Blog / 2023 / The Thing I’m Most Afraid of Talking about Publicly

March 6, 2023

I began work on Everything’s Fine a year and a half into the pandemic, in September 2021, right when I really started to crack. After eighteen months of social distancing and intense uncertainty, I wanted normalcy as much as anyone else, but the science was clear: COVID’s impact was still very much TBD.

In fact, it was the disconnect between what the experts were telling us and how almost everyone was reacting to the information that sent me into a total meltdown.

I want to describe in some detail what I mean, but, in order to do so, I’m going to have to talk about some things that you might not want to hear. Please understand that with the following explanation isn’t my attempt to get you to change your mind about anything. It’s simply an account of why I started making Everything’s Fine.

Here’s how it goes:

In September 2021, many people weren’t getting their complete course of vaccinations—and they still aren’t. That has lead to a false confidence in our ability to beat this novel coronavirus, and it’s also been helping fuel more vaccine-resistant versions of the disease. Plus, long COVID impacts anywhere between five and fifty percent of patients, depending on how you define the chronic version of this disease, and each new infection makes individuals more likely to experience longterm problems after they’ve beat the initial illness. (I’ve already got one chronic condition and that’s plenty enough for me, thankyouverymuch.)

All this was true a year and a half ago, and it’s true now, when people are less likely to report that they have COVID since they can’t afford to miss work, and therefore the official infection rates might not be accurate.

Another true thing: high quality masks are the best protection for both the wearer and the people around them. They reduce the possibility that a wearer who has COVID will infect others, whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic. It also makes it much less likely that a healthy wearer will get infected, which I love because I don’t want to get COVID and I especially don’t want to get COVID and then help it spread further.

For all these reasons, I won’t stop covering my nose and mouth indoors, despite the fact that almost everyone else has.

But since I know I can’t change anyone else’s behavior—I’m not, for example, trying to change yours right now*—that means I need to work on myself.

I’ve always had mental health issues. In general, I struggle with unwarranted feelings of rejection, maintaining a positive self-image, and acute anger. Society’s handling of COVID makes me feel more rebuffed, ridiculous, and wrathful with every single unmasked face I come across indoors. That was true in September 2021 and it’s true now.

soap bubbles filled with COVID floating over a porcupine, a representation of pandemic anxiety
Gwenn Seemel
Surrounded by a Deadly Airborne Virus
acrylic on panel
10 x 8 inches
(You can see the making of this painting here.)

Which is where Everything’s Fine comes in.

Other people’s mental health challenges may not be coming up for the same reason—clearly, or I wouldn’t be the only masked person indoors—but we all struggle. And if I can’t connect with my community when it comes to COVID, then acknowledging our shared struggle with other sorts of illness (the mental kinds) will have to be my way of feeling a part of the world.

I hate that I worry about losing friends every time I talk about why I mask indoors. I hate it more than I hate the fact that most of my friends don’t mask indoors.

And that’s why I’m making Everything’s Fine: because of things I hate, but also because, with every painting I make, I’m focusing on the love I feel for my fellow humans.

Lambertville art about mental health by Gwenn Seemel
sample of art from Everything’s Fine

I’m continuing to create new paintings for Everything’s Fine—though these four sum up quite nicely everything I’ve talked about in this post.

Before the end of 2023, this project will become a series of postcards and posters that will be distributed for free via schools and public libraries. To get updates about Everything’s Fine as the project evolves, sign up for my monthly mailing list.

* I’m really not trying to change your mind, but, if you’re open to learning more about why masking is still a good idea, I just started reading Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s The Future Is Disabled and the introduction does a better job of explaining it than I ever could.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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