Making Our Way Through the Boxes

w: Johnathon E. Briggs

Making Our Way Through the Boxes

— April 5, 2020 —

Among the list of tracks on Lauryn Hill’s 2002 MTV Unplugged album is a song titled “I Get Out” where the chorus begins: I get out, I’ll get out of all your boxes…

But if you’re fortunate enough to have a roof over your head, internet access, good health, and a job and that permits telework, you may find yourself moving from one box to another in this Age of COVID-19:

  • The box of your computer screen.
  • The box of your smartphone or tablet.
  • The “Brady Bunch” box of faces on Zoom, Skype or some other video conferencing tool.
  • The box of the window used to socialize at a distance with neighbors.
  • The box of public health protocols that restrict how you live, learn, and play.

We won’t be getting out of these boxes for a good while.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, nearly four billion people on the planet—half of humanity—find themselves under some sort of order to stay in their homes, the New York Times reported on April 3.

It’s as if half the planet is in time-out.

Many of these boxes have always been there, but we didn’t perceive them as confinements because we had the option to leave them. In our lives Before Corona (B.C.), we had the freedom to trade screen time for face time; virtual reality for real-life scenery; digital connection for physical presence.

Of all the boxes, the most significant one is the box of our own mind. This pandemic compels us to sit with ourselves and reflect on who and what we truly value.

My 2020 Census form arrived last week and I dutifully went online and filled in the boxes attached to each question: How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2020? What is your age and date of birth? What is your race?

The questionnaire reminded me of the countless boxes, really default classifications, that shape us individually and collectively: Male or Female. Black or White. Straight or Not. Rich Nation or Poor Country. Have or Have-Not.

We land in many of these boxes by accident of birth or zip code. Others are inescapably forced upon us. Some we get to break away from and define for ourselves.

Of all the boxes, the most significant we contend with is the box of our own mind. This pandemic compels us to sit with ourselves (whether alone or with family) and reflect on who and what we truly value as the tick-tock of the coronavirus news cycle dramatically underscores the interconnectedness of humanity.

Last month one of my favorite bloggers, Luvvie Ajayi Jones (a.k.a. Awesomely Luvvie), shared a piece entitled “What I’m Learning From This Coronavirus Crisis So Far” in which she expressed something that resonated:

“These situations call for us to be the best versions of ourselves. These crises moments call for us to elevate whoever we were, change, grow, mature, evolve. If we do not do it, we’re going to keep getting the same expensive and heart-wrenching lessons. We need to ask ourselves what we should be learning from all this.”

Luvvie’s remark echoed a recent Facebook post from a friend in which she shared a diagram of concentric circles that begins with the question, “Who do I want to be during COVID-19?” (below). It then guides users through three zones, each labeled with associated actions: FEAR (“hoard food, toilet paper & medicines I don’t need”), LEARNING (“I identify my emotions”), and GROWTH (“I find ways to adapt to changes”).

The diagram is a helpful framework for mental health in these anxious times, but the crucial follow-up question is this: Who do I want to be after COVID-19?

In answering this question, we may discover the box that confines, in fact, frees us to reimagine ourselves and the world—for the better.

 

Father on,

660 words

4.5.20

Johnathon E. BriggsI love wingtip shoes + statement socks • Husband • Autism Dad • Comic Book Geek • #BlackDadMagic • ΑΦΑ

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About

Few may know this, but twice as many dads of newborns today are now in the 40-plus age group, compared to the 1970s. Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father, hence the title of this blog.

This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 44. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

Fatherhood@Forty: Dispatches from the Parent Hood™ is a creative outlet to share my experiences and connect with other (relatively) late-in-life dads.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I’m a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I’m a comic book geek (mostly Marvel, but a bit of DC and Image Comics).
  • I’m a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Feel free to tweet (@fatherhoodforty) or email (fatherhoodforty@gmail.com) me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post.

Father on,

P.S. Check out The Art of Conversation podcast interview I did with Art Eddy from Life of Dad.

 


Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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About

Few may know this, but twice as many dads of newborns today are now in the 40-plus age group, compared to the 1970s. Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father, hence the title of this blog.

This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 44. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

Fatherhood@Forty: Dispatches from the Parent Hood™ is a creative outlet to share my experiences and connect with other (relatively) late-in-life dads.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I’m a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I’m a comic book geek (mostly Marvel, but a bit of DC and Image Comics).
  • I’m a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Feel free to tweet (@fatherhoodforty) or email (fatherhoodforty@gmail.com) me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post.

Father on,

P.S. Check out The Art of Conversation podcast interview I did with Art Eddy from Life of Dad.

 


Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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