– Good Day To You All
Mental health issues have crawled across America heightening an already tenuous mental health situation. Global tensions rose considerably since 2016 as a political divide has pushed us further from decorum and decency in the decisions of our elected officials. Heated debates about the very nature of right versus wrong has put people on edge. There have been spikes of anxiety and depression, as well as the overall deterioration of mental health. The world has been shaken, and the result is unease.
I’m heading out on yet another road trip tomorrow to begin work on the Mental Health Across America article series. The topic of the series was conceived to be an inquiry into the effect of the COVID19 pandemic on the mental health of those with whom I came in contact on a 2-week road trip across the country. I originally planned to assess how the everyday person handled their anxiety and stress, how it affected their home life, their families, their friends, their work.
The protest and riots spawned from George Floyd’s murder ensured there would be more to speak about than anxiety over a global pandemic. Systemic racism, civil rights, violence, and anger have supplanted COVID19 as the topic of conversation in the media and our daily lives, despite the ongoing danger of the deadly virus.
Consequently, this trip could not be as originally planned. As with my introduction article, Introduction Hijacked by COVID-19, for The Quiet Contemplation blog, in which the COVID19 pandemic became the altering factor, Anxiety Across America has expanded to deal with the fallout of not only the global pandemic which has killed over 110,000 Americans, but also the protests that have sparked a nation to action in the fight for civil rights.
The only constant is change.
North, South, East, West
The journey will take me across the country, North, South, East, and West. Every time I stop to gas up the car, grab a bite to eat from a market, or set up my tent at a campsite, I’m going to speak with the employees about these enormous topics and how they and their friends and family have handled the disruption to life over the past few months, as well as the new stress of watching the protests and riots of the past 10 days. I want to investigate what tactics they have used to keep sane during these unsettling times, or if they have been struggling, what have they been doing to comfort themselves. We all have an opportunity to learn from one another during this.
We’re all in it together.
Big Betty Machete
As a fun aside to add levity to an otherwise heavy post, I believe you should know that my car (taking me on cross-country road trip #8) is called Big Betty Machete. Now, the reason for which it landed that swanky moniker is a long and twisting story that dates back to June of 2016 on my first cross-country trip.
I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version.
I have a toy UFO from the trading cards and motion picture, Mars Attacks. I’ve owned it for north of 20 years. I wanted to take pictures of the ship at all the monuments and National Parks I planned to visit. But I had never named the UFO, and I was determined to on the road.
My first stop after leaving New York City was Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. Deep in the caves, I heard a fella call out to his wife, “But honey, we ain’t heard from Small Betty yet.” Consequently, the UFO became lovingly known as “Small Betty.”
Fast forward a few years, and my older son got his first car. He called it “Chuck.” I realized I never named my car even after the darling vehicle did the good service of hauling me across the good ole’ US of A numerous times. I thought about it for a moment and then recalled I wrote a screenplay, the sequel of which had a character called, Betty Machete. My car is, of course, ever so slightly larger in size than Small Betty the UFO. Mix the cocktail and Big Betty Machete became the name of choice.
And it is Big Betty Machete who will once again transport me across the country, this time for a more somber and purposeful journey. I hope you’ll check in from time to time to see how the trip is going and to see what I’ve learned from the people of this great nation. You can also find updates on social media at:
We are strong when we are united. And we have an opportunity to unite like never before in the coming months.