex Trebek’s shocking death; Covid-19 vaccine shockingly developed in less than a year; shocking bad behavior of political leaders; widespread shocking ignorance and denial of science; shocking belief in conspiracy theories by so many smart people; shocking indifference to the pain and suffering of humanity; and the shocking denial of empirical truth in favor of alternative facts.
Despite all these shocking things, there is something that doesn’t shock me. Not one bit. Here’s the thing, most humans are inherently good and kind, generous and caring, compassionate and loving and show up whenever and wherever needed. And that’s what I focus on these early days of 2021.