HOW GETTING COVID INSPIRED MY NEW YEARS UN-RESOLUTIONS

There’s something about a virus coursing through your veins to put life into perspective. I’m talking about getting real even with the bullshit of my bullshit. The fog that if you could figure out how to fix in your life would change everything, including the air that you breathe.

For the past two years, I have been teetering on this razor’s edge of human generosity, living the life of a greybeard pseudo-intellectual masquerading as an Instagram poet/dreamer, as the world implodes from the pandemic of indifference as damaging as the pandemic. In the horror of this virus, and the further degradation of our world systems, I have lived through this three-quarter-life crisis of personal consciousness, as part of the extraordinary hyper-healing journey. During this time, I have spent so much time thinking about the politics of Covid, the impact on families and supply chains, and the failure of politicians to keep us safe and social media to keep us sane. I have tried to remain neutral to the vaccine debate, which is no longer a debate about the vaccine, and more about the fight for personal freedoms, and have decided to ignore all news updates about the virus because none of it matters. All of this while the people I know and love remained mostly inoculated from the virus.

Then one day, at 2:30 in the morning, you can’t get out of bed, your furry dragon onesie is drenched in sweat and snot, and you can’t understand why your left foot is freezing and your right foot is hot. It felt like a Paris nightclub in my head, with an overly loud bassline and a stuffed nose thumping me into oblivion.

None of that matters; basic Winter flu struggles, But it’s your back, crippled like an old stripper from a long weekend Saturday night on the pole, Imagine if the Grambling State Marching Band was accidentally miniaturized and placed inside your back in a “Honey, I Shrunk the Band” remake on Disney Plus (clearly, and smartly, pandering to the African-American community). Except that instead of drumsticks and boots, the drummers have knives instead of sticks, and they are drumming into the small of your back. The pain became so severe that you would ultimately confess to biting Beyonce to stop the pain.

Then you accept that you are going to die.

Like, all of us. Even those wonderful, happy people who spend their days watching cat porn and playing candy crush. The church missionaries in Haiti and the heroin addicts in downtown Vancouver. The gold medalists in curling and the sad stories of My 600-pound life. The people who have lived life to the fullest, and the ones who haven’t done a fucking thing. I found it especially ironic, as the broken clump of shit broke off into my onesie, resting against my sweat-stained leg. Now I was stuck; I can’t off the bed, but if I roll back, I crush the shit nugget into my skin. I have spent so much focus on my mental health these past few years, it felt quite ironic that it be my body that finally betrayed me — as if I am on the third season of Contagion: The Netflix TV show (I would have been playing the likable, but troubled, secondary character on the show I finally feel healed from my various mental illnesses and now I die while on the third season of Contagion: The Netflix TV show.

Now I’m dying with Covid, and it sucks, Covid is everywhere. It lives in the household of every close friend and family member. Aside from my kids, who appear to have Wolverine’s recovery gene, everyone is in various stages of death. The only thing saving us from a collective sentence of hospital tapioca and IV bags is this wonderful vaccine flowing through our veins. Long before there was a vaccine, I wrote a book, “Lady Ms. Sneezy’s Most Unfortunate Covid Snot Assault,” that I figured would be a cute memory on a little illness that would be long gone by now. Never did I think I would get Covid because I would do everything right and stay out of trouble.

Unlike the main character in “Little Miss Sneezy,” who escaped an assault of snot and avoided Covid, the virus caught me right in the chest. I had so many hopes for the beginning of 2022; there are some cool projects on the go, including a new book of poetry (called Found: The Poetry Mixtape), my anthology on mental health in professional beauty, as well as a documentary on male sexual assault. I continue to remain blessed and optimistic and ordained to continue my work around mental health. But nothing matters if your body doesn’t work.

There’s something about being bedridden that puts life into perspective; instead of focusing on all of the new opportunities, I was stuck in a literal death spiral of old thinking. Like people in recovery, I am terrified of sliding back into old triggers; the types of struggles that in the past would have made me think I received Covid as some type of diabolical punishment.

I knew that was old, broken thinking, but it felt impossible to move forward when you can’t even keep shit inside your body. This was especially hard because it’s the beginning of a new year, even though it feels very much like the past two. This is the time of resolutions, of planning and strategy; of committing to a new path. As my fever broke from a high of 103 degrees, it was as much about Covid leaving my body, as well as all my old thinking. I took that sweat and dirt and spackled the door on my old life. This led to my list of Un-Resolutions, 12 old behaviors that I refuse to bring into this new year. Aided by a combination of Tylenol, Advil Cold, and Sinus, homemade edibles, I created the list while binge-watching episodes of Love After Lockup with disaster movies on Netflix (including Contagion and Outbreak in a back to back double feature of death; also 2012, I Am Legend, and the new disaster flick, Don’t Look Up). By labeling them, I hope I will be better at identifying them when they show up and be better at swatting them away.

#1 — I will never again allow my fear of success and imposter syndrome to dominate my thinking.

I have had some extraordinary opportunities — both personal and professional ones. But I have also destroyed many of those opportunities because I have been terrified about the what-ifs. So many people are terrified by the fear of failure. But for me, I was terrified by the fear of success, the worry that my boss or my wife or friends would figure that I was a fraud, that I was not as great as they think I am. Those irrational thoughts led me to sabotage personal and professional relationships because there was absolutely no way the success could continue. So I destroyed those things before I even had the chance to succeed, I mean truly succeed.

This fear of success is tied to my irrational imposter syndrome, which is a nagging inability to believe that my success is because of my skills. How could I ever reach the heights I deserve if every time I get too close to the sun of my greatness I destroy my wings — because it’s easier than seeing if I can reach the sun.

I have amazing goals for myself today — and instead of holding onto my fear of success, I will now dedicate myself to a love of success, and relish the joy that comes from reaching my goals.

#2 — I will never again let my past trauma affect and infect my future happiness.

You ever play the game Chutes and Ladders — where you’re traveling along the “gameboard” of life and then you land on the wrong square — and chute downwards, losing all the progress you have made in your journey. My mental health works the same way; you land on the wrong “problem” and then slide down the chute of shame and guilt and lack of self-worth.

This is me every single day. When I was on the road during my Bubba Love Tour, I lost my wallet. But in my head, it wasn’t just about my wallet, it was about all the negative thoughts I have ever had about myself. In my twisted mind, it was no longer about my wallet, it was about the fact that my mother and father abandoned me. Or that I grew up poor. Or lived on the streets. It was just a wallet, something that happens to people every single day, but instead, it was an existential crisis about who I am as a person. I know this is something so many people with mental health struggle with — every single interaction becomes a referendum on my past trauma.

I will no longer let the paradigms of my past, none of which were my fault, determine the projections of my present or the ferocity of my future. I am in control.

#3 — I will never again let someone’s absence destroy my presence.

Have you ever had someone in your life who you know doesn’t elevate you, doesn’t make you feel good about yourself? Or a lover that mistreats you, or makes you feel unloved, but you keep them around solely because having them around is better than being alone. I have had those relationships — and they can suck the lifeforce around me — making me feel worse about myself.

If I were addicted to drugs and decided to go to rehab, why would I return to the neighborhood with all of the same triggers that would help my relapse? As I have been on this healing journey, at some point I had to accept that some people just are not going to be around because they are not good for my mental, physical or spiritual health.

That sometimes will be hard to do, because being alone is scary, especially during the pandemic, where loneliness has been at an all-time high. But there is addiction by subtraction — and by letting go of those people that harm our mental health, we elevate the potential for our greatest self-worth.

#4 — I will never again chase consumption of stuff over the joy of experiences

There’s an old Talking Heads song called “Once In A Lifetime, there’s a lyric that goes “You will find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile, with a beautiful house and a beautiful wife, and ask yourself, how did I get here?” I had every gadget and gizmo, with a great job and even greater kids, but I was miserable. I placed my value on who I was and what I had instead of on who I was as a man.

The person I am today is the person I want to be, to establish a life centered around exploration and experience instead of consumption and capitalism.

#5 — I will never again lie to get ahead, stay ahead, or get some head.

Out of an irrational need to please, I devolved into a version of the black Talented Mr. Ripley, filled with so many lies and misdirections, especially in my personal life. Lying became so second nature that I deluded myself to think I was good at it. But deep inside to me, every day felt like an ongoing house of cards — because a life centered around lies will always and eventually, collapse. This has impacted me personally and professionally — and I have lost some meaningful relationships as a result of it.

I could make up excuses as to why I became so comfortable with my lying, but they would all be unacceptable reasons. The answer is simply I rarely trusted people enough to love me if they knew the truth. More importantly, I rarely trusted myself; that people would love me despite being truthful. I won’t make that mistake again — because I deserve more, and the people around me deserve it, too.

#6 — I will never again live outside my financial means.

As a professional, I have managed multimillion-dollar events and sales territories responsibly and with confidence. Yet, I am embarrassed to admit that I suck with money — and I want to be better. I was eight when I got my first utility bill in my name; I probably still own Con Edison money. My childhood was full of fear and trauma around money because we never had any — we never picked up the phone or answered the door without the secret knock — because there was always a bill collector trying to get her to pay.

As I got older into relationships, I deferred to the women to manage our finances. I made so much money in my professional career, but I also lived way outside of my means. Moving forward, I will be more diligent with my finances, including clearing up my old debt so I never have to worry about answering my phone or opening the door because I bill collector is looking for me. My only resolution for this year is to be more responsible around money and spending.

#7 — I will never again take a job for a paycheck or stay in a job that devalues me

Before Covid, I had two jobs, one full-time and one part-time, that were both incredibly fulfilling and incorporated well into my life. I have had a great career and I have had jobs that would make most people would be incredibly jealous. But they were all jobs, part of a journeyman career that has shown me the world, gave me extraordinary opportunities, yet rarely recognized me properly for my contributions — because that’s how jobs work. We take the jobs we have to take so we can live the lives we want to live. Layered on top of that is the gratefulness that people of color often feel for just being in the workforce at all, which motivated me to not rock the boat and be grateful for the opportunities that come to us.

One of the things that Covid has taught me, and so many other people, is to define and manifest the lifestyle we want, and not just fall into the paycheck matrix to which are all we are supposed to submit. Most importantly, it’s critical to be certain that my professional pursuits are in line with my passions — and I remain confident that if I do that, the money will take care of itself.

#8 — I will never again shrink my voice, my presence, or my personality for any reason

In case we have never met, I am an overly emotional poet with trauma and abandonment issues in the middle of a three-quarter life crisis who likes to disappear into the woods. I can be loud, obnoxious, irritable while bordering on being an asshole. I am a mess. My biggest mess is my inability to love all of my messes, accepting all of the complexities that make me “me,” let alone be able to live in my whole truth.

This is especially true for people of color, and others who have to manage two personas — a professional one that is designed to be authentically you, just not too much so that you won’t be seen as threatening.

Similar to my struggles with being truthful, I adjusted parts of my personality, or my presence, to make others feel comfortable. I now know that by accepting all of me, including the parts that are awkward to me, I will indeed attract people that will accept and love me.

9 — I will never again be ashamed of my body and I will take better care of it

Except for being morbidly obese and exceptionally tall, I have had almost every possible body type. I was the “short kid” until I turned 16, super skinny until I became an adult then overweight by the time I was 30. By 35, I looked like a bodybuilder and now I am a full-time member of the dad bod squad. Through all those body types, I rarely thought of myself as good-looking. I got dates, though, by being witty and engaging, showering my conquests with poetry and mixtapes and romantic gestures.

My struggle with body image has included not doing enough to take care of it. I am years overdue for an annual physical, and I am terrified of my teeth falling out of my head because, without secondary insurance, I cannot afford to go to the dentist. Worst, I have put myself in some very destructive situations that I am grateful at this point just to be alive,

For the first time, I see myself as attractive and I want to use my body as a vessel for creativity and passion, not for self-harm and destruction.

#10 — I will never again allow my mental health to suffer for any reason.

For the past few years, I have been on this journey of understanding what has stopped me from truly loving myself. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done, not only for me, but for the number of people I harmed by that process, and by my inaction over those years. Now I am staring on the other side of healing as a bundle of frayed wires and rusted nerve endings and I hover over them, doing my best to keep those edges safe and dry from the rest of the world.

This is a new me attempting to live in the same old cynical world and it is unknown territory for me and everyone else. But there is no more important job. I lived for decades in one way, now I am living life with a completely different mindset; one focused on honoring my value, my self-worth, and my passions, above all else. I will need time to carve out new pathways inside my brain, and I will have to be overprotective of my mental health to do so.

#11 — I will never again deny the divine influence authority of God and the ancestors

I grew up as a child of the church. However, many years ago, God and I had a falling out — and I no longer believed that She kept me her thoughts. In reflecting on my life today, it is extraordinary that I am still here, in any shape.

Over the past few years, as I have spent more and more focused on my healing, I have accepted that I am only here because of the divine providence of God and the ancestors watching over me. I stand here today as a changed man because of my reconnection to my faith — and it is faith that will sustain me as I continue on this journey of healing, passion, and love. I am thrilled about my goals for this year and forward and I won’t be able to achieve any of them without divine guidance from the heavens.

#12 — I will never again think that I am not a good person, worthy of greatness and love

I know that all of my mental health issues and the need for these un-resolutions all stem from the fact that I have not normally thought of myself as someone worthy of happiness. As long as I accept my worthiness, I will not fall into the trap of any of the aforementioned triggers.

I am by no means perfect. There is nothing more important to me than to guard myself against falling back into the negative mindset of these UN-Resolutions. By accepting both my strengths and weaknesses, I hope to lessen my weaker points, I know I am committed to being the best person I can be. My most important goal moving forward will be not to forget the goodness that I have worked so hard to uncover.

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RALPH BRYANT is writer and content creator living in Canada. He is the author of Shackles Lost and the host of the podcast Black Fathers Matter.

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Ralph Bryant Writer

RALPH BRYANT is writer and content creator living in Canada. He is the author of Shackles Lost and the host of the podcast Black Fathers Matter.