Business Musings: A Really Big Deal
Today was the day that it hit me, not the scope of the disaster we’re all living through, but the emotions of it. I am just deeply tired and it’s an emotional tired. I’m going through, dealing with the uncertainty, and helping others through it as well, but this is a really big deal for all of us, even if we don’t have a sick relative or haven’t lost our jobs. The world is visibly changing, and we have no idea what the outcome will be.
I have spent much of the last week combing history and listening to prognosticators, all trying to figure out how we emerge from this. There are histories of pandemics, which help, and histories of economic downturns, which help, and histories of disasters, which help, but in none of them are an example of the entire world shutting down its economic production and gearing up to fight a pandemic (or some other kind of war) all in the same month.
In the past, if you were unhappy in, say Berlin, you could figure out how to get to London, where things might be better. If they weren’t better in London, then you could head to New York and hope for something better there.
But right now, all of us are in a similar position: If you don’t like what’s going on where you are, tough. It’s that way everywhere.
I’m seeing glimmers of change and lots of plain old human kindness. People are helping each other in lovely and surprising ways. The acts of kindness are both big and small, and they make me smile. And that doesn’t count the folks on the front lines. They’re doing the very hard work, keeping people alive in difficult circumstances at best.
I don’t need to recap most of this: you’re living through it just like I am.
I’m also watching the outpouring of creativity, from books that people are giving away to free concerts that some musicians are giving over the internet to the way that knitters and crafters are figuring out how to make masks for first responders. It’s all encouraging and enlightening, and if you know of some cool creative stuff that’s new and happening out in the world, please put it in the comments.
I’m collecting all that for a future blog.
But today’s blog is for me, and also for many of you. I’m getting all kinds of email from writers, fretting that they’re getting nothing done or failing to hit their daily goals for the first time in a long time.
I’m writing the same letter back to everyone. Be kind to yourself. We’re going through a huge life event. A major upheaval. We have no idea what our world will look like in July or next year. We can only control what we do, and in some cases, we don’t even have a lot of control over that.
Many of us are experiencing grief. We know the old world is gone, and we’re heading into a new one. For some of us, it’s actual physical grief—we’ve lost a loved one. For others, it’s anticipatory grief—we know that the world will not be the same and we’re mourning what we’ve already lost.
Grieving is a big all-consuming thing. It is also a roller coaster. So you’ll have good days and tough days. You’ll feel “normal” and then you won’t. And, eventually, you’ll get through it.
As I said, it’s been that kind of day for me. We’ve been revamping the business these past two weeks, which has been hard. I’ve been learning a few new skills to cope with some things that have moved online, which is frustrating. And it’s also frustrating not knowing if we can schedule anything for May or even for June, which is hard for me, because I’m a scheduler. It’s one way I find comfort—gaining a tiny bit of control of my future.
So what I’ve been writing to others also applies to me. I’ve been reminding everyone to be kind to themselves. This is a tough time.
It’s a phrase I have used with my grieving friends in the past, and it’s a phrase I’m using now. Be Kind To Yourself. Because there’s no reason to add more pressure.
Yes, you “should be” writing more, since you’re at home, but so many of you are also teaching your kids and dealing with your spouse and worrying about money, and relearning the art of handwashing. You’re worried about your family far away and your friends nearby, whom you can’t really see right now.
That’s a lot of bandwidth. That’s a lot of emotional stuff to keep track of. And even if you’re doing really well—which many of you who contact me are—you’re still burning through more emotions every day than you’re used to.
Be kind to yourself.
Eat well. Walk around the block or the yard. Get a good night’s sleep. Find time to relax by reading something or watching a movie or playing a game. Take some pressure off yourself.
Give yourself permission to have a bad day or a bad hour. Give yourself permission to feel sad or angry or however this is manifesting for you.
It’s tough time right now for all of us.
Word counts don’t matter as much. Deadlines are still important, but not the be-all and end-all of everything.
Enjoy your family if they’re at home with you. Do something fun once in a while.
Be kind to yourself.
Because kindness will get us through this.
And we will get through it. That’s the one thing history does teach. Human beings come through all of these really big deals we find ourselves in. Our worlds change, but we survive.
And that’s a good thing
Now, I’m off to take the rest of the evening and maybe binge on something. Because I’m emotionally tired and ready for this week to end. I’ll be back on it all tomorrow.
But tonight, I need some rest.
And I’ll wager, you do too.
“Business Musings: A Really Big Deal,” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / Perkmeup.
Thank you for the reality check on productivity.
I lost my first family member this weekend.
My husband drives a truck for a produce distribution company, and will be out there unless he drops. My sister and her husband are an ICU nurse and a respiratory tech (the people who run the ventilators, for COVID relevance) respectively. Our parents are all high risk. My mom’s flooded out of her place, but no one’s moving on repairs right now.
I’m trying to be an engineer on a wee table in my front room when it’s not my turn to be the in-office staff. I’m trying to put together snacks my husband can eat in his cab. Most restaurants are drive-thru only, now, and you can’t take a rig through drive-thru, so he’s working a shift on scattered snacks, coming home, eating all the food, and falling asleep in his chair.
I’m working on a lighthearted fantasy story, and it’s really, really hard to get words. Needless to say, my husband isn’t getting all that many words either (though he’s still getting some dictation done in his cab – because he’s just that awesome).
I met a neighbour the other day, at a safe distance – she’s a hospital pharmacist. She asked how /we/ were. I told her we were appreciating her hard work. She asked me to thank my husband for keeping the food moving. I have seen so many people stop to thank our building cleaner for keeping us safer.
I hope we come out of this with a lasting appreciation for the people who keep everything going – not just in this time (cleaners; garbage people; the grocery workers; delivery people, truckers, shippers, railway workers; IT personnel, everyone in the medical community; all of the manufacturing personnel stepping it up to try and help; the research personnel working on everything from vaccines and therapies to methods of sterilizing masks for reuse… so many more) but the people we all depend on every day that we don’t always think about.
Circulating in the trucking community in our neck of the woods are some under-utilized hotels, offering free hot showers and food for truckers heading through, since there are so few places for them to eat and get a break right now. They lay out their safety and cleaning procedures, so the drivers feel safe using the facilities and eating the food. The hotel has the showers and the stores of prepackaged food, anyhow – and would like an excuse to keep paying their housekeeping staff.
Bauer – the hockey equipment company – is making medical face shields, now. (Why, yes, I’m from Canada.) Engineers at a local university are working on ways to convert a shop vac into a makeshift iron lung (primitive ventilator) with readily available materials from a home improvement store, in case vent supply is outstripped faster than they can be made or obtained. (Okay – not exactly regular crafters being creative… but…)
I apologize for the late comment – I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch my usual sites for the last little bit.
Normal is a setting on my washing machine. No one ever promised me the status quo.
Oh, I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s harder when you can’t go hug your family for comfort. (And it’s hard when you can.) Sounds like lots of great human kindness is going on in your neck of the woods. Here too. Take care of yourself. Hugs.
I am overseas (I’m an American expat) and our situation is in good control here -so far-but I sit at night after a late dinner watching news and commentary clips about the situation in the United States, Europe, and the rest of the world on You Tube, and it literally paralyzes me: I just sit there watching until late into the night, feeling sick at heart.
I have time to write, but am having a hard time getting to it, like many of you.
Last night was the first night I actually limited my news watching to thirty minutes, and went to bed at a reasonable hour.
I do find inspiration in our health care workers and first responders (and a few of our political leaders too), but it hurts to see them facing this, in many cases, without the support they need and deserve.
Stay safe, and best wishes to you all.
The one silver lining I’m taking from this on-going nightmare is that kindness has become a ‘thing’ again, a thing to be proud of, a thing to value. As a gamer, I’ve spent years listening to players denigrating other players for being ‘Care Bears’. For them, status went hand-in-hand with a ruthless disregard for others. It was all ‘me-me-me’. Now, thanks to this horrible pandemic, ‘me-me-me’ is slowly becoming ‘we-we-we’. This gives me hope. Stay well.
Be kind to yourselves, too.
I’m fine, even writing again, but still dealing with the ‘ethics’ and ‘morals’ of being consigned to a group which is not going to get services if it gets sick. That’s the big shock. That both health services and the administration have planned to throw us under the bus and say, “Oh, well.” I am not okay with that.
We are in total lockdown – and it may be over a year before we can safely emerge. THAT’s worrisome and frightening.
I’m in the same group, Alicia, and yes, knowing we’ll be thrown under the bus makes me angry too…with the politicians still playing numbers games with our lives. Here in Australia we’ve heard a lot of gumpf about needing to ‘balance’ the health crisis with the economic crisis. Read between the lines, and that translates as ‘how many deaths are acceptable to keep the economy going?’ As far as I’m concerned, even one death is too many. Hang on to that anger and let’s make the post pandemic world a better, more humane place. -hugs-
I’m with you. They will do as little as possible – we need to shame them into making that a lot more than they planned.
And let’s stop sending tax money to the corporations paying their executives millions which then get hoarded. Etc.
Yes! If there’s a silver lining to this pandemic it’s that many old, unquestioned assumptions are going to change. And one of them is that corporations are ‘good’ and that they provide prosperity for all. That may have been the case 50 years ago, but it’s most definitely not the case now. Every Western country has to rebalance the social contract.
The rich owners and shareholders are abusing the system. And using taxpayer money when they should be using their own assets.
They will continue to do that as long as they can buy representatives and politicians to support them (in exchange for campaign funds and other perks).
Yeah. Call it ‘lobbying’ and it’s okay. Call it bribery and it’s not. I truly hate euphemisms. 🙁
What ever happened to actual right and wrong. As in: poor children need the best school to have the opportunity to become the best citizens they can vs. whiny entitled people who have more than the minimum wanting more?
Exactly! I wish I knew the answer. 🙁
People were too lazy to vote, and we elected a narcissist – and the world decided to go crazy at a weak time.
Not just the US, Alicia. We have compulsory voting here in Australia, yet in May of last year we voted in a former ad man who needs an ’empathy coach’. The UK is no better. There’s something seriously wrong with the /system/ in the West. 🙁
Life has gotten too complicated, too complex, with 7 billion people on the planet. They crave stability.
And the poor will listen to whoever promises them something, not knowing they can’t deliver and there’s no accountability.
Education is failing us – because the demagogues gut education, especially science education – they want the masses poor, uneducated, and not well, so the demagogues can keep ruling.
You paint a grim picture, but I can’t disagree. Our best chance at true prosperity is if ALL of us are as equal as possible. That’s becoming less the case with every day that passes. I hope this covid-19 virus allows us to reconnect with what’s truly important. And what’s not. The pendulum has to swing back towards balance once more.
I was born in 1956 and I remember when in small town Silver City, the whole town lined up to get vaccinated for Polio. The adults got a shot, us kids got a sugar cube. We did that twice because it was a two part process.
When kids got chicken pox in the neighborhood, all of the kids would be exposed on purpose to develop immunity. I remember mom putting that stinky ointment on each spot to dry them up. “Don’t scratch.”
When kids got the mumps in the neighborhood, all of the kids were deliberately exposed to build immunity. I remember getting the mumps twice, one on the left, then on the right side. They made sure that you had it on both sides.
When my brother got the measles, mom gave my sister and I a shot of gamaglobulin and put us all together in the same bedroom so that we would be exposed and build immunity. We did not catch the measles. It wasn’t until I was in middle? school that they developed a vaccine.
My mom was a nurse at the VA. She was also part of the TB Association. She ultimately became a national vice president of the Lung Association when they changed the name.
Hard as it is for people to experience this latest scare, this will pass. A couple of years from now, most people will not even remember coronavirus, or what they went through, just as they don’t remember the other illnesses that we have lived through. There will be a social “forgetting”, something that people simply don’t talk about, as in the past events.
The local PBS station showed the American Experience episode on Polio the other night, trying to give people a better perspective on today’s events.
These are samples of the three main ones they have done episodes on. You can see why they showed the Polio episode. The others are too scary for today.
Chapter 1 | The Forgotten Plague | American Experience | PBS
By the dawn of the 19th century, tuberculosis had killed one in seven of all people that had ever lived. Doctors believed it was hereditary, but had begun to observe that fresh air and outdoor living could sometimes change the course of the illness. Physician and TB patient Edward Trudeau was convinced the clean mountain air was like medicine for the lungs.
Chapter 1 | Influenza 1918
In September of 1918, soldiers at an army base near Boston suddenly began to die. The cause of death was identified as influenza, but it was unlike any strain ever seen. It was the worst epidemic in American history, killing over 600,000—until it disappeared as mysteriously as it had begun.
Chapter 1 | The Polio Crusade | American Experience | PBS
The story of the polio crusade pays tribute to a time when Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease. The medical breakthrough saved countless lives and had a pervasive impact on American philanthropy that continues to be felt today.
I’m just a couple of years older than you, and I remember those days as well, but while horrific, whooping cough, measles, chickenpox, polio etc were constants in our lives. Or perhaps we were less afraid of them because we had some measure of control, and they didn’t hit everyone at the same time. Once the vaccines became available, we could forget about them because we were now ‘safe’.
We haven’t forgotten about the Bubonic plague or the Spanish Flu because both had the potential to destroy civilisation as we knew it. Covid-19 has the same potential, and as such, it must be remembered. When we come out the other side of this pandemic, we will have to re-evaluate what individuals owe to society, and what society owes to individuals. There is a largely unspoken social contract that we all take for granted…until something like Covid-19 comes along. I sincerely hope that there won’t be a great forgetting because humanity faces other, less immediate dangers too.
Another fun aspect is close-quarters cohabitation with loved ones. Strained relationships can become worse – or better. It’s all in the intent, in giving the benefit of doubt, in allowing everyone enough personal space. It’s in grabbing that dusk walk alone, then coming back and say, “Quick, you have to get out, I saw 5 plantes in the sky due SW, I’ve never seen Mercury before that I’m aware!” (Yes, this happened.) Personal time AND sharing must coexist in a state of sustainable balance.
As for “art happening elsewhere,” I’d like to share a nifty art instruction videos, as well as a book narration and a webtoon based on her own series, which my daughter Miranda is doing while taking care of her grandpa in Virginia. I’m listing all platforms because they are all a bit different:
TIkTok: Mirandathehybrid (videos less than 90 seconds, art lessons and slice of life stuff, coaching younger artist.)
YouTube: Mirandathehybrid (regular length art lessons, both digital and traditional; book narration; gaming channel, all branded separately)
http://www.webtoons.com (search for “Pirantina,” a full-color, drawn web comic, chapter by chapter, based on her Saga for Pirantina book 1)
IG – Mirandathehybrid – high-resolution images from the sources above
If you ever wanted to improve your drawing skills, or if you like sci-fi/fantasy about space-faring dragons and a fascinating disc world in the center of the galaxy, check it out!
Thank you for posting this, Kris.
I’m definitely one who sometimes thinks “My word count is awful, and I started the year so strong!” Right before I remind myself that it’s freaking amazing that I’m still writing and doing cover design and a bit of day job stuff right now. Thank goodness for the escape of Romance!
The other thing that strikes me over and over again is life in our house hadn’t changed all that much. We’ve both been working from home for a while now, me for fifteen years. We’re so fortunate to have jobs that essentially haven’ t changed at all, and relatively small numbers of cases in our rural area (so far).
And yet…it’s just so draining to act like everything is normal when that word doesn’t mean anything at all anymore. Yes, we have it great in a lot of ways. We didn’t have to abruptly leave an office or learn how to do all of this in the last few weeks or try to support anxious kids. (the cats are curiously stress-free)
The emotional rollercoaster is real. Even folks who seem to have mostly the same routines are not necessarily okay.
And that’s okay, too.
Hi Kris. Long time lurker here. I read this, stopped at the words “Be kind to yourself” and had a mini breakdown. I’m in Washington State, and we shut down a month ago. As a middle school teacher, I tell the kiddos all the time: be kind to yourself and to each other at the end of the class. It’s written on a poster on a wall in my classroom that I may not see again before the beginning of next year. As a teacher in Washington State, I’m also seeing the worried words and questions from students, asking “When are we coming back to school?” and “How is this going to affect my grades?” This last month has been hard, and today was the first day I had to give myself permission to admit that I’m grieving.
And I have no answers for them, let alone myself. No one does, and it’s hard to keep strong for others in the face of uncertainty. Especially for the little ones.
So thank you for the reminder.
As a writer, it never occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one not getting words in, not feeling like they can focus on a story, until today with your post. I’m prone to depression and such–it’s such a stereotypical writerly trait, I suppose–but I worried about that on top of everything else. But I know my husband and me will be fine through all of this. Still, it’s tempting to just push through my current WIP, weave in a bit of this uncertainty, and see if I can’t entertain myself and process at the same time.
Once again, thank you for the reminder to be kind to ourselves. I know we need to give ourselves permission, but it’s always more sobering (and affirming) when we hear it from someone else.
You’re definitely not alone in your experience. I have been keeping a tally of word counts per day since the end of January because I was trying to make a morning habit, and it was going well until the lockdown. I just managed to trick myself into doing more creative writing by blocking everything out and listening to comfort music. It is hard, so don’t beat yourself up because you’re not being super productive! The grieving is real, even when we haven’t lost anyone close to us. We are grieving our way of life being forever changed.
On Twitter, Neil Webb posted a quote with commentary:
“‘You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.’
I’ve heard this twice today. I think it’s an important distinction worth emphasising.”
“As a person who has worked from home for years, trust me, this is true
(for all of us fortunate enough to be attempting to work from home right now).”
The emotional exhaustion you speak of is huge, particularly for people doing any kind of care taking. I’ve been cutting myself a lot of slack. Gave myself a “week outside of time” last week, which included no writing, though I did do other work. This week, I’m back to the current novel, but again, allowing myself to take it slowly.
No pressure. Just showing up to my life: A daily walk. Eating well. Helping where I can. Working as I can.
The world is different now. I hope what we build on the other side of this is something fine. Luckily, we’re writers. We have imagination as part of our offering.
We’re all mourning the death of ‘normal’ – whatever our ‘normal’ used to be … sleep well.
Thanks for sharing your heart. This is unprecedented for almost everyone alive right now. You expressed that so well, there are no safer places, we have to make our place safe, right where we are.
Taking a break is a darn good idea. I might even do that, though I do love the proofreading and reading that I do everyday.
I lost half a lung a few years ago, so my wife and I are keeping me very safe. I feel good, except for the seasonal allergies. The bee pollen has helped a lot with that.
A lot of people are very afraid, but keep in mind that we will get through this. We are ahead of what happened 102 years ago by such a large amount. So many brilliant minds are working on this all over the world. We will beat this beast soon.