Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
May 5, 2020
“I still think it’s a fun city.”
Mayor John V. Lindsay (during a 12-day NYC Transit strike in 1966)
As I sit here in the epicenter of the epicenter -- not just NYC, but Queens, NYC -- I realize it’s been quite a while since I’ve launched a new article into the ether.
Let me begin by expressing my profound gratitude that (as of this writing and to the best of my knowledge) I have not been infected by this shape-shifting virus. However, like every New Yorker, I know some who have and some who’ve succumbed.
As a lifetime Big Apple native, I’ve endured blackouts, subway and sanitation strikes, terror attacks, blizzards, hurricanes, heat waves, crime waves, and more -- not to mention the daily experience of navigating an overcrowded city often without forgiveness or mercy.
None of this prepared me for a digital age pandemic.
I feel almost obligated to deliver a tour de force combo of inspiration and breaking news. This just in: There’s no such thing as a definitive dissertation when the essence of this situation is uncertainty -- from how it started to when it’ll subside to how best to safeguard our physical, mental, and financial health to figuring out what sources are even remotely trustworthy.
With that caveat in mind, I’ll instead ease back into the swing of things with an introductory compilation of Covid contemplations. There’s nothing “definitive” here and my trustworthiness lies solely in my self-perception… and my evolution.
By now, the old me would’ve been ranting about animal wet markets, looming police states, and how many previous and ongoing crises didn’t warrant mainstream attention, never mind a complete lockdown. You know how it goes: Funny how no one bothered to recognize the countless epidemics spawned by patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism but now, we’re all marching in lockstep in our gloves and masks thanks to an invisible threat.
I also would’ve waxed poetic [sic] about non-human animals “reclaiming” the earth, the exponential decrease in pollution, why it’s a good thing that meat plants are closing, and how our unhealthy lifestyles laid the groundwork for Covid’s deadly march from sea to (once again) shining sea. All of this, and more, would have been accompanied by the marshaling of copious “evidence,” all jam-packed into myriad hyperlinks.
I hope you’re as relieved as I am that you will not be subjected to such subjectivity.
Instead of playing the more-radical-than-thou game, I’ll simply suggest that you relinquish your need for answers and clarity beyond the present moment. Every friend, every relative, every pundit, every clickbait headline envelops us in counterproductive speculation. Some of that may be wishful thinking and some may be agenda-pushing but all such prognostication is reckless in the face of a dilemma with so many moving parts, vested interests, and human frailties. To borrow from Niels Bohr: “Prediction is hazardous, especially about the future.”
The ever-growing list of what lies beyond our control includes crucial components like federal funding, vaccines, the reduction of mitigation tactics, and so much more. Rather than riding the re-open roller coaster, we could instead focus on what we have the power to influence. This list may be short but it grows in importance with each passing day.
All around us are individuals in desperate need of support. It could be someone unable to pay rent or another struggling to manage a mental health disorder or many more who -- thanks to social distancing mandates -- are now trapped in a nightmare of domestic abuse. To help people like this, we do not have to know for sure if Covid-19 will return in the fall or which Wall Street honcho is profiting off the suffering. All we need do is assess what we have to offer and then find people within our reach who can benefit.
For example, since 2016, I’ve been running a one-man program to help homeless women on the streets of New York. During the quarantine, I’ve been able to modify and adapt my efforts to keep helping at least a handful of such vulnerable souls. This work is within my control so I choose to not squander any energy in the service of speculation. Thankfully, many, many others are doing something similar (and so much more) within their own communities.
It would be wonderful if the current spirit of solidarity marked the beginning of a new awakening. But since that is also out of our control, all that really matters is what we do and who we can help right here, right now. For example, we can check on our neighbors, give blood, find virtual volunteering opportunities, buy gift certificates in advance for businesses forced to temporarily close, and share positive updates.
If it is you who needs help, please ask for it. This pandemic is not a test of wills nor a contest of skills. We’re all navigating uncharted territory and thus, at best, maybe we might find a tiny taste of balance here and there. Take news breaks and practice self-care. There is no shame in seeking assistance and fortunately, there is no shortage of those willing to step up and supply it. (You can find help through local mutual aid groups and/or dial 211.)
In between scrambling for income and trying to stay healthy, I’m making time for some fresh, unexpected experiences during NYC’s dark ages. I’ve begun meditating (day 42 and counting). I got myself a camping clothesline so I can wash my clothes in the bathroom sink and hang them out to dry. I’ve even grown to enjoy working out at home so much that I may never belong to a gym again!
Also, each evening at 7 p.m., I climb out onto my fire escape to join my neighbors for a few minutes of noise and clapping to honor our incredible hometown health care workers. This is the first time I can remember when my idea of a hero synched up with mainstream society and for that, I’m filled with gratitude.
When everyone is wearing a mask, you learn to pay close attention to their eyes. In the past couple of months, I’ve seen so much fear and anxiety in the eyes of my neighbors. Living in NYC right now feels like collective low-level PTSD. Such fear and anxiety are understandable, justifiable, and here to stay for a while.
I’ve also learned how easy it still is to recognize a smile -- even when you can’t see a person’s mouth. On my brief walks to the grocery store, I’ve come to treasure each and every one of these “eye smiles.” They speak volumes, e.g. I’m glad to see you. I’m relieved to discover you’re not one of the nearly 20,000 locals who’ve perished so far. I’m doing my best under dire circumstances and I hope you are, too. Good luck.
Let’s all stay as present and mindful as we can. If you need help, please reach out. If you can offer help, please reach out. Control what you can control and savor whatever positives you can divine amidst the turmoil.
Stay safe, stay well, stay in place, and take good care of you. I’ll see you on the other side of this crisis…
Mickey Z. is the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on the streets of New York City -- before, during, and after the pandemic lockdown. To help him grow this project, CLICK HERE and make a donation right now. And please spread the word!