Business Musings: A Crisis Like No Other (A Process Blog)
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.
Thank you, Kris. I agree that all we can control is our own reaction to all of this. I don’t listen to the news either. I catch up once a day and move on to other things.
As for writing, that’s been a challenge. I’m in the midst of a clean/sweet fairytale and this has not been the best time for that…but I finally started writing again this week.
Once I finish this book, I think I’ll move on to a complicated mystery plot. I need something to keep me focused and lose myself in the story.
Thank you for the article. I’m cooking a lot these days (and losing weight from not eating much sugar) and doing the best I can to work through the stress I get from family members (these things, too, happen). I try to do two hours of light exercise (I have a herniated back, with a seriously ruptured hernia), to get some sunshine, and to listen to music every single day. Also to look at nature closely. And I also write to filter and work through my emotions. If I could also sleep enough, I would have all the minimum requirements to be able to carry the load of this lockdown.
Just a quick note: I’ve been using the Down Dog app for years, it’s really good (you can choose type of yoga, duration, special focus…) and it’s free until May first! Might help with the yoga at night part.
Oh, thank you!
I can second the downward dog app as a good go to. I’ve been using it daily for over 2 years. Even without subscribing I find it really useful. Been enjoying the full version too.
It’s really nice to read this because I’ve been feeling like I’m out of step somehow, because this crisis has pushed me into a better routine, while it seems like all the creative people I know are having a really difficult time. I feel like I should keep quiet because who wants to hear about someone else doing well when they are suffering?
My life right now runs on a somewhat similar schedule to yours, and it feels good.
I find Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity YouTube Channel to be very credible: according to what I have learned there:
1) An infected person without a mask on can eject infected microparticles from breathing and/or coughing to about 7 meters distance (about 20 feet!) , and these small particles can stay suspended up to ten minutes, even longer indoors with ac running, as it can recirculate the particles and keep them suspended.
A substantial number of COVID infected are asymptomatic, they have no symptoms at all and feel fine, and since the initial guidance was that only people with symptoms need to wear a mask, some of these people think its fine not to wear one, even though we know now that they might still be infected and shedding the virus.
This info is being updated as studies are being done, but this is what they think right now.
So, people without a mask present a very serious risk.
As writers, we’ve always been self motivated, and I believe that will help us through this time of change. Whatever happens, I think we’ve rediscovered the /value/ of kindness, and it is going to change how we live from this point onwards. In a good way, I hope. Stay well.
Hugs, Kris. Stay safe out there.
Hubs and I are both considered ‘essential workers’. (He works for a big box grocery/everything store; I work at the kiddos school as evening custodian).
In our state, the education plans are to be maintained as they were set out at the beginning of the school year. Despite the change in environment from school rooms to individual homes.
This leads to a very compressed academic schedule for our elementary aged kiddos since we have to fit in daily video conferences with each of four kiddos teachers, along with the daily work in math, reading, language arts, music, phys ed, spelling, art, etc. The high school kiddos have to video check in twice daily while keeping up with all assignments over seven daily classes.
Trying to juggle hubs and my work schedules, four kiddos school schedules, (High school kiddos rotate class periods each day that they check in for and work on), squeeze in all the daily worksheets for the elementary kiddos in all the subjects PLUS do the gym activities and music activities and art, plus house hold upkeep, and checking in on elderly parents and recently laid of in laws and figuring out how to help the hospital workers who don’t have enough gowns/face masks/face shields etc….There are NOT enough hours in the month, never mind the day.
Not for parents required to essentially one on one teach/encourage/oversee the daily work while maintaining forty plus hour work weeks outside the home, keeping up with house hold chores, planning and preparing meals, and keeping a wary eye on two asthmatic kiddos and one asthmatic adult.
Not even for parents who are lucky enough to work from home or who are currently out of work and trying to keep up with the school schedule.
We’ll get through it, but I haven’t been this stressed since my military days. Deployment to the war zone was easier in some ways since there was only one single focus–the mission at hand. During the pandemic-fueled societal changes, there are a half dozen competing missions each nearly as important as the other.
Top priority is staying healthy.
The schedule we’re currently running on makes that unlikely for the adults. Add in a teenager with migraines, plus several per-existing conditions for hubs and I that put us in a higher risk category and I don’t understand why more precautions aren’t being taken to keep ‘essential’ workers healthy and sane. You can only burn the candle at both ends for so long, and that time frame is much shorter in my forties than it ever was in my military days (twenties and thirties).
Keep on keeping on folks, and some day we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. Virtual hugs all around.
I realize that each of these posts are a week old by the time they show up here so my comments are out of date.
From what you and Dean describe of your life you are in no way shape or form “shut inside”, so relax. There will be crowds to roam through, and big races to run, in no time.
I posted two comments on TPV a couple of weeks ago that expressed my thoughts on “shelter in place”. Go ahead and read all the comments, I’ll wait.
Sheltering in Place
There, wasn’t that fun.
I go out in the world twice each week. That is normal for me. On occasion I will go out three times, that’s binging on my “people vitamins”. With everybody jangled, two times a week is all that I can process right now. Everyone radiating their upset vibes is too destructive.
Yesterday, I went to the Post Office and then Sam’s Club. I took my big hat for Sam’s. They had us line up outside in the sun. The line extended the length of the building. I walked down the row, past all the people wearing their homemade masks until I reached the end of the line. When I got there I joked with the people, pointing out, “That if this is the end of the line, then we are in real trouble.” They didn’t get it. Tough crowd.
It took about an hour for the line to move and I could go in to get the few items I needed. The staff inside were real helpful. The people in the store were far more jangled than when I was last time in Sam’s. I got my stuff, splurged on a danish tray for breakfasts, and used the self check-out. One masked worker was fluttering to each self check-out after people left. I smiled at the lady cleaning behind me, and chuckled lightly. When I was done, I waved and smiled to her as I left.
I then went home, had lunch, then went to Albertson. There was no line, but most of the people were masked in homemade stuff, and scurrying around fast, deeply jangled. I had my list, took my time, found what substitutes I could from the bare shelves, and still came home with more stuff than I could put in my storage cabinets.
For yoga and your back problems:
Years ago I boiled down the yoga routines to a 5 to 10 minutes of stretching the long muscles. If you “warm up” before running, then just use that same warm up routine to keep flexible throughout the day.
I end my yoga routine by laying flat on the floor and doing cross leg lifts.
When I lay down flat, my head can’t touch the floor, I am so stiff at the time. I have to rock my head back and forth while I push down on my forehead until my head is actually touching. Then I keep my shoulders on the floor while I lift the right leg pointing straight up, and cross my leg as far to the left on the floor as I can. Then I do the left leg crossed to the right side. I do that twice.
By keeping the shoulders on the floor, and reaching across, the spine is twisted, the muscles stretched. That loosens up my back and neck so that the fatigue poisons don’t shut me down.
When I find myself nodding off at my desk, it’s because my neck has tightened up, so I go lay flat on the floor to loosen up. The “fatigue” goes away in a bit, and I perk back up.
BTW, Over on one of the Stross threads, everybody is wallowing in pandemic porn, so I can’t read it. I posted my examples of how they should do it.
Years from now, when everything is back to normal, they will find that more people died homeless in the street — because they were laid off during this time — than would have actually died from catching the coronavirus.
People will have PTSD from events and be unable to attend support groups.
People will try to have a ceremony to commemorate the five year anniversary of surviving the coronavirus, and no one will show up.
There was no reaction to my chiding them.
Please be aware of the potential problems with running – and being downstream from someone who has the virus – and adjust your distance appropriately (https://medium.com/@jurgenthoelen/belgian-dutch-study-why-in-times-of-covid-19-you-can-not-walk-run-bike-close-to-each-other-a5df19c77d08). You need more distance than you think.
And might I suggest a person to be your reference for Spanish? Someone whom you can ask how to say something, and get the right answer, and get it right away can save you a lot of grief in a language. I can do it for Mexican Spanish if you get stuck. Depends on what accent/vocabulary you’re trying to acquire.
Thanks, Alicia. My instructor is from Spain and is very good. Her English is adequate, but her Spanish is lovely. And there are lots of native Spanish speakers in my building. So I’m covered. And yes, when I run, I don’t share a sidewalk with anyone. There’s a woman I see every day. She’s going one way, I’m going the other, and when our gazes meet, one of us gets off the (really wide sidewalk) and steps into th bike lane. I suspect we have 10 feet of distance between us. We also don’t share air. I get back on the sidewalk about half a block away.
My plan (which gets out of whack often):
1. Rest. I have some autoimmune conditions, so need to rest to keep them from overwhelming my ability to handle. I’ve worked for 4-5 hours of straight sleep at night, getting up for an hour or two, then returning to bed once I’m sleepy again. Sometimes, I use that time to read, sometimes I use it for my writing. My choice.
2. Cleaning. As long as we are home more often, we might as well clear up the crud. Our house has always been messy/disorganized, so we’re using this time to tackle small sections of the house. Already, we can see progress.
3. Kitchen cleaning/organization – behind the appliances, in the cupboards, in the pantry. I’m making bread today, as well as re-vitalizing my sourdough starter I’d made almost 2 weeks ago. We’re both working hard to clean up right after cooking, instead of saying “we’ll get to it later”. I cleared off the counters, and am working on the kitchen table. Progress!
4. Tossing stuff out! The fridge has room in it now. I’ve weeded out my closet, and am working on books/music/video. True, the charity stores aren’t taking donations right now, but we’re putting them in boxes, and will drop them off once the world gets open again.
5. Re-connecting – via phone, email, texting, social media, and video. I’m letting friends and family know that I care about them. I’m working on letters, 2-3 a month, from now on. When things get tough, it’s nice to be able to look at some reminder that somebody loves you.
6. Prep – we’re re-stocking intelligently – no overbuying of TP, but looking at what we have too much of, and what we might need that we have to stock up on (meds, first aid, etc.).
7. Exercise – we’re still not doing that regularly, but I’m looking at online options.
8. Fun time together, and separately. We’re watching the old movie channels, Netflix, PBS. I’ve tried to persuade my husband to play cards but he says no. So, I’ve found some online card games, and sent the link to my daughters, who do like to play.
When I retired I had trouble sleeping more than three hours a night. I would have micro-naps throughout the day. Most annoying. I finally started taking Melatonin before bed, and I can generally sleep eight hours. Some nights I do wake and lay there in bed for over an hour at a time. I have a rule* that I do not get up before dawn, so I stay in bed.
Over time, I realized that even though I felt that I was awake, I was actually sleep/waking because the clock was moving far faster than if I actually was awake.
I use 1mg tablets. Make sure the Melatonin is from the “sleep” section and says that it is for sleep. Some bottles are designed to wake you up from jet lag and can actually keep you awake.
I put the tablets in a plastic pill case that shows the days of the week, to be sure that I actually took the tablet before bed. If I get up in the morning after not sleeping it never fails that the tablet is still in the box. This way I can confirm what happened. When I started I had no proof if I took the tablet or not.
BTW, I use jigsaw puzzles on my Mac rather than play the card games. I wrote a comment with a link over on TPV.
Coronavirus Means Everyone Wants Jigsaw Puzzles
In the last decade of my dad’s life he would get up at 1am thinking that it was time to get up, and he would start fixing breakfast. Even though we put big clocks all over, he never looked at them. Dark as it was, he never saw that it was too early.
I have big digital clocks all over the place and have set up a habit of always looking at the time and confirming that it is time to get up. That it is dawn. I always have trouble when it is overcast in the morning and can’t confirm the time.
Virtual hugs to you, Kris. We all need hugs, and now more than ever. I just wish they didn’t have to be of the virtual kind.
Thanks, Colleen. Virtual hugs to you too!
Thank you for the yoga link! I’ve been doing morning yoga on my own for a while, but I started lapsing since the lockdown. Building one’s own structure is quite a process, isn’t it?
I always get a lot out of your blogs. Good points about controlling what one can control while in a global crisis.
I’ve been gardening, kinda for relaxation, and kinda ‘just in case’ even though I’m not good at it, and writing.
We will get through this, and if the worst happens, and it’s a year before we can leave our homes and rebuild, perhaps we can build a better world from the ashes of the old.
I’ve been locked in with my wife, Susan for three weeks, and we are still getting along fine together, which again is probably why we got married. She’s my best friend and I love her dearly.
Love to you both, and that cats, too; they’re cute.
I think that how radical a change has happened to the “routine” is part of the stress on the home fronts around the country.
I know that I have had very little trouble, if any, adjusting – but the wife is not so slowly going nuts. She is used to seven hours a day, five days a week, interacting with her students (special needs, mixed class from preschool to about to mainstream into second grade). Technology just doesn’t come close to what she needs to do, and cannot.
Those who had (and made) more “us” time, as opposed to “me” or “them” time, seem to be coping rather better.