MGU 140 | 2020 Holidays

 

The end of the year is almost upon us but the pandemic that largely characterized it is far from over. How will the winter holidays of 2020 look like for you? For a lot of us, it’s going to involve some kind of decision-making over whether we should go through the risk of travel and put ourselves and our loved ones in possible danger. Whitney Lauritsen and Jason Wrobel reflect upon this as they lay out their preliminary plans for the upcoming holidays. The pull of tradition is very strong, yet we have COVID-19 always menacingly close to our heels. Is it going to be worth it? Listen in and reflect upon your own plans for the holidays.

Listen to the podcast here:

2020 Holiday Travel: A Rewards-Risk Assessment

I’m curious, Jason, do you celebrate Halloween in any way? Are you going to, if not normally? Has that ever come up in your head at all?

For sure it has. It’s one of my favorite holidays because of the creativity, the childlike wonder, and the spirit of it. I love Halloween. I was hanging out with our mutual friend, Ross, and he was like, “What are you going to do for Halloween?” We were debating whether or not the West Hollywood Halloween parade is going to take place with the backdrop of COVID and the rise of cases in California, everything that’s going on in our society with that. He was like, “I don’t think it’s officially going to happen. Knowing people, human beings as they are, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people or more than a few people started to take to the streets of West Hollywood unofficially.” I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with that simply because I don’t know how well people would be integrating masks or social distancing. If a few thousand people show up, I’m going to skip that part.

I love the West Hollywood parade. I’ve done it three times. I absolutely love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do in LA every year. Whitney, there are a couple of options in Los Angeles for drive-in movies. There’s one in particular, it’s called the Andaz. It’s a former Hollywood club that Led Zeppelin and a lot of old bands used to go to back in the day. They’ve converted their parking lot or part of their property to do drive-in movies. They’ve been doing classic horror films. I know we had a whole episode about the negative impressions and mental impressions taken away from horror movies. I do like some classic horror movies, Bela Lugosi, Frankenstein, old vampire movies. One of my favorites is the original Nosferatu from Fritz Lang. I love classic horror movies. I’m thinking that I’ll probably jump in the car with Laura and we’ll go and see an outdoor drive-in movie. That’s the plan.

I checked and according to the West Hollywood‘s website, the carnival is in fact canceled. It’s interesting hearing you talk about that because I felt like the Black Lives Matter marches that were happening in West Hollywood reminded me of the Halloween carnival. That was at the height of COVID. Relatively, I suppose, we don’t know when COVID is going to be over and what exactly the height will be. That was in early June 2020. I participated in some of those marches because I felt like it was important and to be out there as an ally and also as of curiosity.

I remember attending those and enjoying that experience of being around a lot of people and everybody is holding signs and walking through these same streets that they walked through during carnival. It was reminiscent. Looking back, given what you said, Jason, it’s like, “Was that the wisest choice to make?” To your point, you’re close to people. I remember thinking about that throughout that experience. Looking back, a lot of people were eager for the physical distancing to be over. There’s this mentality of like, “We’ve been staying inside long enough. We’ve been wearing our mask long enough.” Maybe things are slowing down. I don’t remember exactly, maybe COVID felt at that time like it was less serious or something. It was that feeling of being frustrated staying inside for several months and wanting to rebel against that or giving this priority to support the Black Lives Matter movement, which is important.

Here we are thinking, “We probably shouldn’t be doing stuff like that.” I could take or leave going to the carnival. I have been to it many times. In fact, my first year of living in Los Angeles which was 2004. I went into that and I had no idea what I was in for. I had some friends that lived in West Hollywood and I would park at their place and go with them. It has been a big part of my experience in Los Angeles. I’ve never been that big of a Halloween fan. We have done some episodes on other podcasts, such as the Food Heals Podcast with our friend, Allison Melody, talking about Halloween.

We’re not going to dig that far into this. It was a surface level, but also a transitionary subject matter. This idea of yearning for what we used to have and how we’re operating with the holidays is interesting, especially for me and perhaps you’re thinking the same thing, Jason. We’re both visiting our families. I’ve been at my parents’ house. It feels nice despite any common challenges that I have. Being around my parents a lot frequently, there’s something soothing and comforting about being here. It’s crossed my mind a couple of times whether or not I should stay for Thanksgiving, which seems like a big stretch. I’m thinking like, “I’ll be driving across the country during Halloween.” There is this feeling within me, “Am I missing out on Halloween experiences if I’m by myself?” It looks likely that I’ll be doing the drive back to Los Angeles on my own, but who knows?

That feeling of like, “Am I going to miss out on Halloween if I’m in some random state or some random city camping overnight on my way back? Should I postpone my trip? What am I going to do in this part of Massachusetts? My parents certainly aren’t excited about celebrating Halloween so it doesn’t matter.” There this other thought of, “Should I extend my trip much longer and stay for Thanksgiving? What would that even feel like? Is it even worth it given that Thanksgiving is going to be different?” Especially that holiday, it depends on what you celebrate. If you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any of these classic winter holidays that we have, which involve family getting together.

Over the years, I’ve alternated between visiting my family during Christmas, it’s common for me, or sometimes Thanksgiving and sometimes neither. That feeling I have of sadness when I’m not with my family on one of those holidays, which feels important to me because they’re family-oriented. I’m thinking about if I’m even here for Thanksgiving, it’s unlikely I’ll be here for Christmas due to my timeline. What would that even feel like? Is it going to be me, my parents and my sister? That sounds nice, but we could do that anytime a year. Is it important for me to be with them?

There’s this nostalgia, I suppose, or this tradition that many of us have in our heads about being with our families on these holidays or celebrating with our friends on occasions like Halloween. Everything is different now. How much do we put ourselves at risk during those times? I’m curious about how you’re feeling about that, Jason? Has it crossed your mind at all? Do you think that you would go back to Detroit to see your mom? Would it even make sense for you to fly out and see her or have her come to see you given more exposure? Are more people going to be flying during those days? There are many factors involved. I’m curious where your head is at.

MGU 140 | 2020 Holidays

2020 Holidays: The tradition and pull to spend the holidays with your loved ones is a very strong compulsion.

 

I’ve definitely debated what the best option is going to be. We’ve talked about having my mom come out for the holidays, for Christmas specifically. For the past few years and throughout the time that I’ve been in LA, she has come out for the holidays. It’s a question of, what are the precautions to take on the flight? What interactions are we going to have when she’s in town? I mentioned my mentor, Michael, who is like a father figure to me. He told me before I left for Detroit that he and his partner, Kevin are planning on having a small gathering at their house in LA. They have a spacious outdoor patio. They’re planning on having Christmas dinner out on their deck. They have the desire to have a few people. It’s always a small gathering.

For me, I feel that the tradition and the pull to spend the winter holidays with people that I deeply love is a strong compulsion. I remember in the years when I moved out West when I first moved to LA, I didn’t go back home for the holidays and it was lonely. There’s been quite a few, what I would characterize, lonely holidays. I don’t like to do that. I know some people like to spend the holidays in solitude, which I think that’s a fine choice. For me, I feel like the pull of tradition and the desire to be with people I care about at that time of year. Maybe it’s a hibernation thing or maybe it’s conditioning because that was something that was celebrated in my family in my entire life, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas and Halloween too.

My mom, back in the day, would hand-make my Halloween costumes. We had some amazing costumes because my mom was good with a sewing machine. As an aside, we’re talking about having her come out for Christmas. October is the absolute most gorgeous month in Michigan. All the leaves are changing, there are purples, deep reds, mahogany, oranges and yellows. Taking a leisurely drive down any block here in the Detroit area is absolutely stunning. I did want to time it to be here in October. To me, hands down, the best month to be in Michigan is October. I’m stoked to be here and hopefully going to get my mom for December to do Christmas in LA.

In terms of feeling safe enough to do that, to me, that is the big question here. You travel out to Detroit and said that your flight experience was great. You felt the air filtration was better than it has been in the past. You felt comfortable doing it. There’s still part of me that does not feel safe flying, personally. I know you’ve done it a few times, Jason. What makes me feel uncomfortable is that the holidays especially, people are going to be letting their guards down more because it feels important. People feel comfortable because time has passed and they feel like they’ve been okay. There’s a gut feeling I have that it seems risky.

Especially, I feel protective over anyone over 60 or so who is more susceptible to COVID. If they get COVID, it could cause greater damage to them. Personally, I would not feel comfortable with my parents flying out to see me in Los Angeles, which is this big city. Them leaving from the international airport in Boston, that makes me nervous. I wouldn’t make that choice. My parents don’t usually come out to visit me for Christmas. I don’t think that they ever have. It didn’t even feel like an option for me. I don’t think that I would feel comfortable flying from Los Angeles to Boston during the Christmas time period.

For me, this is part of an ongoing conversation that needs to be addressed. I don’t if we’ve ever discussed it in terms of how we’re handling our safety and the risk-reward ratio. First of all, with the flights that I’ve done, I did one to Denver and back to LA for a gig. I had a work trip there. Also, coming out here to see my mom, my family and my friends here in the Detroit area. I was well aware of the potential risks of getting on a plane.

For me, it was a calculation mentally of a risk-reward quotient honestly. In terms of the research that I did, it was looking at Delta, that’s who I fly with. They’re my chosen carrier because of all the miles I have with them. They have a policy where they are mandatorily keeping all of the middle seats empty on all their flights. That was one thing. I thought, “That’s good. They’re practicing distancing. Not all airlines are.”

I read about the technology about the advanced filtration systems they’re using. Interestingly, I feel like in the past, when I would get on flights, I’m sensitive. I could always smell a little bit of jet fuel, exhaust or funky smells on the plane. The flights to Denver and out of Detroit, the air is incredibly clean on the plane. There’s no scent of the jet fuel, the exhaust or any of the funky environmental sense. Whatever they’re doing in terms of their filtration seems to be working, at least from this schnoz’s perspective.

The other thing, Whitney, the macro part of this conversation I would like to dig into is we as human beings are always calculating, to some degree, a risk-reward ratio in our minds when we engage in things, whether that’s investing in stocks or choosing a new healthcare plan. In this case, choosing to travel or not travel during COVID. I know some people have some friends in Portland that are like, “I have barely been out of the house.” They are adamant about that and I respect that. That’s their choice. Based on the research and their gut feeling, they want to limit their outside exposure as much as possible.

For me, though, in these two scenarios, it’s the possibility that I’m putting myself at risk. I’m going to wear a mask vigilantly. I have a cool mask from Lambs. I want to give a shout out to that brand quickly. We were introduced by our friend, Luke Storey, who’s an amazing guest. It’s one of my favorite episodes we’ve had yet. I have this silver threaded infused Lamb’s mask that you can get reusable particle filters and put them in the mask. In my opinion, I got one of the best masks out there. I bring colloidal silver. I bring my hand sanitizer. I bring Thieves oil. I bring a lot of protectionary measures when I do go traveling and go to the airport or the plane.

If you’re going to see a loved one, you need to talk ahead of time about safe and comfortable interaction and other precautions. Click To Tweet

For me, flying to Denver to make money was worth the risk. Coming home to see my mom and being with her was worth the risk. As an aside, I got a COVID test when I came here and the results came back negative. I am doing my due diligence with that. As an individual, depending on our perspectives, we are always calculating the risk-reward ratio, especially with the situation. For you, is it that you don’t feel the potential risk of flying is worth the reward of getting back to LA quicker? Is that what it is for you? You calculate that mentally for yourself?

Before I took my cross-country trip, certainly there are risks driving across the country as well. For me, I made that decision to give myself some flexibility and to experience the country, which was interesting to do. I felt safe because I didn’t have that much interaction with people, at least not any more than I normally would like going to the grocery store and doing some of the things that I had been doing in Los Angeles anyways.

Certainly going to the bathroom, for example, as we talked about in our episode with Leanne after the trip. As you would go to the bathroom in an airport and on an airplane, I was doing that throughout the trip. This would be interesting. I don’t know if anybody has tried to look at the chances of getting COVID flying versus driving. If I looked at the bathrooms that I used, for example, I have a feeling that the bathrooms I chose to use barely got that many people going in them versus an airport. I’m sure you’re having hundreds of people every hour. You’re going into a bathroom that’s probably been used. I don’t even know. I’m probably low-balling it.

If you’re using the public bathroom at an airport, there are a lot of people in and out of there constantly and when you’re on an airplane with hundreds of people, you’re sitting in there with the circulated air even if it’s filtered. If you’re using the bathroom there, there’s probably been at least 50 or so of them in the bathroom at the time of your flight. Whereas some of the bathrooms I use, maybe only a couple of people were in there each day. It would be interesting to see you’re also going to replicate.

As I’m doing the math in my head, I probably used 5 to 10 bathrooms on my trip. If there were only a couple of people in there, I’m still getting exposed to 5 to 10 times throughout the trip. It’s interesting to look at all the math that you could do and get your COVID test. For both you and I Jason, we didn’t get COVID from our trip but because we didn’t get it doesn’t mean that nobody could get COVID flying or driving however you’re choosing to travel.

I’m not going to go into all the details of why I decided to drive across the country because we already talked about that in another episode. If you, the reader, are curious about my decision and the before and after the experience, you can go to those previous episodes. It’s an ongoing thing and this is something that we’ve discussed a lot. I can look back on my behavior back in June, as I discussed during the Black Lives Matter marches, which I equate to the carnival. The big difference there is not only the time that’s passed and how my mentality has changed since June. Participating in Black Lives Matter felt like there was a purpose beyond myself versus participating in Halloween carnivals that is purely for pleasure.

It’s a different decision. In terms of being with family, we have to be mindful of how we’re impacting them and what our parents or other family members’ boundaries are. My parents are laid back but they’ve been careful. When I got here to Massachusetts, they didn’t see the need for me to constantly be wearing a mask until I got my test results and they were totally cool with me being in the house away versus I wanted to quarantine. That made me nervous, I suppose, and my sister too. My sister is super laid back about COVID in general.

Each of them is dealing with it in their own way, which feels like their personal choice but it feels tricky because the big question is, how are we making these choices? When we’re traveling, whenever we’re in a group of people, we’re surrounded by people that have all made choices based on different pieces of information. That is the biggest challenge of COVID. We’re all getting it from different sources. Even if it’s the same source, let’s say, for example, you watch CNN. Are you watching the exact same program as somebody else or is a different program on the same channel, but it could be a different speaker? Are you watching the same information as someone else? Unless everybody is consuming the exact same information all the time, we’re all going to have different sources. Each of us interprets that information in different ways based on our experiences, knowledge, and education.

That is what ultimately makes me uncomfortable about COVID. There’s this feeling of, “Let everybody decide what they feel comfortable with.” On an airplane, for example, what makes me nervous about that is you’re sitting in a small area with hundreds of people and everybody’s making their own decisions. People can easily lie about what they’ve been doing. It’s like, “I’ve been safe.” That’s the only thing that we tend to ask people. It’s like, “Have you been wearing a mask?” Sure, but what does that even mean? What type of mask have you been wearing and what surfaces have you been touching on and on? Lastly, back in 2019, when I came out to the East Coast for the previous time and I got sick after that trip. I remember thinking, “How did I get sick?” First of all, I thought my immune system was in great shape. I had been taking good care of my body, eating mindfully. I was still doing vegan keto at the time and feeling I was putting all these high-quality ingredients in my body.

I got on the airplane at that time, back in 2019, it feels like a different lifetime. I had my hand sanitizer and I was wiping down surfaces, which is a relatively new thing I was doing while traveling. I have my own water bottle that was filtered with LifeStraw. I had various supplements that I would take. At that time, I felt I was being ultra-careful and I got sick after that trip. It was the sickest I’ve been in recent memory. That was supposedly before COVID was in the United States.

MGU 140 | 2020 Holidays

2020 Holidays: To some degree, we are always calculating a risk-reward ratio in our minds when we engage in things.

 

My big point, Jason, and food for thought is if that’s the typical extreme, I feel most people are doing the bare minimum. It’s like, “We’re wearing a mask because we have to,” or “We’re standing 6 feet away.” Whoever measures the distance and what are people doing beyond that time that you see them? Maybe this goes down to me feeling a little untrustworthy of other people, which is a common mentality for me.

Through observing other people, I don’t trust others to be taking the best care of themselves. A lot of people have this idea that they’re taking better care of themselves, they’re being more mindful than they are. This can be true of the way that you eat. It’s like when people say, “I don’t eat that much meat. I don’t eat that much dairy.” If you’re vegan, you notice every time somebody eats meat or dairy. I remember many experiences in my life with people saying that to me but if I spent enough time around them, I’d see them eating meat at least once a day. I’m like, “Do you think that eating meat seven times a week is not a lot?”

In their heads, they think that’s not a lot because maybe they equate eating a lot with eating meat three times a day. That’s the long-winded answer to the reason I feel the need to be careful. We have no idea how long COVID is going to be around. We’re being fed all sorts of different information. Even our president is telling us a lot of confusing things and he’s supposed to be someone that’s guiding our whole country. There are reports now that COVID could be an issue of up until 2024. We might be scratching the surface of COVID. If we’re not careful about this and we’re not all on the same page, this could be going on for years to come.

Maybe you’re feeling as Jason, how much do we allow this to affect our decisions when it comes to spending time with family? That’s part of the reason I’ve spent so long on here with my family is I don’t know when I’m going to see them next. I’m sure that’s what influenced you to go to Detroit, Jason. We never know how long we have with our family members ever but COVID could take another major turn and travel might become hard for us. With all these things in mind, we have no idea.

We’re talking about relative assessments in terms of people’s minds of how “good they’re doing.” That’s an interesting thing not in terms of COVID but you mentioned healthy eating, exercising or, “I’m a healthy person.” It’s a relative assessment sometimes healthy compared to what? Rich compared to what? Safe compared to what? Our viewpoints of who we are and how we operate in the world, those realities are easy to skew because we’re talking about a comparative thing here. If on the one side of this conversation “doing it bad” not to be in judgment would be eating a ton of processed food, artificial ingredients, fried foods, a ton of alcohol, and smoking.

We’re probably setting up our body’s internal terrain to be more susceptible to something like COVID or COVID itself. I’m not going on record because I’m not a medical expert. As an aside, I do believe in the terrain theory. The terrain theory, if I can geek out for a second because it’s related to this conversation. Your body’s terrain, your internal bio terrain, whether that’s the health of your blood, organs, the amount of probiotics and positive flora in your gut, your neurochemicals, think about it as the internal ecosystem of your body. The more that is operating a well-oiled machine, to use a tired cliché, the better chance that you have to ward off things like bacteria, viruses and pathogens. We know that, at least according to the terrain theory.

My whole thing is I’m constantly wanting to know because the research and the information are always changing, and what can we believe is true. I hedge my bets to think that if I eat clean food, if I’m taking a lot of vitamin C, D3, K2, B-complex, zinc, and stuff that as far as I’ve researched, it looks like it is beneficial to ward off things viruses and pathogens. I’m setting up my internal bio terrain to hopefully fight or protect those things off. To your point, a lot of people are not aware of those things because that information is not being disseminated through mainstream media. When we look at things like CNN, LA Times, Washington Post, name a major media outlet, they’re not like, “Protect your internal bio train by taking the supplements, eating this way or eating less crap.” It’s minimal in terms of precautions we could take to protect ourselves.

Overall, we talk about this conversation that we started with the importance of being with family and being with people we love. One of the hardest aspects for me and for a lot of people is the feeling of being distanced and isolated physically from the people we love. It’s a hard thing because, on the one hand, you don’t want to unnecessarily or potentially put someone at risk. My mom and mentor, Michael are old. I understand that they’re both healthy, but the risk factor increases exponentially at a certain age, but I want to see them. I’ve been seeing Michael and we take our precautions with hand sanitizer, social distancing, and masks. It’s the same here with my mom. That’s why I got a COVID test.

I don’t think I have a definitive answer for telling the reader of what’s right or wrong. We never do that here. We’re sharing our perspectives and our practices. If they resonate with you, great. If they don’t, great. For me, it’s this thing of the mental stress of not seeing my mom for an entire year or God knows how long. It was worth the risk of me getting on a plane, coming here, getting a COVID test, and seeing her. Also, the other thing too, this is important, you talked about how your parents have been responding.

The communication around this is important in the sense that if you’re going to see a loved one or a friend having an open conversation ahead of time about how do they feel safe? What is their level of comfort with the interaction? What precautions are they taking or have they been taking in their lives? As an aside, this situation with COVID has created an opportunity to have even better communication about boundaries, safety, and comfort with the people that we love. That’s one thing I made sure to do before I came out here. I was like, “What have you been doing, mom? How have you been living? What’s your level of comfort? Do you want me to get a COVID test?” We went through a series of questions before I came to make sure we were doing the best we could.

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That is ultimately what it comes down to. We’re all hopefully doing the best that we can but even that phrase is so relative to everybody. Fingers crossed, what our personal best is what ultimately keeps us in the safety. I often look at it as what are the consequences? What are the potential downfalls to something? On my road trip, I felt vulnerable a lot of times, especially when I was traveling with Leanne. We had many conversations about COVID but there are moments where I started to question, “Are we on the same page or are we saying we’re on the same page because that makes us feel comfortable socially?” This has come up a number of times throughout the show. How do you know what the truth or the reality is when you’re interacting with other people who view life completely differently?

Communication is such an interesting thing. We can think that we’re being good communicators and be completely misunderstood because somebody has a different definition of the exact words that you’re saying. That makes me feel vulnerable at times and I noticed on that trip, I had to work on my trust, as I mentioned, for whatever reason. I have some deep-seated fears of trusting other people. I’ve had some notable experiences in my life where I felt like I wasn’t on the same page with people and that had consequences. I thought I could trust somebody and maybe I felt let down by them or abandoned by them on and on. There’s a lot for me to explore there and it’s going to take a while for me to understand that.

Noticing that, in the case of COVID, has been fascinating and I noticed how fearful I was about coming back and potentially exposing my parents, my sister, or other friends. I also have noticed the times where I got lenient. Leanne called me out at one point when we met up with my friend Rachel in Sioux Falls. We got to this location where we are meeting her later than planned. It was already dark at that point, and our whole schedule is behind. We decided to meet at this market. The original plan was to eat outside but because of how late, cold and dark it was outside, we decided to eat inside the market’s cafeteria. It seemed fine. We’re sitting down on the surface. We don’t know who sat there before us and we’re inside. We kept our masks on as best as possible while you’re eating some food and sitting across a few feet from each other, but it wasn’t an exact 6 feet.

I remember looking back on that experience and at that moment, it felt it was okay but in hindsight, I wondered if it was good enough. Luckily, it was fine. Neither Leanne nor I got COVID but there are all those little moments. I’ve noticed that throughout COVID how we’re told the ideal situation of what we should be doing, but many of us are taking risks whether we’re going to the grocery store, interacting with other people, what are our masks like and how much do they protect us. Some people put on a mask simply because that’s the rule, but the mask is super thin. In some outrageous cases, some people have worn fishnet stockings on their faces, which are clearly not protecting you because they have holes in them. People will do that to say, “Technically, it’s a mask because it’s covering my face.”

There are all these little decisions we can make that maybe fall into the rules but aren’t doing much and I’m fascinated by that all. This conversation also leads me to something else that I came across that I was fascinated by. It’s on this great website called Forge, which is part of Medium.com. It’s a wonderful website if you’ve never checked it out before. This article caught my eye. It’s called Do You Have “Zoom Fatigue” or is it Existentially Crushing to Pretend Life is Normal as the World Burns? I feel you would have clicked on this article in a heartbeat, Jason.

That’s the article that I would click on. It’s interesting that you bring this up about the existential side of this because, for better or for worse, my mom pulled up an article about the existential crisis that may come as we increase our technology with artificial intelligence. We’ve talked about AI in previous episodes. We’ve pontificated on this with a lot of the stuff that Elon Musk and other tech entrepreneurs have talked about with AI.

The existential part of this, Whitney, and it’s funny you bring that up because it talked about how if a world government were to suddenly make a quantum leap in AI technology that it could be leveraged as a superweapon. If the AI was advanced enough to outsmart and out calculate any other humans or any other government, there could be a totalitarian regime that would be the likes of which we’ve never seen in human history and it was dark. I don’t like to necessarily indulge too much in these articles. For me, this brings up the idea of being aware of a potential “worst-case scenario” but not fixating on it, and allowing the fear and the dread to rule your life. Some people may completely disagree with me on this and I’m fine with that. Healthy disagreement is good.

What I’m trying to do is a balancing act between being precautionary, mindful and proactive, but not allow fear and projection of fear of the future and this existential dread we’re talking about to manipulate my decision so all my decisions are based out of fear. There’s a practice of being mindful, precautionary and careful, but not letting fear make all your decisions. If I let myself, I’ll go to dark places quickly and dwell there. I’ve had to be careful over the course of this pandemic to not let myself drown in anxiety, fear, and this existential angst about what may or may not happen. It’s a tough thing. I’m curious because you haven’t told me that you’ve necessarily gone to any dark places, or you’ve been stewing in existential fear around things. Maybe you have more than you’ve led on. How have you been feeling about this doomsday talk?

I don’t think about it that much in terms of going down those dark paths. When I get anxious, it tends to be around the short-term. A lot of my anxiety is like, “Do I have enough money to pay my bills next week?” I’m usually focused on things like that and like you, Jason, I get a lot of that tension around money and also the past. Did I make a bad decision in the past? How is that affecting me in the present and in the future? In general, that’s where I get tension. It’s the finances of it. I suppose if there’s any fear about the future and something related to the pandemic, it’s like, “Is my job going to be taken away?”

Luckily, I’ve been blessed during the pandemic to have work and I’ve taken on clients. Because of the work that we do, collectively and individually, it is something that people tend to need and want to spend money on, which is marketing. A huge part of each of our roles with Wellevatr and in our individual endeavors centers around marketing and a lot of people need that. In a capitalist society, we make money, so helping other people make money, and luckily, that’s something that we are each skilled at. Sometimes about marketing from an existential perspective of as I talked about, in the Social Dilemma episode and other episodes that have centered around social media. I sometimes get in this mindset of, “Am I contributing to something good or bad?”

MGU 140 | 2020 Holidays

2020 Holidays: We have to be really careful over the course of this pandemic not to let ourselves drown in existential angst about what may or may not happen.

 

I definitely think about this in our work as content creators and influencers. I’m wondering, “Am I part of this weird system of addiction to social media?” Certainly. I’ve played a role in that. I’ve been studying social media strategy for years and all of those strategies are based around capturing people’s attention. When you study things like documentaries or read books, as Jason and I love to do, we realize how we’re adding to the addiction. That also keeps me up at night sometimes and now my brain has been focused on how can I use social media for good and not only to make money? In fact, this even came up in our episode with Toni and Michelle. It’s a good reason to subscribe for you, the reader, if you haven’t yet because that way you’ll be notified when we have new episodes.

The episode is about kindness, being friendly, and things like social media. One thing that got heated in that discussion was whether or not we should be using social media as our job, career and to make money versus using social media truly from an authentic standpoint. That’s a tough thing to do. That word ‘authenticity’ has even been turned into a trendy marketing word so that makes it even harder and going to what you were saying, Jason. We’re blurring a lot of the lines with technology and all these tools that we have, which are convenient for us, but at what cost.

You’ve even brought this up. You were talking about using analog versus all this digital stuff. I noticed how I enjoy technology. I always have as a little kid. I was so fascinated by computers and I worked for Apple for many years and got to see the developments of that company made. I still watch it and now I have a Tesla and it’s so tech. It’s exciting and it activates something to me and I’m sure it activates something in a lot of people but at what cost? What are we trading for all this convenience?

In fact, a great point to consider is from this book, Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee. I love that book so much and one of her big points is that technology doesn’t always help us. She brings up this example of the microwave and how you would think a microwave is going to save you time. If you look at some of the research, all of this technology ends up creating less time for us. We’ve had this whole society that’s obsessed with productivity, efficiency and hustle, as we’ve talked about in so many episodes of the show. We’re not saving that much time. We have such a huge issue of the deficit now where we don’t feel we have enough time and yet we have all this technology. What is the point of all this technology if it’s not saving us time? I’m curious about your thoughts, Jason, and I want to come back to that article about Zoom fatigue and existential challenges.

I have a new framework on this that interestingly enough, I also want to bring up a book and read a little bit, but also talk about my experience with something I read. I’ve had this feeling not necessarily about technology and saving time per se, but more about the creative vapidness that I have felt with social media for a long time. Also, how there’s this low effort, high reward idea of engaging with social media that everything technology has “made things easier.” It’s made it easier to take your photos and edit your photos, shoot a video and edit it on your smartphone, and fill in the blank.

There are a million things but in terms of artistry or creating things, there’s an alternate perspective that when I read it, I was like, “This is close to how I’ve been feeling about some of the vapidness about this quick fix. Put out a bunch of content and see what sticks. It’s all about volume. It’s not about quality.” There are a lot of people that think this way. This book I mentioned in a previous episode is called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. He’s got a section in this chapter where we talk about a guy named Matthew Crawford, who has a PhD in Political Philosophy from the University of Chicago and he worked in all these think tanks and political realms. After a few years, he quit to become a motorcycle mechanic. That’s rad. I love motorcycles. I’m a huge fan and I have a motorcycle. He now creates bikes, fixes bikes, and does custom fabrication.

He talks about his vantage point from someone who was immersed in the digital space and now spends his time working physically on a motorcycle. He went from staring at computers, social media, and government think tanks to now he uses his hands every day. There’s a lot here if you want to check out this book. I want to talk about a little bit of it. He eloquently describes the unique satisfaction of physically working on a craft. Anybody can take a photo on social media, post, and get a bunch of likes. It’s something that takes time to develop and learn and become skillful at.

He said that these physical things seem to relieve him of the need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point to something the building stands, the car running, the motorcycle running, the lights are on in the house, and he built something. Boasting is what a boy does and it has no real effect in the world, but the craftsmanship and learning a craft must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away.

In a culture where screens replaced craftsmanship, he argues that people lose the outlet for self-worth established through unambiguous demonstrations of a learned skill. One way to explain the exploding popularity of social media is that they offer a substitute source of aggrandizement. In the absence of something like a well-built wood bench or applause at a musical performance or something you’ve created physically. You can instead post a photo of your latest visit to a hip restaurant, hoping for more likes, or desperately recheck for retweets of clever quip.

As he implies, these digital cries for attention are often a poor substitute for the recognition generated by an actual craft as they’re not backed by the hard-won skill required to tame the infallible judgment of physical reality. Instead, these attempts on social media come across as the shallow boasts of children. He allows an escape from the shallowness and provides a deeper source of pride through learning an actual craft. All this is to say that hit me a ton of bricks. I didn’t expect it to.

The holidays might be our psychological lifeline during this crisis because they give us something to look forward to. Click To Tweet

Technology has almost made things so easy now. You barely have to learn how to do anything. You may disagree with me on this but with the new iPhone 12 that’s coming out, it’s got twelve megapixels, four cameras, all these zooms, and all these editing features. I talked to friends of mine, photographers who grew up years ago learning photography, working in a dark room, and learning the art of photography and now anybody can buy an iPhone. You’ve got all these filters and all these things.

I’m not trying to say it’s a bad thing fully but we’ve lost the art of craft, struggling, and learning something over a long period of time and becoming masterful at it because everyone wants to be good at something from the get-go. If I may, at the end of this rant, that’s why a lot of people give up on “hard things” now. We’re used to shit being so easy and technology’s made it easy that things used to be hard that when people are confronted with a challenge, learning something difficult, or something that takes years to master, they’re like, “Fuck it, I’m done. I don’t want to do this.” They give up too easily. That’s the downside to technologies. People give up on hard shit too easily now.

It’s certainly fascinating and there’s so much to consider. I hope there’s going to be a wave of people being more mindful but there’s such a tempting draw to this promise of social media and the rewards that we get through social media. It feels like a form of escape. So much of social media is triggering our desires for validation and waving that carrot in front of our face. It’s like, “If you do this, you’re going to get all the approval and all the money you want.”

We’ve talked about this so much on our show. It’s continuously interesting to me because I examine my own role with social media and the temptations of it as well as how other people interact with it, personally and professionally. I’m curious to see where things are going to go. We don’t know. It’s definitely interesting in terms of how much things have changed during COVID or as a result of COVID in this pandemic of us staying at home.

Coming back to this article about Zoom Fatigue, which is interesting. I haven’t read it yet so I’m going to read this in real-time. One of the questions of this article is, “Is it an issue of too much screen time and feel we’re forced to sit at our desk?” A lot of employers are now setting and tracking on the computer to see if people are active at their computers. Because that’s part of how they track their hours, which is also weird to me, especially since I’ve been working for myself and freelancing for several years now. This idea of being tracked by an employer to track hours is creepy.

In that book Do Nothing, the author Celeste talks a lot about the history of working by the hour. I find it so much more mentally stable for me to take on clients and gigs that are not about my hourly rate but are about my project rate and being paid differently than by the hour. A lot of these people are now having the stress of feeling they have to constantly be moving their mouse around on their computer because that’s how their company tracks their time. It’s like, “What does that even mean?” Your effort is not that tied to how much time you sit there and how many employees are doing the opposite. I certainly did too, when I was working full-time, a 40 hour a week job. Most of the time was wasted. I probably only had a few hours of productivity at max during that time.

Even when I worked retail at the Apple Store, I would look for anything to pass the time, and sometimes I did not want to interact with customers. It was this joke where the other employees and I would find ways to dillydally in the back room so we didn’t have to be out on the floor. Also, how our managers would always be requiring us to do certain things that weren’t even of much on purpose, but that was how the company operated, at least during the time I was employed. In all these other jobs that I’ve had over the years where you’re clocking in, and as long as you’re there from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, that’s all that matters, and as long as you get something done that’s on deadline, that’s what matters.

If you can accomplish all that work in 1 or 2 hours, why do you need to be that active from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM? It’s the same thing that is happening for children or anyone else in school where they’re doing online learning. My heart goes out to them because I have done some online classes over the years and it’s not the same. Some people are wondering if their nervous systems are being flooded with the fear of trying to learn a certain way, feeling confused by that form of education, having their attention pulled in all these different directions when they’re at home or online. Are our brains even set up for this? Can we focus on the way that benefits us if we are so focused on the time and less on the task?

Time is another big thing that comes up in this article as well. A lot of us have lost our sense of progression in our life because our routines are so different. Going back to the initial topic of this episode with the holidays, that’s usually a huge marker. It’s like, as soon as it turns to fall, we start thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving. People are even talking about Christmas already and that holiday season. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, in the United States, Christmas is such a big part of this country that you can still enjoy the Christmas trees, decorations, and all that stuff. We’re yearning for that, but what’s going to happen when these holidays hit and they’re not the same.

That sense of time is becoming harder and harder. Going to what you’re saying, Jason, about this doom mentality and this article, they refer to that as Doom Scrolling. We are constantly being broadcasted trauma, panic and a lot of people feel the only way to control their relationship is to consume more and more of it, which is interesting. The article also talks about how we feel this constant desire to keep busy which goes back to what I was saying about, is any of this technology saving us time? It’s not and all of our work systems are, not all of them, but many of them are designed around productivity.

MGU 140 | 2020 Holidays

2020 Holidays: We just might be scratching the surface of COVID-19. If we’re not really careful about this, this could go on for years to come.

 

We feel like if we don’t maximize every hour, then we’re wasting our life. If we don’t spend every free moment doing something improving ourselves, upgrading, optimizing, learning something new, as we’ve talked about many times on this show off the hustle culture. It’s incredibly exhausting. A few other points of this article before I hear some of your thoughts again, Jason. This article is basically full of questions, which you can see if you decide to read this.

Another question is, are we getting used to the new normal or are we disgusted by our own capacity to gradually sink into passive, apathetic acceptance? As our workdays become longer and our sense of time unravels. Reading this line makes me uncomfortable. This sounds horrible. “Are we doing okay, all things considered?” which is put it in quotes because I feel that’s a cliché thing to say. I found myself saying that. Someone’s like, “How are you?” You’re like, “All things considered, I’m doing great.”

The alternative to that is, are we not giving ourselves the freedom to let negative emotions come out? Are we afraid to let our employers and our friends see how all of this trauma has gotten to us? Are we afraid to show the cracks in our proverbial masks whether that’s on social media or in our workplaces? Are we afraid of our productivity to drop? Otherwise, maybe we’ll be fired and we’ll lose that financial comfort that we have. Lastly, the article asked, “Are these uncertain times or have we lost all hope for the future, or even the ability to imagine a future and no longer have the emotional and psychological lifeline that having something to look forward to can provide? Only the desperate desire to not be among the people who will suffer the most.”

That comes back to some of the things that you said, but also this idea around the holidays. Are the holidays our psychological lifeline because there’s something to look forward to? What is going to happen after the holidays in 2020? What happens on January 1st if we’re still knee-deep in this pandemic, or worse and we don’t feel we have anything to look forward to? We feel there’s so much to look forward to because of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s and on and on all these holidays that we have. Come January 1st what do New Year’s resolutions even look like anymore? What will 2021 feel like? A lot of people have this desire to get 2020 over with. As if when the clock strikes 12:00 in 2021, that will all be done.

People are now starting to cancel events. An event that you and I were looking forward to in January 2021 has been canceled. Many events have been moved to May and summer 2021. What happens between that time from January to June or January to May? How do we even get through those months if we don’t have these holidays to look forward to and share this? I’m curious if you ever thought about this, Jason, or if the reader has either. I certainly don’t want to put this on a bad note, but it’s important for us because I bet your depression is going to be high come January 1st.

I would have to 100% agree. For me, as someone who has struggled with clinical depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, we talked about a lot on this show. I’m practicing the balance mentally of being hopeful for things but releasing expectations of whether or not they’re even going to happen or how they may happen. An example of this is New Year’s, and you’re absolutely right. There are a lot of people that are mentally wired to think that on January 1st, 2021, it’s the proverbial reset button on their life. A fresh start, get to set some new resolutions, everyone’s going to crush it, #ThisIsMyYear, and all that cliché shit.

For me, I can only speak from my experience. I have to laugh because every single year, I refresh my vision board in my office. I set five new high-level intentions of what I want to experience or what I want to do every year. In some years, I nail those five things. Other years, I don’t. For example, I’m not in my home office now because I’m at my mom’s office at our house in Detroit. What was on the list for 2020, these aims for the year, were travel to Japan. Clearly, it did not happen. Pay off all my debt. I paid off some but not all, not even close. Buy my first electric car, no. Save a down payment for a house.

Interestingly enough, I do have a growing nest egg set aside. I know I’m fortunate to do that. I haven’t had my savings account be dinged that much and it’s a blessing beyond. I don’t have a house yet but I’m getting closer to the down payment. There were things like that and none of them happened. It was like, “No.” I looked at it the other day, I laughed because I’m like, “I had all these intentions and aims for the year but none of them came true. None of them came to fruition.” That’s okay. If we have a sense of hopefulness that everything is cyclical, if we look at the nature of reality, everything is temporary. Good feelings are temporary. Bad feelings are temporary.

This pandemic is temporary. We don’t know how long it’s going to last but it’s going to be temporary. Everything is temporal. That is the nature of the reality we’re in. To remind ourselves of that, that at least gives me comfort. To know that the good things won’t last, the bad things won’t last and every gray area in between won’t last. This too shall pass, and also taking it with a grain of salt. Am I going to set any of the typical intentions I might set for 2021? I don’t think so. I don’t think I’m going to do that.

My intent is that I want to be as connected to the present moment and respond with love, compassion, empathy, and righteous action to whatever is in front of me. In those moments of anxiety, depression, and those moments when I start to doom scroll, I doom scroll. There’s this desire for certainty. If I know what’s going on, I’ll be safer if I know the threats that are coming. We can’t possibly predict it. In those moments, if I’m paying attention and taking inventory of what’s literally in front of me, and being super connected to the present moment.

Like everything else, this pandemic is going to be temporary. Remind yourself that and take comfort in that thought. Click To Tweet

To me, that’s been an antidote to existential dread, doom scrolling, and being too attached to the outcome of things. We have no idea what January 1st is going to look like. We have no idea what ten minutes from now is going to look like. That’s reality. If we let go of expectation, we let go of demanding that life gives us what we want the way we want it when we want it. On a spiritual level, this whole situation has taught us is we don’t know shit, we can’t predict a thing and if we have expectations, they’re going to cause us a lot of pain. That’s how I feel about it. On a lighter and brighter note, we have some brand shout out, Whitney. I have a few that I need to sort through in my mind. I want to pass the baton to you. Is there something top of mind or top of heart for you that you want to give some love to?

I love that I said I’m looking at the timeline in my head. It’s like I’m projecting my thoughts onto the wall in front of me. Back in March 2020, this brand called trèStiQue reached out to me about their amazing vegan makeup. I got excited about it as I’ll tell you how great this product is. They sent it to me in June during the pandemic and I have barely worn makeup since March. I’m not usually a big makeup wearer. I don’t get excited about wearing makeup. I put it on because I feel I have to. Typically, the times that I’ll put on makeup are for events. I remember when they reached out I was thinking about all the stuff I was going to be doing in 2020 and little of those things have even happened. I still find times where I want to put on makeup. A great example is Zoom.

Sometimes it’s nice to put makeup on for certain Zoom meetings. For instance, when I did my project with MAD TASTY I wanted to put some makeup on. I wanted to feel I looked pretty and professional, so I’ve done that from a number of different webinars. I put on makeup sometimes when I go out to feel normal, I suppose. Even if I don’t feel I need to dress up for something like the grocery store, sometimes it feels nice to put on some makeup. Each woman has different relationships with makeup, sometimes for social media photos, although I’m doing that less and less. I’m a big fan of not wearing makeup or using filters on my face for social media.

However, your relationship is with makeup a lot of women enjoy it. Another tie in for trèStiQue is their brand is incredible for travel because they have these full-size vegan makeup products that are 2 in 1. They have built-in applicators that you can twist off of the bottom and you can get these handy little pouches to put them in. They’re also all magnetic so they will clip together into a little bag. They have this product called The Essential 8 that’s designed to make it take only five minutes to apply.

All of these things considered, it was perfect for someone like me who doesn’t want to have a lot of products and wants something easy. I hate opening up my makeup drawer and having all this stuff in there. I’m basic when it comes to makeup as well and that idea that only taking a few minutes to apply is perfect for me. I also like trèStiQue because they are natural-looking. I don’t feel the products in that Essential 8, which I’ll list out for you which ones I have because it’s cool too because you can customize it. The products that I customized are light on the face. It’s not I’m caking a ton of makeup. You get to go on and customize it and they give you these eight things.

You can choose a tinted face stick so they let you choose what color you want. I got one that’s more of a bronzer. You can go light to dark. You get to choose a concealer after that so you can choose the shade that works for you. You can choose either a blush, a highlighter, or a bronzer. I got a bronzer and the tinted face stick is the foundation. That one is light. It doesn’t look like you have a ton of foundation on. To me, it looks more like you’re not wearing any makeup and I prefer that look.

You get to this third section where you can choose a blush, a highlighter, or bronzer and I typically like to have all three but in this case, I chose the bronzer because that’s a little bit more of my favorite thing to go with. You get to choose a lip crayon and you can choose from a matte look which is the one that I went with. You get to choose an eyeshadow and that one is nice. It’s pretty. The one that I got has a shimmery appearance to it. In fact, they all have shimmer but they’re different shades. Mine is like a pinkish.

They have an eye pencil and I got brown but you could get black if you’d like. They also came with a brow pencil which I’m not that into, but if you’re into doing your brows. It’s funny looking at this because there’s an applicator that I’ve never discovered on this. Looking at the photo on the trèStiQue website, which I encourage you to check out if this sounds appealing to you. There’s a brush at the bottom of that pencil that I’ve never twisted off.

One of the cool things about trèStiQue is they look compact. If you don’t play around with them or you didn’t see the pictures in this case, I’ve never looked at this before a picture, you probably wouldn’t even know the applicator is there. Once we’re done, I’m going to check mine. One of the coolest products they have is an all in one lash curler and mascara and that’s neat. You have to check out the photo of it to see how that works. Last but not least, you get this cool little bag and it has a mirror built into it. You can choose your color and the bag is made from recycled plastic bottles. It’s a neat brand overall, eco-friendly, sustainable, vegan high quality. It’s not super cheap but as Jason likes to say, “You pay with your purse or you pay with your person.”

I have had these products since June when they sent them to me and I use them off and on. I loved using them on my road trip. If you’re going to travel at all in 2020 or 2021, a product of eight is great if you’re someone that likes an essential kit, but not a ton enough, that allows you to do your makeup quickly and have it all compact. This is a great choice and if you want something that’s made mindfully cruelty-free, vegan, they have been awesome overall. It’s taken me a long time to talk about them because I wanted to find the episode to mention them. That’s trèStiQue. That’s my brand shoutout. Jason, what’s your favorite makeup product?

MGU 140 | 2020 Holidays

2020 Holidays: We’ve lost the art of learning something over a long period of time and becoming masterful at it because everyone wants to be good at something from the get go.

 

It’s funny because I’ve been known to wear eyeliner over the years, not only on Halloween but I’m a big fan of eyeliner. I pride myself on being a somewhat androgynous person. I don’t have a favorite brand, but I do love some eyeliner. My favorite brand that I want to shout out is related to mental health. It’s a brand called VRYeveryday and my friend Rynda started this company about a few years ago, which are mood-balancing supplements for mental health and wellbeing.

They are encapsulated amino acids combined with super herbs, minerals, and vitamin cofactors. They’re non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, super high-quality ingredients and I met her when we were at the Wellspring Conference in Palm Springs. I’ve been taking these supplements for a few years. That was the fall of 2018. She has some cool curated formulas. I’ve tried all her formulas and they’re amazing. The Rest Well formula, which is designed to help you sleep at night and feel relaxed. She has a Serenity, which is to help you feel calm, booster GABA and serotonin neurotransmitters. Pink Cloud, which is to help you feel happy. Dopa Mind helps you with your dopamine levels to help you feel alive and Gluta Mine which is to feel balanced.

She has curated formulas to help you unlock specific feelings because the whole purpose of neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers in our brain, is to create action potentials. This means, depending on your neurotransmitter levels in your brain, they will regulate your emotions and your mood. I love their formulas. They’re incredibly clean. I know a lot of touring musicians that aren’t touring now, but a lot of artists who’ve struggled with mental health have been taking these supplements, myself included. I love the quality. I love the way they make me feel.

Within about two weeks of taking them, I started to notice a difference in my feelings, emotions and mental health. Check them out. I believe we will have a discount code. I’m going to find Rynda and see if we can get you guys a 10% discount on this. Check out VRYeveryday, try them out. I’ve had them for a few years on my shelf and I adore this brand. If you want to improve your mood, try these out and put them in your supplement routine. Also, they were part of our launch party for this show. We had an amazing launch party way back in December of 2019 at the Jivamukti Yoga Center in Downtown LA and they were part of our wonderfully curated swag bags there.

Anybody who was at that launch party, you have tried them out. We love Rynda and her product. We encourage you to try it if you want to try and improve your mental and emotional wellness, which are the building blocks of this entire show. With that, Whitney, we’re at the end of this one. For you, dear reader, if it is your first time joining us, thank you. If it is part of you a long time, we would appreciate a review on Apple Podcasts. That’s one of the things that help us keep going. We have some wonderful reviews on there.

If you haven’t checked us on Apple Podcasts, you can leave us a review. We love five stars and we’d love pejorative adjectives and you showering us with love. If you’re digging it, leave us a review. If you want to reach us directly, you can email us at [email protected]. You can visit us on any of our social media platforms @Wellevatr on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, all the biggies we are there sharing love, inspiration and all that good stuff. Until next time, thanks for getting uncomfortable with us. Stay safe. Stay sane. Keep spreading love!

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