• Brent Streeter

A Matter of the Mind

With Vietnam loosening the Lockdown and Hanoi returning to normal, I feel that it’s time to share what I’ll be taking away from the crazy experience. The restrictions brought on by the global pandemic that is COVID-19 are still in effect. We’re lucky to have regained some freedoms.

Two epiphanies helped me maintain sanity in these times.

· Spending more time strengthening bonds with family and friends.

· Turning to the things that I had placed on the ‘I’ll get to it someday’ list. The passions and projects that had slid into the category of empty self-promises (I’m sure we all have them) while I had focused on working and trying to stay afloat.

Both of these have helped me come out of this quarantine with a positive mindset. My creative flame burning brighter than ever and most importantly the need to keep it burning.

Boredom? Never!

It’s been a tough ride since the initial outbreak in China finally reached us in Vietnam. At first, it was great. We had no worries or obligations. It was like an extended holiday, scary but welcome nonetheless.

All the free time was great. I was able to do things like gaming, reading, binging Netflix, and even getting the old group back together for DnD (Dungeons & Dragons). After several weeks, most of these things lost their shine. Boredom struck like a truck. The rest of the world had started playing catch-up with the pandemic. Countries across the globe raced to shut down their borders. The only way to get in and out of these countries is to be repatriated.

Those of us who had chosen Hanoi/Vietnam as a lifeboat in these hard times were left wondering how much longer this would last. How much worse was it going to get? Most importantly, how were we supposed to fill in the time?

At this point, those of you who are reading this are thinking the same thing. If you’re lucky, you can work from home. You might have something to keep your mind off of things. I hope this article will speak to you regardless.

Laying out the cards

Keep up communications with those you hold close to your heart. Whether it’s your family, friends, or your significant other. You might not be able to see most of them in person. They might be scattered across the world, or just in lockdown at the end of the street. Pick up that phone of yours and call them, Video calls are preferable. You can’t hide your emotions or tone of voice on a video call like you can over text or simple audio.

My mother is currently alone and isolated in England. She’s cut off from the rest of the family. It’s been really hard on her having no one around. Even more so recently when her mother (my grandmother) got hospitalized for surgery. If her surgery went wrong, she might not have made it. This was a big blow to my mother’s positivity, and she felt powerless.

Through video calls, we weighed the pros and cons and worked on positivity strategies.

Luckily, my grandmother is making a swift recovery. Calming many fears in the family.

When I last spoke to my mother, she had changed her outlook. Focusing instead on meditating and surrounding herself in positivity. She thanked me for the support and being clear-headed in the dire situation. Sometimes we have to put our own fears in the backseat and take the wheel for someone else, directing them in the right direction. It’s not just a one-way street. We are all capable of providing strength and support for one another. It all boils down to who needs it more.

When we have no idea what to do or where to turn to, those close to us can often shed light on the situation and throw us a life-line.

This is why staying in contact with family and friends is so important. Being isolated is hard for most of us. It can be especially scary in times of crisis. Dark thoughts and emotions have a way of rising to the surface when you’re alone. Shut off from the world, you have nowhere to run from these thoughts. If you feel like that’s the case, reach out to someone and lay all your cards out on the table. Give voice to your fears without shame. Your worries are valid.

It’s going to be tough, especially if you’re like me, bottling up the negativity. I can safely say that once it’s laid bare, you’ll find that those you confide in won’t judge you. Instead, they'll support you and help you put things into perspective. Hell, it may even make you feel a bit better, it certainly did for me. If you don't feel comfortable reaching out to those nearest you, you can always speak to a trained counselor.

What’s important is that you don’t cut yourself off from those around you.

The ‘I’ll get to it someday’ List

When I finally convinced myself that it was time to reignite my creativity and get back to writing, I found it easy at first. I thought, “Hey, I can do this!”

A week or so went by, and then the creative block struck. I had become too detached from my creative juices due to years of procrastination and the daily grind.

I felt extremely demotivated.

It was at this point that the momentum I had was snuffed out by dark thoughts. The voice inside that screamed that I was a failure that has no right to pursue my passion. We all have that voice. Typically, I tried to keep them to myself and fell into my own form of depression. Composed on the outside while my mind was in turmoil within. I stopped writing, losing all motivation.

One night, the dam walls cracked, and I had an emotional breakdown. My fiancé was there to help me pick up the pieces and address my fears and shortcomings. She helped me identify the factors causing my creative block. The following night, I scrounged up the courage to speak to some close friends about it. They listened as I poured out my heart. Providing the support I needed. I came out of the evening with a more positive mindset. A fresh outlook on life.

I have the right to pursue my passions and I sure as hell have the right to be happy!

Screw being just another cog in the machine!

The next day, with my fiancé’s help, I set up a schedule and got back into writing. Progress was difficult, and the words were slow to come, but by setting time aside almost every day it got easier. I slowly started chipping away at it. Now, the creative block is gone, and I have managed to do more creatively than I have in years. I don’t intend to stop, either. The most important point is that it makes me happy.

In the Long Run

What about when this is all over and life goes back to normal, what then? Well, if what you decide to pursue finds itself in the back of the room gathering dust once normal life resumes, can it really be considered a passion? Is it really something you always wanted to do? Perhaps it’s time to let go of unimportant things.

I believe that by building the foundation now during the Lockdown, we can find the time and the will to keep it up once normality resumes. Strengthen the bonds with your loved ones. Why would you want to return to a routine that never allowed room for you to grow as a person? Strive to explore the things that make you happy.

For me, it’s writing. For you, it may be finally picking up that instrument, taking up crocheting, taking photos of beautiful things, or throwing paint at a canvas. Everyone needs an outlet. We’re all capable of being creative in our own way.

In the words of Stephen King:

“Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”