It was today, three weeks ago, when my friend and client agreed that cancelling our work meet up – in downtown Manhattan – was probably a good idea.
Sure, less than two weeks earlier (Feb 28) near Seattle someone died from the Corona Virus, but that was just one person, right?
But we saw the headlines, and how things were unraveling overseas.
To think that the night of March 11th, when two NBA games were postponed because a player tested positive for the virus, was when the shit really hit the fan.
Tomorrow it’ll be three weeks. In those three weeks I’ve left the house for supplies maybe five times. My usual afternoon trips to Starbucks, to break up the monotony of working from home, are no longer. My trips to visit friends on the weekend for group runs don’t happen anymore. I’d usually meet a good friend for pizza on Friday nights in Philadelphia, and now that doesn’t happen. It can’t!
Can I go another month or two or three like this? Well, there’s no other choice, really. It’s just one day after the next, until things change.
Just 16 days ago everything was sort of normal. I was scheduled to head into NYC to meet with a client, on Wednesday March 11th. The night before we made the call to cancel, since this whole “corona virus thing” was starting to grumble.
That night I was fired up Sling to watch some NBA games when they got cancelled for some unknown reason. I stayed up past midnight that night, watching everyone ESPN talk about the situation. The NBA suspended the season. What the heck is going on?
On that day, March 11th, my state of PA had just 16 confirmed cases of the corona virus. By the 18th, it was 133. Seven days later it was 1,127.
Sixteen days to go from 16 to 2,218. And that’s just what we know out of who has been tested. The real number is probably bigger, which is how it’s spreading so fast.
Today also the marks the last day of #quarantine5x5K. A few of us on Instagram got out every day this week to run at least 3.1 miles. Some chilly days, some rainy, and then today, Friday, the last day, it was in the 60s.
Like running up a hill, you know the pain will stop. You can see the point at which your muscles will stop screaming, and your heart beat will return to normal.
Like a 5K race… you go, you run, you go fast, your heart is screaming but you know, hey, it’s just three miles. Two more. Okay, one more, we can do this.
This pandemic? No idea when it’ll end, but it will. There’s gonna be pain and grieving and anger, but we’ll get to the finish line eventually.
To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.
I know that trying to go toe to toe with the stress expends a lot of energy. Lately, I open the Headspace app and start a 10 minute meditation. Feeling where my feet are, the sounds, focusing on my breath.
We have lost a lot right now, some more than others. We’re grieving the loss of what our normal lives used to be.
Many local shops aren’t set up for times like this. They don’t have the online webstore, the e-commerce gift card set up, or an easy way to just GIVE THEM MONEY ONLINE.
My record store growing up was Main St. Juke Box, on Main St. in downtown Stroudsburg, PA. This is the shop where I bought White Zombie, and Mr. Bungle, and Faith No More CDs. This shop, in a way, set me on the path to where I am today, from way back in the 90s.
They don’t have an online store, and the owner Tom sometime posts vinyl on Instaram, but I’m not much of a record guy, but then I saw this post:
Heck yes! I’ve reached out about getting a care package of thrash metal CDs.
Ready Set Run is the local running shop in town. It’s where I bought a pair of trail running shoes before I started running (I just wanted something better to hike in), and when I eventually started running and got hurt because I was buying $45 junk running shoes on Amazon, they set me up with some real running shoes, not to mention some neat group runs that involved ice cream and tacos!
They offer gift certificates on their site, so I ordered one for $50 towards a future pair of shoes when things get back to normal. What a fun trip that is going to be!
Finally, my favorite coffee shop (well, the only one besides Starbucks) is this tiny place called Cafe Duet, and I can’t imagine how hard the recent shut downs have affected them.
It might take some digging, but see if you can throw some money towards one or two of your favorite local shops in the coming week or two (or three, or four…). Check their website (if they have one), or scroll through their Instagram feed (the damn algorithms may not show you some of these really important posts).
This whole post and my purchases tonight were inspired by an email I got from Freshbooks:
I recognize this “idea” and this call to action will not work for every kind of business, or in every circumstance. I recognize not everyone has money to share right now. These are indeed imperfect times, but perhaps you can take the spirit of this message, find the good in it, and evolve my proposal to suit your needs or those around you.
It’s been 10 years since I worked in an office. Way back in 2010 I was a contractor for AOL Music, and I pushed that work-status to the limits by saying “see ya, office,” got rid of all my stuff, and biked my way all the way down to Nashville, TN crashing on friends couches along the way while still working.
Okay, so that’s probably not what you might be doing now, but maybe some of the lessons from that adventure, and the entire decade, may help.
Comfort – Yes, this is #1 because I wish I had paid attention a decade ago. Get a real computer chair. Make sure your arms are supported. Get an ergonomic mouse. If you don’t have an external monitor, prop your laptop up so the screen is at eye level and get a good external keyboard. Trust me, your elbows and wrists and back will be happy.
Have a space to work. Your bed is for sleep, your kitchen table is for eating. Don’t cross the streams. Heck, don’t sit on the couch and work – remember, you’re working. Once you start overlapping leisure time (sitting on the couch, laying in bed) with work time (working from the couch, working in bed), everything gets messy.
Try to work at a standing desk. I know, easier said than done, but if you got a keyboard and a mouse, you can find a way to make it work. And then just try it for 20 minutes in the morning, or in the afternoon.
Wake up early and eat the frog. The biggest, hardest, most challenging thing? Get it done right away. Early in the morning helps, too, because you won’t have co-workers messaging and emailing you.
Take breaks. Walk away from the computer and make coffee. Do some push ups. Do the dishes. Take out the garbage. Go for walk. Being able to do these things during WORK TIME does wonders for your brain.
Put on pants. Believe me, I’ve done the whole working from bed, wearing sweatpants till 3pm thing, and it was murder. These days pants go on right away when I get to work, because I’m working!
Since a lot of people are starting to work from home, and maybe starting to work in Slack for the first time, I wanted to share my favorite feature; “Remind me about this.”
Best used on a Friday afternoon, when someone sends you something and you know it can wait, you just have Slack remind you Next week.
Now, where you go from there is up to you. I sometimes make notes in my paper to-do planner, or make a note in Todoist, BUT… having Slack remind you of a thing, rather than relying on a Calendar or Reminders app is super solid.
I stayed up late on Wednesday night, watching all of the commentary about the NBA game cancellations. Since Thursday morning, things have been hazy. My head just feels in a fog, with so many reports, stories, and noise.
What’s the best course of action? What to do next? Should I get extra cat food?
Then a Friday call with a good friend set me at ease; “just do your work.” I’m paraphrasing, but the first thing I need to do is my work, because it needs to get done, so I can send an invoice and get paid.
Does it NEED to be done? In the grand scheme of things? Doesn’t matter. Now isn’t the time for grand thinking, and figuring things out. Do the work, then do what else needs to get done.
I was supposed to travel to NYC on Wednesday, and I’m glad I didn’t. That night I sat down to watch some NBA basketball, and then all heck broke loose. One game cancelled, then another, then the entire NBA season was suspended. Other leagues followed suit in the next day or so.
So just two days later the Queens Marathon got pushed back to November 15th. All schools in PA are closed for two weeks.
Nearly all the people I work for, they’ve got bands who were just heading out on tour, and those tours are cancelled now, which affects a ton of people.
Everything feels foggy now, in a haze. It feels like 9/11 did, but that was this moment, whereas with this we’re still in the after shocks, and we don’t know when it’ll end. All we can do is wait.
On the day we set the clocks ahead and lose an hour of sleep, I met my friend Jesse at around 6am and hiked to The Pinnacle. We hiked in the dark, but once we made it to the top we were rewarded with such an amazing view.
From there, we ran back to our vehicles. Running the Appalcian Trail is always rough, and it was my first “real” run since tweaking my hip-flexor a week or so ago.
It was cold, and yeah, it’s always nice sleeping in on a Sunday morning. But when adventure calls, you have to answer.