the trials and tribulations of tragedy: an interview with Martha

by Madison B., 15

The recurring cataclysms of the 21st century are a universally acknowledged truth. Just this year with COVID-19, we all experienced firsthand the omnipresent dread and misfortune of the pandemic. Martha, a 56-year-old woman currently residing in Red Bank, has been financially destabilized because of the devastating virus; bravely, she shares her odyssey with trauma.

The hardships of COVID have been a slow and catastrophic wildfire, destroying families socially, physically, and financially. Personally, Martha can only groan at all the ways the virus has impacted her, becoming a barrier to her previous life. 

Though her sons are much older now—already middle-aged and out of the house—she sees them even less than before because of the pandemic’s restrictions, if at all. With a broken phone, no stable home situation, and unreliable transportation, she finds it hard to see people. Preferring instead, she spends her days at Shore House while she combats the difficulties inflicted by the virus. 

Martha isn’t unfamiliar with the pandemic’s wicked ailments; suffering a stroke last year, she’s been through many of the same struggles, battling for her life alongside those with COVID. She recounts that she was reluctant to return to normal after the frightful vicinity of death in her life due to her disease and witnessing her friends’ passings (from COVID). 

Other than the medical disaster, Martha points out that there’s another storm tormenting people, a fast brewing storm that’s been building up for more than 400 years in America. On the verge of a flood, the one takeaway she wishes to share of her life, and wisdom to pass down, is her experience and knowledge of prejudice. 

In a society built upon a system of hatred and trauma of black people, Martha wants to raise awareness of the pressing issue: systemic racism. She thoughtfully expressed that, “it applies to every race and every facet of our society.” It’s an inescapable presence in medicine, our laws, and even at Shore House. It restricts the freedom of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and binds their wrists, preventing any relaxation or trust in the government, a huge stressor due to its ubiquity. She described daily life suffering through this oppressive experience as a struggle she works hard to cope with. 

The underlying issue Martha surmises is that “it’s accepted, that’s the problem, that it’s an accepted part of society; calling people out because of the colors that they wear, because of their religion, because of everything.” Without an escape from this discrimination, she finds herself depressed, the continuous proximity of hostility affecting her mentally.

Martha professed that she needed to use some of her inner strength to conquer the depressive and tyrannical milieu of racism. One of the many coping skills she uses is exercise and self-expression, finding liberty through her writing, intense Tai Chi, and Zen. Without it, she believes life would be insufferable, opting to create an everyday routine that incorporates all the things that make her happy: art, exercise, and prayer.

The most significant determinant to her growing happiness and recovery process through the pandemic and systemic racism was her faith—alongside her hobbies. Martha was taught Christianity at a young age, the light to the darkness of her life. Inheriting her religion from her parents, grandparents, and other relatives, she uses God to cope with the unrelenting battle of prejudice she faces daily because of her race and the isolation COVID has imposed on not just her but also everyone. 

To conclude, Martha wanted to end on a happy note, wishing to spread joy and enlighten some much-needed nostalgic hope in people. Although we’ve had a year of darkness, she prays every day that people atone for their mistakes and grievances and for those who’ve been wronged to find forgiveness and allow themselves to flourish and be prosperous. In her own words, “I want people to know … about the love of Jesus Christ and the love in my heart, every single day … I treat other people … how I want to be treated.”  

Because of the newfound acceptance in society for combating mental illness, she wishes everyone to know that she is a figure of acceptance; whether she likes someone or not, they’re all human beings worthy of respect.