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Life is what you make it, so they say.  I suppose “they” are correct, in theory.  However, the highway of life is fraught with many twists and turns that can make the journey challenging. 

The pandemic has thrown a lot of lives into a logjam. It is no wonder many of us are feeling out of sorts.  Michelle Obama shared that she is experiencing a low-level depression.  The fear we experienced at the onset of the virus has been replaced with a cluster of emotions:  anxiety, depression, frustration, fatigue,  intolerance, and anger — anger seems to have taken center stage.

As a home-based medical biller, I can attest to an increase in diagnoses of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.  I foresee a new diagnosis and corresponding code that will be COVID specific. 

September heralds the start of the new school year.  Yet, parents, teachers and students alike are dealing with the unknown and feeling conflicting emotions. Instead of donning new school clothes the kids and teachers are donning face masks.  They are teaching and learning in unfamiliar territory.  Stressful?  You betcha! 

We feel out of control.  We are suffering a loss of normalcy and miss our cherished routines.  Businesses are closing resulting in job loss and financial woes. Social-distancing and mask-wearing are recommended to protect us from the virus — which by the way, is neither Democratic nor Republican.  However, humans are social creatures, and this new normal is difficult.

On top of the uncertainty that COVID has wrought, we are in the middle of an election cycle.  Once referred to as “silly season,” nowadays there is nothing silly:  Political mudslinging, blame and whatever we can get on the other guy fuels our anger. We are waging war with each other and sometimes within ourselves. We are living in the divided states of America and have morphed into angry Americans.

Social media does not afford stress relief, folks. On the contrary.  It is a place for cheap shots, degrading memes, and name calling.  The angry posts are usually centered around a political party  or the President and his opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.  

I have fallen victim to posting some snarky and unkind remarks. When faced with a differing mindset, instead of letting the comment go, I responded by taking cheap shots.   

My love of driving has taken a back seat to impatience. The traffic on the North Fork during the summer months is challenging.  Before COVID I took it in stride.  Nowadays, I find myself uttering a string of expletives that would make a truck driver blush. 

My negative attitude was alien to me.  Usually flexible, I was able to go with the flow.  Good Lord!  I even justified my behavior. Like you, so much was taken from me. I lost a friend to COVID. My income took a nose-dive.  I cannot visit my California family and grandbabies.  I was knee-deep in a pity-party and enjoying the company of angry people. 

That is until I attended a morning yoga class.  Our practice is held on the front lawn of our church. While twisting to the right I faced a cemetery; pivoting to the left I faced the church building whose door was opened. My eyes fell on the light reflecting through the stained glass window behind the altar.  

We yogis did this pose a few times.  Suddenly,  a magical moment of awareness:  Looking toward the cemetery I was looking at death.  Turning to face the church I was looking at life. A half-remembered scripture passage floated softly round my consciousness. “I am come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”  I abruptly left the angry  pity-party. 

I would like to say in that moment of awareness everything changed. Not really.  But digging deep, I became aware. My words and actions at times were unkind and out of sync from who I really was.  

Justification be damned!  We are given one life and I was misusing this precious gift.  Nowadays, no matter how much I want to punch back — being of Sicilian heritage, it’s in my blood — I vowed not to let a person or situation make me unkind. 

Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” 

Life is indeed what you make it. To get lost on a negative highway to nowhere was too great a cost.  But wait…the road could take me to the next  pity party where I could mingle with angry  folks. Tempting?  Nope!  In the RSVP section I wrote “decline “and ripped up the invitation.

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.