perspective

Stripping the Fun Stuff Away

The return to “normal” has begun.  Gyms, restaurants, hair salons, sports leagues, bowling alleys, summer camps and a host of other businesses have gotten the green light to open their doors. Yay! (right?)

Of course, nothing is really normal and the “new normal” has already lost it’s luster (if it ever had any). Opening business doors often comes along with an eye-popping list of new restrictions.

Both the chicks have recently given their views on restaurant dining.

Like restaurants, for many businesses, industries, and institutions, it’s still a strange time. We are all figuring it out on the fly, customers included.  I’ve noticed that in some cases, we are stuck trying to do the hard parts but the fun parts are what we miss now.  Here are a few examples:

Gyms are starting to reopen.  But, I never really stopped working out.  I’m still exercising in my basement or on the pavement most mornings due to financial and work constraints. Some lifting, some cardio, some basic bodyweight movement, Heroes on Mondays. I get my exercise in one way or another.

Is it the same?  Yes and no.  Yes, I get my movement in.  But some of the most enjoyable parts of the gym experience are gone.  I don’t see friends and like-minded people.  I don’t get coaching.  I don’t get to use all the great equipment. I don’t get the occasional coffee and breakfast after with friends. Sure, I don’t miss certain things about the gym, but some of the parts that made it fun and special (and the hard parts less hard) can’t be replicated in my home.

My work is a similar situation.  I am a librarian that teaches in an elementary school.  We left school for a long weekend in mid-March, not knowing that students and most teachers wouldn’t return this year.  Instead, we’ve been teaching and learning online for almost 9 weeks.

Are we getting the job done?  Yes and no.  Yes, there are lessons and many teachers working extremely hard to connect with students and families.  Yes, there is learning happening.  But, some of the parts that make school fun and meaningful are stripped away.  Field day. End-of-year culminations of work and celebrations.  Social time at lunch and recess on the playground. Working shoulder-to-shoulder to finish a puzzle or create something together. For me, it’s just walking through the library with a student and helping them find a great book.

Or reading a funny or suspenseful picture book to a live Kindergarten audience, laughing and responding together in that moment. Nothing replaces those. And those are some of the things that make school worth going to for many kids (not to mention food, etc.)  Instead, online school often seems like a lot more of the work and a lot less of the fun stuff that makes school special. (And yes, this is about the teachers, too.  I miss the energy of my students! Computer screens, while helpful, don’t cut it for connection!)

On the flip side, there are also students and families who aren’t built for distance learning.  Some have limited or no access to technology. Some need the structure and surroundings and encouragement of others working.  Some need the social benefits.  Some need the food and care that come along with being at school.  Some parents are working from home while also trying to manage multiple children learning online.  It is all extremely stressful.  School isn’t working for many, and it is definitely not the same even for those getting by.

Then, there are the fun things that are just not happening anymore at all.  Most notably for me are travel plans for myself and my family, and races I was training for.  Pleasure travel by anything other than car seems risky (and if you take a road trip, where do you stay overnight?)

I was sad that the triathlon I was training for got canceled.  They can’t guarantee safety and I am sure liability is also a big part of that decision.  Would I have wanted to participate in some sort of sanitized race?  I had mixed feelings about the virtual 10K I ran recently. Although it wasn’t terrible since I was able to do it with friends, I missed the trip to Nashville, the mass of runners, all the spectators and the thrill of race day. It just wasn’t the same. I may still do a virtual version of the triathlon at some point since I am already training.  But, some things just can’t be replaced.  You can’t take away some of the most fun and challenging parts and expect a similar experience. Again, some of the most fun stuff of life is stripped away.  And it is hard not to be bogged down in the frustration and sadness of it all.

You can’t recreate the Mona Lisa with a Magic Marker. It just isn’t the same.  And will it ever be the same?  What do I expect? I don’t know. I know many people are trying their best.  I know many people disagree about how all of this is being carried out.  Frankly, between dealing with that personal and political drama and the abundance of the day-to-day changes, I am exhausted at times. The fun stuff buoys me along and there is so much less of that.  Nonetheless, I want to try to find the celebration in the irritation.  Today, I realized I would have never bought my road bike if I hadn’t set the triathlon as a goal.  My bike has been a huge part of my sanity through the stay-at-home orders. So there is a bit of sunshine.

It’s hard not to wonder when things will get back to some kind of regularity.  What will things look like on the other end? When can we plan a race, some pleasure travel?  When will I be able to read to kids again?  When is the finish line of this mess?  I can budget my energy if I have a finish line in sight.  But now we are in the long middle miles when it’s hard to stay energized and forward moving.

I think it’s ok to pout as long as you don’t wallow in it.  Acknowledge the loss then move on.  It might be easier if we knew the story had a happy ending.  I can deal with suspense as long as it gets resolved.  I have to believe that day will come.  Maybe not quite happily ever after, and maybe this is a heck of a long chapter, but it will be resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

perspective

Every Game is a Gift

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I looked out over the field, early that morning.

It was a beautiful April weekend.  Still a little crisp in the air, but the bright, direct sun warmed your skin enough.

I thought to myself, it is a perfect lacrosse morning. Right now, we are in the heart of lacrosse season, the sport both of my daughters and many of their dearest friends love. I looked out over the field where both of my daughters played their first seasons of the sport. It should have been bustling with warmups and whistles. Instead, it stood completely empty, the “closed” signs warning everyone away. Corona was in town.

When my older daughter was in high school, she told me that lacrosse was the only reason she went to school some days. In those high school seasons, she fought through injuries of all kinds.  From ankle twists and endless bruises to plaguing knee injuries and surgery.  Most notably, as a dynamic and skilled attack player, she also suffered at least three significant concussions. Because of these brain injuries, she watched many games from the sidelines, cheering her teammates on with all her energy and might while she waited for her head to heal.

After making her way through the recruiting process, she earned a spot playing in college.  There were many ups and downs, but she made it to the college playing field.  I was so proud to see her play at that level.  But just a few games in to her freshman season, she took a hit to the head that knocked her out for several minutes.  She lost some of her memories.  She couldn’t stand bright lights our music louder than a whisper.  She was just not her usual sharp self for a while.

Days off the field turned into weeks and months.  Her college freshman season ended and even though there were a few glimmers of hope, she finally got to the point where she realized her playing days were over.  Yes, she could continue coaching and being a referee, but she would never pick up her lacrosse stick competitively again.

God, I loved watching her play.  She was such a competitor on the field.  It was amazing to witness and cheer for her. Seeing that end too soon was devastating for us both.

My younger daughter has taken her own path through lacrosse.  She has great talent and has loved the sport for many years. She was just finding her footing in her first full varsity year when corona came to town. When I ask her these days what she misses most about school, she says lacrosse.

Each of them, in their own ways, now have “lost seasons.” Seasons that should have been played. Goals that should have been scored. Laugh-filled bus rides that should have been ridden. Late night meals with teammates that should have been shared. Wins that should have been celebrated. Defeats that should have been endured. Lessons that should have been learned.

Coronavirus has served many of us lost seasons. Weddings, holidays, so many celebrations shifted, even canceled.  I think especially of high school and college seniors in their final months of school, what should be a time of togetherness, of celebration for them and their supporters. I hurt for them, even though the changed celebration doesn’t change the effort they put in or the elation they should feel. If you know someone who has a lost season because of corona, I encourage you to reach out to acknowledge that loss. Most of us don’t quite know what to say, but just being there to listen and recognize what is lost may be a help.

An unexpected concussion ended my daughter’s lacrosse career too early. From that time I knew, every game is a gift. Every time you get to step on the field or out on the stage or wherever you do what you love…every time you get to do that, it is a gift to be cherished and a challenge to be embraced. When we emerge from this, I hope we are changed in a way where we remember that.

challenges

Distant. Detached. Depressed.

Corona has already taught us a lot.  A lot about ourselves.  A lot about each other. A lot about how our society is set up. And maybe a lot about how lucky we’ve been.

I have realized how often I come into contact with SO MANY people!  I never really thought about how interconnected we all are.  From the gym where I share equipment with dozens of members, to my job in a library circulating books from hundreds of households most days, to going through the door of the grocery store, grabbing a cart without a thought for wiping the push handle, etc.  In light of the corona crisis and my newfound hyperawareness of germs, surfaces, and more, I think sometimes it’s a miracle I am still alive and healthy!

(Confession: I have been moved for years by the scientific revelation that the Amish have fewer allergies in their population likely because they are exposed to dust and allergens early and systematically.  I always used this as a back pocket justification for my disheveled, dusty house.  Ok, I know it’s a stretch, but I am not a fan of cleaning!  Still, at times I have thought that we oversanitize our lives to our detriment.  Covid has me rethinking that approach at the moment, with my bucket of bleach solution in hand, replacing that back pocket argument with a mini hand sanitizer.)

From the beginning of the corona crisis, I have seen the war metaphor as useful.  I generally don’t like it when we talk about everyday things using war phrases.  For example, I cringe when we talk about educators who are “in the trenches” or the need to “bite the bullet.”  But in my mind, corona is a war.  We all are fighting it. And there are people, heroes, on the frontline.

We can see a similarity between now and wartime as well, knowing that in our history, times of war often bring about the greatest lasting transformation.  Huge leaps forward in creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and efficiency happen in wartime.  Problems take on new urgency.  We already see this today in experimenting with existing medications, splitting ventilators to serve multiple patients, and more. Even small businesses like restaurants and retailers are being forced to move forward in new directions, using online ordering, repackaging their offerings to suit families, and so on.  Distilleries are retrofitting to make hand sanitizer. Gyms are delivering classes online, offering advice and help on form through videos, and so on.  It is a time of great change in more areas of life than we can count.

We are seeing how many meetings could have been emails.  We are learning why dozens of Zoom meetings are exhausting.  Also, we are seeing why sometimes physical proximity honestly can’t be replaced. Social distancing, my bet for Oxford’s Word of the Year, is everywhere on the news these days. I get it.  It matters, and apparently it works.  But, I can’t be the only one who is tired of that term, even confused by it. Really, it should be called physical distancing.  Basically keeping bodies (and germs) as far away from each other as we can.  We still need to connect socially in meaningful ways.  A recent podcast about loneliness and its’ many consequences only reinforces this. 

I realized early on in this crisis, people are what we look forward to.  People are what we cherish.  Our daily connections matter. It’s easy to slip into lonely.  Distant. Detached, even depressed. Social connection is more important than ever.  And in some ways connecting is as easy as it has ever been.  Technology affords us so many possibilities, but weeks later I realize it only goes so far. Check on people. Make plans to see your people safely, even if it is hanging out car windows with a cup of coffee.

I try to stay optimistic as much as I can.  This time is fuel that will push societies and communities in new directions.  Things will be lost along the way, including, I fear, many local “mom-and-pop” businesses that give our communities their unique character.  Adapt and Overcome, another military motto, comes to mind here.  Those who can’t adapt may have a hard time making it, especially if this haul turns out to be a long one.  Support the local businesses you want to see make it to the other side of this war. Their survival may depend on your dollars!

As it is with post-war eras, things will also be gained.  Technologies we can’t even imagine yet will become commonplace.  We will have new and meaningful ways to connect. If we focus on nourishing and sustaining what matters, it has a better chance of surviving, and so do we.  We will adapt and we will overcome.

 

 

working women

Business Isn’t for the Faint of Heart

Holy smokes are you buckled in for the ride of your life? That’s pretty much what every business owner is doing each day they wake up in the insane life we live today. They buckle up for the crazy ride just like a healthcare worker. Ready to face the unknown. Ready to deal with defeat.

Don’t get me wrong business isn’t easy on normal days but these uncharted waters are not for the weak, inexperienced or underfunded CEO’s. A business owner during this tough economic climate has got to lead with confidence, control and commitment.

They must make sound decisions, fast. They have to think about their passion, their purpose, their drive, their team, their community and they have to take action in what seems like an instant. Profit is out the door for the most part.

Lives are on the line no matter what business you are in. There is something essential in everything we do, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Life may get paused but it can’t halt forever. Leaders need to face fears. Leaders need to help people around them. Leaders must rally the troops. Selfless acts in uncertain times show character in CEOs who step up when it counts. Troubled times will also highlight those CEOs who hide or make selfish decisions when the road gets bumpy.

Many good leaders will fail during this challenging time. And if they do fail, it’s temporary. A good leader will find their way to higher ground. It may take time, but one will build resilience and emerge stronger.

To all my fellow business partners, leaders, and colleagues, I applaud you. Those tough decisions had impacts, we know that. I also know you made the decisions that caused the least impact possible to your surroundings. If failure is lurking, embrace it. Failure is just an opportunity to rebuild, rebrand, rejuvenate your passion. Your power. Your footprint.

Business owners don’t get unemployment but they help file for their employees in this challenging time. Businesses may have shut down but still paid employees for as long as they could. Restaurants stayed open to feed people when they may have lost 90% of their revenue and not know how they will make their rent next month. Landlords offered shelter to those who didn’t have funds to pay when rent was due. So many selfless acts go on each day. Many nobody will ever see.

True leaders do without glory. They do what needs to be done and worry about what ifs later. That’s what they do even if it may just be the crumbling of their lifelong work.

I also caution you to be aware of those making decisions to financially benefit themselves at another’s expense during this pandemic. In troubled times this happens when a CEO may not see the big picture. Their short term decision may have long term consequences. Price gouging and hoarding may be two prime examples that come to mind.

Many may never see the crazy shit from the CEOs eyes. I write this note for those to catch a glimpse of the insanity. The burden placed on entrepreneurs who have heavy stakes in the business game. Many think entrepreneurs have it all. In reality they risk it all including the shirt on their back. Personal savings, home equity used as personal guarantees, and so on.

It’s a tough world for everyone right now. Be a nice human. Support your communities where you can. We will all survive this mess. Some of us may have battle scars while others may have bad hair. Either way the vast majority will survive. That is enough to be thankful for.

Enjoy the shit show of today.

celebrations, family, Uncategorized

Isolated but Lucky

I’ve been in isolation for a while like most around the world. I get out for fresh air when it’s not raining. I’ve taken a bike ride with a friend with the 6-foot rule. I’ve spent some time with my family. I’ve adapted to my at home workouts. I’ve eaten more carbs than I probably should and so on.

There have been moments of annoyance but nothing that hasn’t been manageable. I’ve been able to celebrate my aging mom as she stays with me for some time during the pandemic. For this reason alone I can say I made epic memories during the pandemic. It may seem weird to some but I wouldn’t have had the time or opportunity to spend one-on-one time to this extent with my aging mom had the pandemic not surfaced. I’m sure that statement is offensive to some but it’s just my way of finding the sunshine in a shitty situation.

Whatever the reasons are that led to the timing, I am thankful. Many memories were made and I just got some quality time with her that I can be selfishly happy about. She may have preferred to be my dad’s side but he can’t have visitors currently so her being with family is the next best option. I got to celebrate three generations of baby girls:

As I mentioned previously my photo reel is real. It’s real important to me. It captures moments in time that will never be repeated. One day I won’t have that opportunity but today I do. 

That’s my daughter’s hair on my mom’s head as we facetime my mom’s great-grandchild to make her laugh. Taking advantage of time, technology and saving the memory.

Duck faces for relatives far away. My mom doesn’t even know how to operate a smart phone but she is willing to pose not knowing what I will do with the photos. I’m sure she gave me warnings but I probably didn’t heed the warnings.

As the world around us seems dark and dreary, find your sunshine. I’m sure it is around you. Maybe you need to look a little harder but I’m sure it is there.

Next week may bring different challenges as more and more shelter in place orders come down the pipe but for today we celebrate the moment as the world seems to change hourly these days.

Take the time to write a note to a friend or loved one. Pick up the phone and make that call. Color a picture for somebody in a local hospital. Use your idle time to benefit others in need.

Stay safe. Stay humble. Be kind.