Is There Always an Upside?

Now, living in the “Shelter-in-Place” paradigm to intentionally reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, is there a distinguishable upside? Maybe. Over the years of enduring my set of trials, tribulations, and challenges, I’m no longer ‘Mr. Gloom & Doom’. Nope. Yet, am I the eternal optimist, who sees the world as only sunshine and rainbows? Hell, no.

Still, having trained with the late Mizukami Sensei over the years, I’m: “Let’s see how this goes. Wait it out. Make it work.” At least that’s my space for these trying times, that maybe Charles Dickens’ “worst of times”. Perhaps, it hasn’t gone that far, yet. That being said, there’s absolutely no doubt that what we’re all going through sucks. Any way you look at it.

Given this new paradigm—this “brave new world”—Is there’s always an upside? Maybe. Well, we still might want to hold our judgment until the votes come in on this one.

Sensei told me over our years together regarding practicing Aikido technique, “Jon, you gotta make it work for you.”

We’ve all got to make this work for ourselves. There’s no one size panacea. Really, just saying. Amidst this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an upside, and there’s a downside. This is the yin and yang universe. There’s good. There’s bad. We create and discover the balance. All that being said, given all the downsides all the upsides, there are the people for whom I have mad love and respect, who show up and show out. Not only am I just saying, but I’m also just grateful. Amen.

Fortunately, my employer allows me to telework from home, and get paid. For that, I’m so grateful. Many others aren’t as fortunate, either losing their jobs or being furloughed. US unemployment is at all-time highs. According to The New York Post, economic forecasts predict the 6% unemployment rate through 2021. That corresponds to about 4 million people unemployed.

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I was mindful of that fact while I had to work with my company IT department to logon to my new company laptop following the “Shelter-in-Place” mandate. My contingency plan worked, using my ‘old’ laptop, where webmail has become my very good friend.

Before the imposed self-quarantine, I discovered that I couldn’t download the required cyber-security app on my iPhone from the Apple Store, because my iPhone is too fucking old. The App just wasn’t compatible. I had to go to my company’s website and request a ‘hard’ security token for access. The hysterical part: My IT expert told me that this added layer of cyber-security “is not really necessary”. Well, the app succeeded in what it was designed for: It kept someone from accessing my laptop, albeit me. Of course, ordering the token was not exactly straight forward, either. WTF?

A couple of weeks later I called the Company Helpdesk for assistance. After waiting for about 30 minutes, I spoke with William. William was very cool. He was awesome. He clarified that I had looked at the ‘wrong’ token on the website menu tab. With that clarification, William schooled me to complete my request form and submit it. He even helped me mail the device to my home. The corporate offices are closed due to COVID-19. I told William, “Thank you.” What a good man!

In the flood of company email related to COVID-19 and business practice, I got the message that we were required to wear cloth masks if we were at the program offices or customer facilities. Got it. So, I called my friend Donna, who had purchased 10,000 surgical masks just prior to the China pandemic outbreak. She thought that it was a smart business opportunity. Absolutely.

Donna mailed me 200 surgical masks in 4 sealed bags of 50 for not much money at all. She also gave me a very cool washable laundry bag that her company sells as a bonus. I had to call her back to ask her how to use the damn thing, not being well fabric versed. I also said, “Thank you.” Donna and I have been great friends since college in Hawaii. She’s so thoughtful, kind, and just good people. I’m so grateful.

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One material downside of COVID-19 is the scarcity of paper goods at the stores. I thought I was nearly brilliant when I spent $65 for 10 rolls of toilet paper online. $49.99 of it was for expedited shipping. Had I not spent the extra money, I would have gotten my 10 rolls no earlier than May 6 as opposed to no earlier than April 16.

In the meantime, my dear friend for over 30 years, Ron, could spare a couple of rolls of toilet paper to tie me over. We met at my favorite park in Torrance, where Ron unloaded the rolls in my car trunk, observing the pertinent “social distance” protocol. Ron is a good man. I love Ron. I am grateful for him… and for the toilet paper.

Yeah, half of my online shipment arrived a week earlier than scheduled. I’m still waiting on the additional 5 rolls. Consequently, I instituted my backup plan. I order 10 more rolls online with free shipping, arriving in mid-May. I’m an engineer. I always invent contingencies.

Turns out that Ron, John, my best friend from high school, who lives in Tokyo, and I were huge fans of the CBS streaming series “Star Trek: Picard” starring Patrick Stewart and Brett Spiner reprising their iconic roles of Admiral Jean-Luc Picard and android Commander Data. We’ve all been “Star Trek” fans for decades. We traded email about our experiences watching “Picard”.

Spoiler Alert: We were touched by Picard and Data poignant resolution of their unconditional love and friendship in Episode 10. Data got his humanity, his mortality. Ron and John are my best friends on Planet Earth. We create our unique space of fun amidst these “worst of times”. So very thankful for them.

In this self-quarantine isolation, my dear friend Cheryl told me that she had problems with her company’s website, which was critical for her business. I hooked her up with my friend Enoch, who’s this website designer genius. Software and website design are just not my deal, unlike government communications satellites and Aikido. Just saying.

Enoch is so very cool, so very smart, and nice. He worked with Cheryl creating baby steps to get her back on-line. Enoch and Cheryl are just good people. They’re two of my favorite on Planet Earth.

Like me, Cheryl is a big movie person. We love movies. During this COVID-19 quarantine, Cheryl told me that she shared her Amazon Prime account with some friends. Yeah, she gets free-shipping, but forfeited away Prime Video access. I knew that Cheryl was working non-stop during this whole “Shelter-at-Home” deal. She needed some downtime. So, I gave her access to my Prime Video Account. After all, “Picard” had completed. Season 2 ain’t coming anytime soon. Anyway, I was so happy that I could be of service.

Cheryl and I see movies all the time at the movie theater. Well, that ain’t happening for a while. Not so surprisingly, we love the same movies. While grocery shopping at my favorite Japanese supermarket, Cheryl texted that she loved “Booksmart” starring Kailyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. I had recommended that one.

One of Cheryl’s All-Time Favorite Movies is “13 Going on 30” starring Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo from 2004. WTF? I didn’t think anyone else had seen it, much less loved it. Watching Jennifer and Mark do their version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance always makes me smile. That makes Cheryl smile, too. We all just gotta have fun in the bigger picture. That too, is an upside.

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Yes, there’s the definite downside to COVID-19: The self-quarantine, and the inherent health tragedy unfolding. My thoughts, prayers and compassion for all those suffering with the virus, and for those, who lost loved ones to the virus.

In the Buddhist doctrine, there shall always be suffering in the world. Yet, that suffering will come to an end.  We don’t know when that will be for the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, it will inevitably come to an end. There will be some return to normalcy. Whatever that shall be.

All that being said, while taking my walk in my favorite Torrance park on a sunny day, I smile. I smile, because I’m so grateful for all the amazing people in my life. They all show up and show out. Mad love and respect for them. They are my definite upside. They’re my Heroes. I’m more than just saying. Amen.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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