A few things: April 2020

Running a marathon at sprint pace, without a course map. That’s what this feels like.

If you’re a runner (now or in the past), then you know that trying to run a full marathon at sprint pace is a recipe for failure (and injury). Sprint workouts during training will improve marathon time, sure. But even elite runners don’t complete the entire 26.2 miles running at their fastest 1-mile (or 400 yard) pace.

Nevertheless, here we are, six weeks in and untold miles ahead, still trying to run like hell on our worn-out legs and empty adrenaline reserves, surrounded by heartbreak and trauma, with no idea where we’re heading or if there’s a finish line.

In the first weeks I was keeping a daily log of all the things we accomplished, at home and at work. Who was going to get an “A” in disaster response? We were. We totally were.

Get up early. Read the news. Stop reading the news. Wash hands. Write an update. Daily check in. Everyone signed on to their online classes? Make lunch. Write a funding request. Can we install a new mesh network to improve the wireless signal? Run a report. Two reports. Do we have cat food? (Run to the store between Zoom calls; don’t forget the mask.) Sew masks. You went to bed at what time? Donate to the food bank. Another call. Write another email blast. Did you finish your homework? Someone’s husband’s cousin has a webcam we can use. (Awesome). Create a training spreadsheet. Has anyone eaten a vegetable today? Wash hands. Are they rescheduling graduation? Lysol frequently touched surfaces. Let’s go for a walk; we need exercise. Can we use a GoPro for a webcam? After we watch the training video. Facebook plug for (something important and COVID-19 related). After we script the training video. Don’t spray that near your clothes — it’s bleach! Is there a training video? Maybe on Zoom. Would GoToMeeting be better? What about Teams? WebEx? After we finish the SBA loan paperwork. Did we get the link? Check the email; maybe it’s in quarantine. Do we have Lysol? Will check after dinner. Did anyone cook dinner?

Then, one day last week, I hit the wall. And a friend sent this:

Working Remote - COVID 19 Principles

(I wish I knew whom to thank for these words of wisdom, but the graphic didn’t come with attribution.) (Who to thank?) (To whom I should give thanks?) (Oh, FFS; who cares….)

These days I’m keeping a daily failure log. “I’m not sure your therapist would approve of that,” said a colleague (who’s an actual therapist) in one of our daily leadership team calls. And maybe he’s right (he usually is), but writing it down — all the calls I didn’t return, reports I didn’t finish writing, home and family projects I neglected — has been a cathartic relief. I write it all down, set it aside, and go to bed.

Start fresh tomorrow; that’s what I’ve learned to say.

Also: Walk when needed. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And no one has a course map, so there’s no right path, no clear finish line.

Keep going. Keep reaching out. Do the next right thing.

I was on a call yesterday with someone from our website support team. She was working from home (of course), and I could hear a baby in the background. Then I heard wailing.

I said: “Do you need to go? Because I get it. You can put me on hold or call me back. I’ve been there; I understand.”

And she said: “Really? Thank you; be right back.”

She put me on hold and returned a few minutes later. I heard cooing sounds. “He just wanted Mama,” she said. (“I remember those days,” I said.)

We finished working through our web project, online registration and related items for a new, free, online parenting series, that starts next week. “We scheduled it for around nap time, 1:15-2:00 every Wednesday,” I told her, “and you’re welcome to join, too.” I explained that it’s an open series, called Parenting in Uncertain Times. It’s designed for any parent with kids of any age, I said, because what’s happening is hard on everyone, and particularly hard on parents. Talking about it, guided by a child and family psychologist, could help.

And as we kept talking, wrapping up our conversation, this young mother and I, I realized she was crying. “It’s really hard,” I said. “It’s just really hard,” she said.

A few other things for your consideration …

Reading

Photographer David Altrath photographed Stockholm’s beautiful, empty subway network, “… the World’s Longest Art Walk.”

A beautiful and insightful (if sad) essay by Julio Vincent Gambuto about the trauma, temptation, and opportunity of this time:

What happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open. What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is. We’re in it.

The Surprising 130 Year History of Handwashing.

Best for last: Here’s a link to one of the many national outlets (this one’s US News) that ran Geoff Calkins’s story about Tony Ludlow: How a 62-Year-Old Former Marine is Winning Facebook Live.

Cooking

Here’s our current food rotation: frozen pizza, tuna salad, grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, oranges, and green salads. For Easter I did make Jimmy Bradley’s Salad with Gruyère. It was delicious.

P.S. Ina’s Cosmo, too.

 

 

  1. Thank you for this, and for sharing the unattributed remote work principles.

    After realizing there will be no magical waking up from this to return to “normal life,” I decided to begin observing weekends again. Having been self-employed for the last 20-plus years, I have always had the bad habit of working “whenever.” But now, without anyone else’s weekends or evenings to guide/interrupt me, it’s become worse: a 7-day-a-week wash-rinse-repeat cycle that is not good for my mental health or anyone else’s. So: there will henceforth be at least one day a week when I don’t DO anything.

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  2. The first few weeks were all over the place. Time melted. Pants were optional. Eventually, we realized that this is forever. We are working to change the normal into something better. We also started to normalize our lives. I’m not going shopping at 7am just because I fit into some age grouping. Besides, many people older than me are really nasty when it comes to getting something they want. I never knew this. Before.

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