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The Wide Angle: Make the time to find you

The other night, after a long day at work, I came home and poured myself the proverbial two-fingers of Bushmills Red Bush Irish Whiskey and moved to the front step to contemplate life.

It was a pleasant night, with a light breeze, devoid of the summer’s humid grip. Insects buzzed about in the dark this evening and for the first 10 minutes or so, I simply enjoyed the honied taste of the whiskey.

The contemplation of life came not long after and as they do, my thoughts drifted to the day I just finished and the weeks and months that preceded it.

I’m not going to lie — I’m tired. Like so many other people, the pandemic has taken its toll. The constant barrage of an unyielding pandemic has had an effect on most people, I would suspect, and we’ve all been attempting to navigate our way through it the best way we can. In a lot of ways, we’re not that much different from the sailors of old who were as much at the mercy of Mother Nature than anything else.

For over a year and a half we have been on the tides of a turbulent ocean, and some days I’ll just come home and look forward to nothing more than a good sit on the steps and a good drink, a bit of quiet in the loud clang of the work day.

The weight of these disquieting days has always been eased by an unwavering partner, family, and of course our two furry kiddos at home.

Most days, after filing through the murk of news these days, I come home and feel better about the self-contained atmosphere we’ve created at home.

Early in my adult life I had my fair share of misguided ideas revolving around the next good time, but in recent years I have been content to relax at home and enjoy the distractions I’ve created there. Those I share the house with first and foremost, conversations with my parents, the cats, gardening, home brewing, video games and music are all just a few of the things I do to soothe a troubled mind — when necessary. It’s not always doom and gloom.

All of these things are distractions from the heavier days that this job sometimes brings.

Of course not every day. Locally, a large majority of the things we cover are good and positive. A landmark church lighting its steeples for the first time. A festival returned. Thursday night I watched the Austin volleyball team celebrate a game three win over Owatonna as if they won the state tournament and that made me smile.

I love this kind of variety and it gives me the opportunity to do some truly interesting things here in Austin. So I’m not saying I come to work each day bracing for storm after storm and I would hate for you to think that we would.

But it’s hard these days. I’m not going to sugar coat it. We’ve had challenges like everybody else and we’re doing our best to get through each day …. like everybody else.

But, it would be disingenuous to suggest that everything is okay all of the time. That’s not how life works and that’s certainly not how the last couple of years have worked.

One the most devastating effects of the pandemic has been the assault on mental health. As the COVID-19 numbers go up, so do those suffering from depression and mental anguish. The sources are many: isolation, the loss of a loved one, drugs … the list goes on. It’s another weight placed on the already over-ladened shoulders of the weary public.

In full disclosure, I too have been touched by depression. I’m not ashamed of it and have taken steps to manage it and cope with it. It’s not an everyday companion, but it’s been with me more than I would like.

On one particularly bad day last year though, encouragement came from an unexpected place and it was so remarkably simple that it should be held as an example of the strength of little things.

I watch a channel on YouTube called WhatCulture. Essentially, it’s a top 10 list that branches to a number of different subject matters including gaming and movies, just to name a pair.

For the first time, I noticed that one of the presenters, Jules Gill, took a moment at the end of his videos to offer words of encouragement. Not to anybody specific, certainly not to me, but words of support nonetheless, ranging from never giving up to believing and loving yourself among all else meant to blanket all who might be lost.

I’m not entirely sure when he started including this, but I found that the simple act of offering encouragement was uplifting and welcome. It wasn’t a grand speech and often it feels as more of an ad lib to the video script, but there is caring behind his words.

We live in a challenging time and many of us are having to deal with things we didn’t think we would need to. It’s hard on us when we are forced out of our comfort zone into something we don’t want to do.

It’s easy to forget about the happier things in life, or those very simplest of things that get us through a day. Whether it’s a  cup of coffee with a friend or a supper with a partner. We forget the importance of those simple things when an unfriendly world bears down on us.

So in the spirit of Jules, take the moment to find these things again or try something new. Distract from that weight and find your middle ground and balance. You are your own best friend, first and foremost, not your enemy. Do those things that allow you to find the happiness you deserve.

And if you need help, please reach out for it. Don’t be afraid of the hand that’s there to hold yours when you need it. Strength is not walking alone. Strength is realizing you need help and taking the steps — whatever they may be — to get that help.

None of us are getting out of this world alive, but while we’re here there’s nothing stopping us from finding happiness within ourselves except for yourself.

Become friends with YOU again. It all starts there.