Business Musings: Phantom 2020 (A Process Blog)
First, let me simply say that I’m tired. I have a lot of plans for this weekly blog, a long list of to-dos that require a bit of research, a lot of thinking, and some time. I will have the time in about five days. I’m finishing up two huge projects that took most of my attention from the middle of January to now.
Add to those projects the novel project that has expanded into at least three novels, as well as two novellas, and at least one short story, and the hour-plus that I spend every morning reading the current research on the damn virus, and doing as much as I can to keep our businesses going, and our employees employed, and I am about as stretched as I’ve ever been.
With those two projects ending, though, I can catch up…after a day or two of resting my brain. I plan to get ahead on some of the blog writing, although I won’t get too far ahead because I’m gun-shy now. Several times in my life, my expectations of the future have changed in the space of a day or an hour, and I fully expect that kind of reversal to happen at least one more time in 2020.
Because I’ve been running so hard and so fast, I haven’t been quite as aware of my process as I usually am. But I did note that I had gotten behind on my calendars.
Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I buy a lot of calendars every year. Each calendar has a different function. I also have computer calendars, which synch with my phone and tablets for major do-not-forget items.
I kept up with the online calendars—the dwindling appointments and the increasing deadlines—but I couldn’t deal with many of the paper calendars. Only I didn’t say that I couldn’t deal with them. I just buried them under books and paper and good intentions, and didn’t get to updating them.
One day, about two weeks ago, I dug out the calendars. I brought a garbage bag into my office with me, and tossed out dozens and dozens of notes as well as ticket stubs, sticky note reminders to order this concert ticket or sign up for that run. Other reminders included an in-person voice-over class, which I managed to have enough bandwidth to move to July back in early March, but whether or not I’ll go to that class in July or in 2021 remains to be seen.
I never did sign up for Licensing Expo when it changed its dates to August, but I had written myself several reminders to do so. Not that it matters, because now the Expo won’t take place until May of 2021. If then.
“If then” has become my go-to phrase. I’m still digging through history, looking at past pandemics, not at the diseases themselves, but at the economic recovery—as well as the changes.
Those kinds of things are the things I need the attention span to blog about, because they’re fascinating and they directly apply to what we’re going through.
This past weekend, the State of Nevada hit all the targets set by the World Health Organization for moving into Phase One of reopening the society. Not the targets set by the U.S. The targets that the rest of the world is following. We did it. And so a few of the restrictions were lifted.
People have been moving about now for about five days, first to set up their businesses properly and secondly to visit somewhere important to them.
Many, many, many businesses that are eligible to reopen are not doing so yet. Their owners don’t feel ready. Most people don’t feel ready, although my neighbor just took off for the beaches of California, because he’s under the mistaken belief that “things will be normal there.”
Um…well, I look forward to his report. From a distance. Through a door, maybe.
But the general air of panic is receding, replaced…not by resignation…but acceptance of the fact that the world we left in 2019 isn’t the world we have now. We haven’t achieved the permanent new normal yet, but we have achieved an interim one. One that may extend for months or, most likely a year or two, as we learn to live with this damn virus. I blogged about how to live with some of it this past week.
Back to my calendars, though. Going through all of that mess, tossing out the hopes and dreams for an alternate 2020, one in which life went on mostly as it had in 2019, was surprisingly cathartic. Apparently, one of the things that kept me from using my calendars was that phantom 2020, hanging over everything I did like an accusatory limb.
Weirdly, my writing deadlines remain the same. My publishing deadlines have changed, because we had to cut and trim and move things around at WMG so that we could hang onto our super valuable employees. Dean and I acted decisively in late February, early March, and felt uncomfortably like we were overreacting. Turns out we were on time and on target at the beginning of the crisis for the U.S. Our quick actions helped us get to mid-May without laying anyone off, and with the ability to meet payroll even if we have diminished income.
It’s my non-writing, non-publishing life that has suffered the most. The things I do for fun and for relaxation and to keep my mind active simply aren’t available right now. That’s mostly something I can deal with, because it just feels like I’m at the end of some major project with no time for anything but that project.
But on days like today, when I’ve finished one big project and am about to finish another, I feel…uncomfortably uneasy. Because my normal go-tos—a dinner out, a movie, a play, even a trip to the gym to blow off some steam—aren’t available right now.
I’m not complaining. Just acknowledging. And that was the acknowledgement I hadn’t been willing to make a month or so ago.
I was clinging to that old schedule, without even realizing it, by refusing to deal with the phantom 2020.
It’s mid-May. The rest of 2020 will be remarkably different than the 2020 we had all imagined. But I can see enough of the shape of that future that I’m willing to record things in my calendars again. I’m even willing to add a few events—so long as they’re only a few months out.
I’m taking the tiny victories as a sign that I’m ready to move forward, out of the shock and grief, and into the changed environment, whatever it will be.
Getting to the calendars is a tiny victory. It’s a sign from my subconscious that I have accepted where I am now.
I’m sure you all have the same kind of internal measures. They’re probably not calendars. They’re something else, some process you’ve avoided, some way you usually behave that you haven’t done for a while—and not because you couldn’t. But because you just didn’t feel like it.
We’ll all move at different speeds through this thing, but one thing’s for certain:
We will find ourselves on the other side of it. What that other side will look like is still hard to predict.
But for me, at least, it will include scheduling and calendars and a bit of planning for the future.
And that’s a great relief.
“Business Musings: Phantom 2020 (A Process Blog),” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / Loraliu.
As things have become steadily worse, they have also gotten more familiar. The fear and outrage from finding out your society considers you expendable, and the sooner the better, has diminished somewhat, but only because the dire reports did finally respond to draconian measures, and the places like ours which cut off contact as much as possible from the outside world, and still are safe, have become separate from the senior residences which failed dramatically.
So – with due nod to The Masque of the Red Death, and the possibility this could change any instant – the fever pitch of reading everything in the reputable papers had to die down. And I am, for now at least, writing. And writing as a form of salvation.
If we get through this, us older folk, I will have made as good use of the time as possible.
I’m not sanguine about the possibilities; NO progress has been made on treatment or prevention, so optimism is highly exaggerated, and I expect huge second and later waves, as they had for the 1918 flu.
But I no longer even pretend to miss the too-active social life here which was definitely impeding my novel’s progress (lovely people – very enticing). We can’t go anywhere, so there’s no point in planning as if I’d like to, and knowing how much it would cost me physically, mentally, and in writing progress.
Strange world, strange year, but maybe I can get SOME good out of it.
Hope your enterprises can continue as well as possible after the reconstruction.
We are in a state of grief and many people don’t even realize it. This is not my own insight, it’s something I got from an NPR interview with a grief psychologist, but I found it resonated. We may grieve for lost loved ones or even for the unknown numbers of people that have passed too soon and will still die, the walking dead among us. But we grieve for our old freedom from fear, freedom of socializing and running in the park without worrying about passing through someone else’s freshly exhaled air. We grieve for our jobs, because aside from the material comfort they provided, they were a routine and a place where we got to interact with people face to face. We grieve for lost dreams in cases where we had to give them up – travel or college or becoming the next hottest performing artist on the local live circuit.
We grieve for the little things, like taking a laptop to Starbucks to write.
And the faster we can accept the new real, the better off we’ll be.
Except accepting change can be hard, taxing, and sapping of all energy.
I am so glad to see that you and Dean were able to make good projections, and stay well in this unusual time in history. Seeing your posts is a sweet bit of normal in an uncertain world. Stay well! Keep blogging, please, I really need a bit of normal.
Yes, the novel that turns into an entire series is a familiar guest around this house (almost as popular as the short story which is the first chapter of that novel that then turns into the series, etc).
And calendars that turn out not to true is part of all of our lives now, I think.