Why I’m Happy I’m Sad

4 ½ min

“Gloom, despair, and agony on me,
Deep dark depression, excessive misery….”

Those were the opening lines to a song based skit from the country music and comedy show “Hee Haw” back in the 1970s. Somehow the words and tune have remained stuck in my mind all these years.

Those lines sum up my feelings regarding COVID-19 masks, distancing, and lockdowns. But only recently have I realized there may be a silver lining contained in such feelings.

For over a year now, I’ve felt gloom and despair going to my local grocery store. Some readers may find it strange, but I enjoyed grocery shopping before the pandemic. I live alone, and shopping meant seeing other people. I liked wandering the store’s aisles, nodding hello to other shoppers, crossing items off my list, and looking here and there for bargains.

Then came the masks, social-distancing signs, and floor markers, the “Great Toilet Paper Shortage,” and ravaged or half-emptied shelves, and my enjoyment went down the tubes. Ever since, when I put a mask on upon entering the store, a black cloud of unhappiness envelops me.

The library where I used to read and write brings the same reaction. After months of curbside service only, the library finally opened its doors to the public, but masks were required. I wear glasses and so I couldn’t see the print through the fog. Returned books were placed under a five-day quarantine, and the tables and chairs in the vestibule that I so enjoyed were removed. At least the library still lets patrons sit down. When I recently visited Asheville, North Carolina, the libraries there had removed all tables and chairs except for those at the computer workstations.

I was overjoyed when customers were finally allowed into the seating area of the coffee shop, but to this day customers must still pull up their masks on entering, and the baristas sanitize the tables between customers.

When I look at these measures, some of them now seem crazy, such as the mad rush for toilet paper last spring, or the library “quarantining” books, a process now reduced to three days. When it comes to masks, I can’t help wondering why I still see people wearing them while driving alone in cars, or why young people in their mid-20s or younger walk around downtown Front Royal in masks in 50-degree temperatures and a 10-mile an hour wind. Why at the coffee shop must we wear masks when ordering, but we can then sit at a table only 15 feet away and talk, type, or read for two hours without a face covering?

In essence, the last year of pandemic has taken its toll on me, and even now whenever I put on a mask, read the social distancing signs in these establishments, or listen to reminders on the radio to be safe, I become depressed or angry.

But here’s the strange thing. This past week I finally decided this reaction is healthy and good, a realization that in turn helped me feel better and more positive.

Let me explain.

If sometime in the past year I had simply woken up one morning, shrugged, and accepted all these restrictions as normal, or even justified, then my acceptance would have meant my surrender. I would have given up. The mask would have become my new norm, and distancing, quarantining books, and sanitizing tables would no longer irritate me, they would instead be mundane acts of everyday life.

So I’ve finally realized my rage and my irritation with these measures means I have not yet given up on common sense or my principles. I still think, and I suspect I will always think, that what we have allowed this pandemic to do to our economy, to the education and health of our young people, to our political system, and to our very humanity far outweighs the number of lives saved by our unique precautions. Readers may disagree, but that is the way I see things.

As for those I see who drive alone masked in their cars, who walk along a sidewalk with their six-year-old wearing a face covering, or who congratulate themselves on Facebook for getting the vaccine—good for you. I mean it.

But please know that, in my mind, many of the rules enacted in the last year strike me as unbalanced, wrong-headed, and more than a trifle nuts. I’ve generally obeyed those measures because in my state they are mandates and because I don’t want to distress my acquaintances at the coffee shop or library.

The mess of this past year—the riots, the presidential election, Joe Biden’s blizzard of executive orders, and all the rest—simply added to my black moods. Again, however, I realize this indicates that I haven’t yet succumbed to the madness.

Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

That’s the goal.


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Image Credit: 

Stocksnap, Public Domain

Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick lives in Front Royal, Virginia, and may be found online at He is the author of two novels, Amanda Bell and Dust on Their Wings, and two works of non-fiction, Learning as I Go and Movies Make the Man.

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Margaret Owen
Thank you, Jeff, for verifying my common sense and my sanity! I was beginning to think that, maybe, I'd become careless and dotty in my old age! I've taken the vaccine, but I am still told that I must wear my mask(s), stay away from people, and avoid any space with more than two people in it. Then why did I bother to take the risk of the vaccine? Funny thing, too, the only person around here who agrees with me is my friend and dentist - who puts his hands and face - in strange people's mouths all day long and hasn't caught anything (yet). I went to an indoor (!) restaurant with him the other day. No one else will go in a restaurant, vaccinated or not. I'm happy, too, happy to hear from him - and you - that, if it seems crazy, it probably is. Like people driving alone in their own car with a mask on. That's crazy.


Thanks for the great quote at the end. I'm going to make a copy and pin it on my office bulletin board. I, too, find trips to the store irritating and depressing, and rip off my mask as soon as I approach the exit. I have refused from Day #1 to wear a mask outdoors or in my car (a foolish requirement). The swiftness with which so many Americans have fallen prey to the fear the government "experts" are pedaling is very troubling. They have reduced so many adults to children who once more believe in the boogeyman: the thing you cannot see but that will get you if you don't obey their rules. That is more frightening than the authoritarian desire to divest us of our freedoms and to teach us to be afraid.


My wife and I RV's through 18 states last summer. VA and NC were some of the worst with the mindless Covid restrictions. It wasn't until we entered South Dakota that we experienced freedom, again. It's rather sad to see so many Americans succumb to the madness.


This is such a great article. I have linked to it from my blog post: giving you credit and praising the wonderful sentiments. We simply MUST get rid of the FEAR.


Nine out of ten people who died from COVID19 agreed with Jeff.


You probably meant that nine out of 10 people who died *with* COVID-19 agreed with Jeff. We can only hope they spent their final days breathing fresh air among friends and family.