COVID-19: A timeline and thoughts part 2

I started writing this on Saturday, March 21, 2020, as a way to recollect information during this uncharted circumstance we have found ourselves in. Coronavirus 2020, aka COVID-19. As best I could, I went back in memory, texts, and social media posts to collect information that has happened, and hope to document things a little more real-time as we continue on this journey. What an odd time, and what an odd history to be witnessing.

Read Recap Part One here:

The last two weeks have been mostly a blur. That first full week of chaos when things started shutting down and stress began escalating faster than I could keep up was just about the death of me. I spent a lot of time worrying about my team, my family, myself, my family in other states, my job, money, health…everything. I slept 3 nights out of the first 9 or 10. I could barely eat, and when I did it was mostly out of mechanics, not for any amount of appetite. My workouts were scattered as I was tapering for my marathon. I had panic and anxiety attacks throughout everyday, most of the time without warning.

My employer opted to pay my team regardless of if we had onsite work to do, which became a free paid-vacation to some and revealed some interesting characteristics about people. I guess that’s what crisis times do. Certainly leading people through crisis has never been something I’ve dealt with. This was completely uncharted territory for many of us. I’m so grateful for the manager I have. He’s very supportive, pragmatic, but transparent in a way I respect. I feel comfortable expressing my insecurities and being vulnerable, but feel supported in my decisions and strength as a leader.

Backyard virtual marathon on my birthday.

At the end of the first week was my cancelled marathon; however, I had committed to running it as a virtual anyway to “earn” my swag. (Here for the full recap: I didn’t sleep – duh – hadn’t fueled well for several days, and was overly stressed so it was basically a shit show. But I did it, and it was over and I could put that behind me. I’ve been feeling “over” the marathon distance for a while, and I guess the cancellation of this culminating race just felt like the nail in the coffin on that distance for me. *for the foreseeable future… I know every runner says that after hard races/runs.

I dove into work so much that first week – part of it was trying to take care of my team, but I truly think part of it was a distraction coping mechanism. Probably around that first Thursday – almost a week in – I realized it wasn’t sustainable. I didn’t know what the following week held for my employment, so I just kept my head down and kept grinding. I think I clocked in for almost 50 hours, but I know I worked far more hours than that.

Slowing down and paying more energy where it’s due.

We got word that the organization was extending our benefits and pay for two more weeks, which is a total of three weeks of benefits and compensation – absolutely unheard of for a service-based industry to offer. This, along with a gentle nudge from my manager, encouraged me to relax a little this second week and take a much needed and very deep breath. He also encouraged me to work more from home, which allowed for a more relaxed schedule and a lot less stress.

My son’s school of course was immediately cancelled that first weekend. They had a half-day Friday and there had already been cancellations in other states, so I was absolutely expecting it. Even though the school district initially said “no, no, the CDC actually doesn’t recommend cancelling school!” they eventually relented and joined the massive flood of cancellations sweeping the nation. I was incredibly impressed that by the first Wednesday he had access to all of his classes through virtual platforms and already had several Zoom class meetings scheduled! Compared to many of my friends elsewhere, this was optimal. I did attempt to make a schedule to help him manage his time; however, he never stuck to it and I wasn’t home enough the first week to help him establish a routine.

Check out my March reads:

The second week I was recovering from my marathon, spending more time with my family. I did yoga, virtual workouts, connected with friends and family virtually. I cooked, took better care of myself, and took up a new craft project: cross stitching! I read more, laughed with my family, and started writing blogs. I also got very serious about the possibility of what my future looked like.

During COVID-19, a lot of banks, credit cards, and companies in general have been offering programs for people affected. I started researching what I qualified for, what options we had if I were to lose my job or see a financial impact, and how to apply for the different programs available. I looked into my debt, we looked at our savings, and just started very pragmatically assessing different options and road maps in case things started veering downhill.

For now, my panic attacks have slowed, I’ve enjoyed the quality time with my family and the increased ability to save money. I laugh at friends saying their online spending habits have increased, because I’ve been terrified almost to spend money! I enjoyed my birthday, eating pizza, napping, and having a few beers with my hubby. I got coupons for massages from him to use in the future, which is the BEST present I could ask for. I haven’t really gotten stir crazy, but I have noticed I’m growing increasingly frustrated at friends and family who continue to try to bend the rules to fit their wants. When people say “it’s so hard!” I want to scream “No it’s fucking not!” Or when people try to manipulate what “stay home” means – well, it really doesn’t mean stay IN your homes… or I can still go walking with a friend and her child – NO YOU FUCKING CAN’T! My sister said she had about 20 neighbors in their backyards all lined up with chairs about 6 feet apart (see Social Distancing reference from my Part 1 blog) and was just furious about. Or having to explain to her son on his 10th birthday why he sees on Skype that other people are still letting their children’s friends into their homes when he was told they can’t have a party because everyone has to stay home. Creating conflicting narrations like that make it really hard for children to understand. That’s been frustrating.

Thankfully, Landon understands, and Clara has no clue – so I really have the best of both worlds right now. I’m nearing the end of week 3 under a “stay home” order, which has officially been extended through the end of April. We also recently got word that Landon’s school won’t return for in-person instruction, so he’s virtual the rest of the year (and actually doing really well, other than a HUGE spike in the time spent on phone).

We are putting our greenhouse to good use and trying our hand at growing things. I had a small garden I loved in Minnesota and had plans for a bigger and better one, but never was able to manifest. I took a survey and plotted out the old garden beds left for us and started making a plan for what to keep and what to add. I’ve loved waking up everyday seeing new things bloom – the couple that owned the home before us were amazing gardeners and have some 200 azalea plants on the property! Clara loves daily walks around the lawn and last Saturday night Landon and I stayed out in the driveway until after 8pm watching the birds and even saw a couple of bats! No phones, or people, just a cooling evening twilight with a thumbnail of a moon.

Virtual workouts with Mike Atunrase!

We’re also getting by with a few new apps and technology services. Houseparty is the most recent one we’ve loved adding! It allows you to group video chat through tablets and phones and play games together through the app. We’ve set up multiple Zoom happy hours and dates with friends. I have a “coffee chat” scheduled for anyone on my team to join Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday mornings. I’ve tried to host a happy hour for my team, and have another one scheduled. My organization flipped to a full service “to-go” curbside pickup restaurant complete with beer-orders in less than two weeks! They also just sent out options for continued employment beyond this first extension, which has been beyond gracious and generous. So far, I believe I’ll be able to keep my job, but we’re still being very careful and taking it week to week. It’s been my dream to work for this company for 6 years and I’m going to do everything I can to continue my service to them and try to support my team.

My mom also set up a workout circuit station for my dad at their home in northern Minnesota! She bribed him with a reward of peanut m&ms and coffee. They don’t have the luxury of great weather like we’ve been having in WNC so there’s probably a great risk of cabin fever up there.

I do miss hugs. I miss the shit out of hugging people. I do look forward to understanding what this looks like on the other side. I know it has already been devastating to our economy and healthcare systems. I know it will challenge many organizations and even more relationships. I’m confident in both of mine and I’m so lucky for that. I’m grateful my son can see what it’s like to thrive, make good decisions, and build resilience. He’s been joining my husband and I for bike rides, runs, and virtual workouts for class credit in phy-ed. I’ve been too scared to register for any races this fall, not knowing what lies ahead or how long this might last. I go through moments of strength, and then moments of insecurity and vulnerability. Most recently it’s been surrounding my feelings of being a shitty leader. Being inadequate for my team. Not being strong enough for them or connected enough throughout this process. Taking their decisions as a reflection of my value – or lack thereof. Taking my peer’s emails and correspondence as proof that they’re better than I am or more valued. It comes in waves and I do my best to take any of those in stride.

We don’t know how long this is going to last. My family and I have a small plan, but there are still constant worries. We always worry that our loved ones who are “high risk” if they were to catch this will be infected. I worry that my parents will be infected by someone I love, resulting in guilt, anger, resentment, and shame. I worry that my dad seeing my daughter last June will be the last time he sees my daughter. I worry that if I’m not careful, I’ll be the most likely to bring this into my home. I worry that I might bring it into the workplace and disrupt what little hope of income and financial security 400+ employees have for themselves and their families. It’s an odd, odd time.

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