Well, I was wrong. A month or so ago, I warned that what we’re going through is a black swan event, that it would have an economic impact, and we as business owners needed to be braced. Then, as things got even worse, I decided this was a double black swan—a crisis without good leadership to carry us through to the other side.
And it seems that, in both cases, I underestimated this thing. On April 3, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called this “a crisis like no other.”
In a speech before the World Health Organization, she added, “Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill. It is way worse than the global financial crisis.”
A crisis like no other. Yeah, that was my sense as well over these past two weeks as I tried over and over again to find some kind of historic precedent to guide us forward. I couldn’t find one—not an analogous one, on that hit the global economy all at once, and forced people around the world to behave in the same way.
It’s breathtaking and shocking and hard to fathom. As you can tell from my many blog posts, I’m wrestling with this change. I know we’ll come out the other side, but for the first time—maybe in my adult life—I have no idea what kind of world we will emerge into. Usually I can predict both worst case and best case scenarios.
Now, for me, all those scenarios hinge on when we’ll get out of the pandemic part of this equation, which could be May (best case) or August (middle) or early next spring (worst case). If it’s a year from now, the economic ruin will be…well, people will lose their lives to despair and to starvation and to so much more. There is historic precedent for collapsed national economies, and what happens to those citizens ain’t pretty.
But there’s no need for despair yet on the economic front. Governments everywhere are trying to brace and mitigate this. And they realize we have to get through this damn virus first.
So much of my brain power in March has focused on comprehending this crisis. And then on trying to find a best and worst case out of this, just so I could establish a timeline.
Quite frankly, all of that focus was driving me slowly crazy. I can’t predict this one, and monitoring the science, the economic press, and the regular old media was raising my stress levels to heretofore unimagined levels.
I needed to take control of my life, and I knew—know—how to do that.
I needed to focus. Fortunately, the State of Nevada gave me a focus to hang my hat on. The state higher education system threw in the towel a week or so ago. Rather than try to juggle a possible reopening toward the end of spring semester, the state’s higher ed system said that the entire spring semester would be online.
So there was my timeline. I figured the governor was going to keep us shut down until at least May first, and it turns out, his announcement extending the shut down order came two days later.
One month. One month shut inside a very lovely condo in a very lovely season with a wonderful person and two very high strung cats. With lots of good food, more than enough to read, too much to do, and the ability to exercise.
I can handle that.
I switched my focus to what I could control, not what I can’t. I can’t control the fact that I’m only allowed out for essentials until April 30 (soonest). I can control how I live each day for the next month—provided that neither Dean nor I get sick. (And considering how chapped our hands are, we’re working hard at preventing that too.)
So here’s what I’ve set up. I put this here as a guideline for the rest of you, maybe to help you set up your own schedule. I’m also putting this here to remind me of my own priorities in the month ahead.
My days look like this, mostly:
1. Running and/or walking. Up at seven or so, and after the cats get fed, I’m out the door. I’m running 5 days per week unless it’s too windy (Las Vegas spring equivalent of a downpour). When it gets hot, I’ll need to get up even earlier, so I’m staying in routine of getting up at the same old time I used to in the winter.
The runs are nice. I see the neighborhood, which includes some lovely found art. The Arts District has contracted with some artists to paint murals over the boarded-up windows of the temporarily closed shops. Those murals will be sold once the shops reopen. The artists, both women, are painting every morning as I go by. Which means I get to see their progress and shout a hello.
I see dog walkers and security guards as well. And we have an unspoken rule: only one of us gets the sidewalk. The other one has to go around on the street. Usually that’s me, because I’m the one in transit.
The sunshine, the freedom of movement, and the progress really help my soul.
I’m also walking in the evening, just to get out of the house. It’s nice. I usually walk with Dean, which is also nice.
2. Breakfast. It has always been the time when I consume news, just so I stay abreast of what’s going on in the world. I used to do it as a start to my day, with more news late afternoon and into the evening, but now, consuming that much news—with much of it coming out of panicked reporters in NY—was driving me bonkers and raising my stress level.
I’ve stopped watching or listening to any news. Instead, I read all of it—an old trick I learned after 9/11 (and the Oklahoma City bombing and…and…and…) It keeps my stress down while keeping me informed.
One hour, and I’m done for the day. Dean watches or listens using headphones (which I greatly appreciate) and I go forward with my plans, so that I can focus on something other than the world outside these four walls.
3. Yoga/Pilates: Before this crisis hit, I went to a Pilates class once a week, and it kept my very damaged back from seizing up. In the past two weeks, it started to seize up again, so I needed to bring some stretching back into my life. I decided 10 minutes of yoga twice a day, except on walking days, when I do 30 minutes of Pilates.
Still haven’t settled on a good online Pilates class, but I have found the perfect 10 minute yoga class. And the instructor realized the worldwide need, and is doing 30 days of 10-minute yoga to start the day. Here’s the link for those of you who want something to steady you early in the day. The class is free.
I also added a ten-minute yoga session before bed. I still haven’t found a good instructor for that either, so I’m working my way through the free classes on YouTube. But the breathing and the emphasis on relaxation does clear the mind, and has stopped those middle-of-the-night worries that arose at the beginning of this crisis.
4. Writing: generally fiction, but some days—when I know I’ll be having a lot of disruptions—I focus on nonfiction. That’s the kind of day I’m having today, because we had a lot of business things to work on. So I wrote two blogs and a column, hoping to buy some time next week to work on the novel.
The novel, which is really part one of three, is nearly done, and if I focus properly, I can finish it before this quarantine ends. Fingers crossed.
5. Reading: I’m having a heck of a time fitting it in, because of the increased at-home exercise. But I’m making a point of it. I have an entire blog post about this coming up.
6. Spanish: Those of you who are on my Patreon know I’m taking a Spanish class. It’s a nice change of pace, but of course, it’s no longer in person, which is a disappointment. Once I figured out how to do remote learning, I’m doing all right, even though I miss the conversation. I find that paying attention to the fiddly bits of a language I’m only partially familiar with really helps focus my mind, and keep me calm.
7. TV/Movies: I don’t have a lot of time for that, but dinner now includes part of a plotted TV show or maybe a half an hour of the Voice. That’s so much better than worried discussions about the future or some kind of TV news. Again, it helps me focus and move into the evening.
8. Friends/Family: I’m spending even more time with Dean than usual. If there’s anyone I would have chosen to be alone with for 30 days, it’s Dean (wait! I did choose! Reader, that’s why I married him). So that part’s good.
We’ve had a lot more contact with our friend-family than we usually do through the week because we’re all cooped up inside. It’s been nice, even though I do miss the hugs and the personal contact.
Each day varies a little bit, with the running variable based on weather, the twice-per-week class, and Pilates. But the consistent schedule helps me treat this like an extended focus that I used to do when I was trying to finish up a book or traveling for research.
I’m not just taking this one day at a time, but also one week at a time, and one month at a time. Of course, I’ll reassess if the governor locks us in for another month or it looks like the timeline is even slower than it already is. (That means, heaven forbid, I’ll be up at 5 to run at dawn. Who knew?)
Having that small measure of control has really calmed me down, and allowed me to take some pleasure in the day-to-day once again. I can’t control what the global future will be, but I can control how I walk toward that future.
And that’s all I’m trying to do.
I hope this helps you a little. I hope you’re finding your focus as you’re trying to get through this trying time.
We’re all in this together, even though we’re living apart right now.
And we will make it out of this mess. I promise.
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“Business Musings: A Crisis Like No Other,” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.