Day 343 of my pandemic. As we look back upon the year and all of the surprises it brought to us, it is interesting to remember all of the twists and turns I documented as I flip back through a diary that is in the range of 800 pages and 280,000 words long, covers six continents around the world and includes the stories of more than a dozen bloggers and friends that helped me tell the story of a world that discovered a virus, shut down to protect against a pandemic, and developed not one but several vaccines, ready to protect the at-risk populations and then the rest of us. The technology of some — RNA vaccines — is incredible and a medical breakthrough that has the potential to unlock treatments that could teach our bodies to fight cancer and other serious diseases. It’s all astonishing and amazing.
As the last great emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius wrote in his diary, Meditations, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Through our resilience, stoicism, and perseverance, we have accomplished amazing things in the face of tragedy… and that is worth remembering.
Glenda, an old friend of mine, a fellow breakdancer B-girl from my days in Ottawa who became a nurse and a front line hero throughout this pandemic, got the Pfizer vaccine yesterday. She said, “Jorah Kai, I was pretty excited to get waitlisted through work, then selected. It’s been a tough year. I’ve seen a lot of fear, grief, and death in the ICU due to COVID-19 this past month, especially, and I’m over it. I’m hoping this is the turning point to move past this. I’m optimistic for 2021 being a better year.” I’m excited for her that she will be safe and able to keep helping people. My buddy Andrew’s 99-year-old grandfather got the vaccine also. It’s rolling out to healthcare and the elderly in long term care homes first, and then to at-risk folks, and then the general public. We are on our way.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is approved in the UK, very inexpensive ($3 a dose roughly), easy to transport (normal fridges), very safe, and very effective. This is a game-changer and will enable max vaccinations around the world. It will give a good level of immunity in 3 weeks, after two shots (70% after 2-3 weeks), up to 90% a few weeks after that. They said they didn’t have enough clear data to approve the half-dose first dose, so they are going with two full doses. It will last all day in an ice book, can last for six months in 4 degrees Celcius. Even the first dose will eliminate most of the heavy sickness, hospitalization, and fatalities, so the spring will be very exciting as these vaccines roll out around the world in the millions, although it will take some time – at least the year 2021 – but likely a couple of years to get the world vaccinated. In China, the Chinese vaccine is going out to health care workers, cross-border drivers, and other at-risk patients. I’m not sure which one will be available to me first, but I’m keeping my eyes on it and really hoping for travel and a trip to see my family again sooner than later.
Christmas Holidays was a nice break here, and I’m grateful again for our relatively safe post-pandemic vigilance here in Chongqing. On Friday, December 25, we had our son Jin and Shaolin’s best friend Ya Ya and her daughter Cherry over for dinner. We made a big feast, roast chicken, mashed potatoes, potato salad, green salad, fajitas, and cakes, and it was delicious. Saturday, we had the kids we tutor for a pizza party, and it was really fun. Sunday was my book launch party, an official ceremony that was well attended. I was really happy to speak about the experience, give some great interviews, do a book signing, and then go for a nice dinner with the family. Monday, I was back in the classroom, preparing the kids for a final speaking exam. On Tuesday, I had CQTV over for an in-depth exclusive interview on the book release and my next book projects. It was great but amazing how they brought a whole TV studio over to my place, including video mixing controllers, multiple camera arrays, and a whole film crew. Wednesday, I did a magazine interview and more teaching, and here I am, Thursday, December 31, ready for one more big day at work and then a holiday tomorrow and Saturday.
In about two weeks, January 15-20 or so, the school term will be over, and I’ll settle into our place for the winter, relaxing, writing, gaming, and enjoying some peace and quiet until school starts up again in March. Hopefully, we will feel it’s safe to take a little trip to the countryside or somewhere a bit warmer for a few days or a week, but it might just be a nice wish this year, as we will err on the side of safety and caution, if I have to spend the month at home, I’ll be warm and safe and comfortable. I’ve got some new patches to upgrade my astronaut jumpsuit, including a “Wang Kai 王凯 “and a “WOOD” patch, and some Cyberpunk2077 badges once I figure out where to put them.
I’ve been listening to Gabor Maté lately and picked up a few of his books. He’s a Hungarian-born Canadian physician, famous in Vancouver’s DTES (downtown east side) neighborhood and for his groundbreaking work in addiction and mental health. In a nutshell, he’s changed the way we look at addicts and addiction from a genetic deficiency to a social gap, that some people use Heroin to feel the warm hug they never got from their parents or stuff their face with cookies to fill a hole where they are missing a healthy community. He has a background in family practice and a special interest in childhood development and trauma. It’s really interesting to see how the things that happen to us in the first three years of our life can affect so much of whom we become. To me, a very interesting concept was that of what Gabor calls the ‘stupid friend,’ a well-meaning coping mechanism such as anger, that allowed us to survive or even thrive in a very difficult or dangerous environment but now only holds us back as they don’t realize it’s no longer helpful for our current life. Another was the idea that a gene was found in both the angriest and aggressive, and the most peaceful folks genomically studied. So what was the gene for? Sensitivity. Those of us born extra sensitive soak up our environment and can easily learn good or bad habits that are often lifelong and hard to break.
Growing up with a turbulent mental health state in large part due to extreme sensitivity that helped me to become a poet and writer but also led me to self medicate in the nightlife and party scene for much of my rocky 20-year music career, it’s really interesting to finish this year with the understanding of how I got there, and how, after years of working on myself, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, stoic philosophy, filling my life with positive influences, a rewarding job that demands my full attention and respects me, and a loving family helped to fill the spaces that early trauma – likely formed when my parents split up when I was between two and three years old — caused. My mother and father loved me very much, but the breakup left me feeling uneasy, torn, and ungrounded in my parents’ homes (especially on holidays, I remember the pain of “choosing whom I wanted to spend them with” as a particular source of unpleasantness). As a result, I looked outward for reassurance and relationships, causing me to leave home as a teenager and wander about seeking the gratification of large stages and musical fandom to feel happiness.
So many people spin their wheels in circles for decades and never figure out why we’re hurting, stuffing our faces with food, or drinking ourselves to death. The answers are usually found when you look at your inner child and figure out what they need(ed), thank your protectors for their service, be they rage, escapism, or other coping mechanisms, and then say goodbye to them and be grateful for the life of peace you’ve manifested.
I grew up in a frying pan, escaped into the fire, and somehow became forged into Valyrian steel. The impediment to action advanced action. What stood in the way became the way.
A life of peace, joy, and wisdom is a life’s work and something to be proud of. I am peaceful, joyful, happy, and wise, and it only took me 42 years on this earth to get there.
Happy New Year, I hope you are loved, healthy, happy, and well.
Keep hope alive. Good things are on the way.
Kai has been writing about the pandemic since his lockdown began on January 23, 2020. You can follow his fight against COVID-19 on his blog, theinvisiblewar.co, or find his first collection, Kai’s Diary (The Invisible War), the story of Chongqing’s battle against the COVID epidemic in book stores and on Amazon.