What to do when you don’t even know what to think

What to do when you don’t even know what to think

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OK, thanks Internet—everyone has enough Zoom tutorials now. (It's not hard.)

And everyone's been inundated with tips on how to work from home. (It won't be easy.)

Everyone has good information on "social distancing". (Do it!)

Everyone has seen plenty of "how to wash your hands" instructions. (Seriously, do it!)

The news keeps us informed of the global situation, the national situations, our local situations. Have we ever been more informed, or concerned?

As with so many places, Tremendousness teams have been working from home and will for the foreseeable future. The bulk of our work is not compromised by remote collaboration, in fact, it's how we usually do things. We're already really good at it, and getting better every day (literally). And we hope we have the opportunity to continue to do so.

Because things are pretty bad out there, as in out there on the entire planet, and things clearly will get worse before they get better.

So it got me to thinking... our team is stepping up. We're here for each other even if we can't be there with one another. We're extremely lucky to be able to work from home and keep working as long as there is work to be done. For some, especially those with little children, it's hard. As it is for those used to going out socializing, or, you know, just living normal lives.

It's a small consolation, but we're communicating (and community-building, such as it is) more than ever on Slack. And whatever our situation, we're all learning new things—and new ways to do old things. At work and at home... which are the same now.

I don't want to blind myself with rose-colored glasses, but there is a sliver of opportunity here. There is potential for positive change in the midst of a frightening situation. To get through this, we're going to need to rationally assess and maturely deal with the bad shit, and balance that out with openness to try something different and an optimism that is something like child-like wonder.

In the past, every time I took a vacation I came back and semi-accidentally changed my ways. I didn't notice pattern this for a long time. For example...

In 2000, on my honeymoon in the Greek islands, we hiked a lot. My hands were always dirty. I stopped biting my nails. (Still can't even believe I ever did that; must've been an entirely different person.)

After traveling in Chile in 2010 (with my laptop, due to my previous job being especially... "social" right then) I came back to the office and switched to being a full-time trackpad user. Goodbye, mouse.

In 2015, after returning to my desk from Spain and Morocco, I switched to a backless wobble stool and said "so long" to slouch-encouraging office chairs.

And just last year, after spending two weeks sleeping outside thru-hiking the Ozark Trail, I came back to the real world ready to do a better job preparing my lunches rather than buying them. After all, it's pretty easy to make lunch standing in a kitchen compared to sitting on a log.

These are not life-changing changes and they weren't made in dangerous, stressful times. They're just changes, but all for the better. By default, getting away from the norm changes the status quo.

Right now we are "getting away" from many things that have both meaningfully and mindlessly made up our daily lives. We all need to practice social and spatial distancing. We need to be smart about exposure, food, finances. Everything is changing—what the heck does status quo even mean now?

It means whatever we want, so I'm making it a priority to ensure that some of those changes are for the better. They may not be life-changing, but I hope they might help keep me and my wife and my kids and my family and my colleagues going.

That said, I know that not everyone is in the same situation and many people are just wondering how they'll even survive these times. Change is always an opportunity and a challenge—but for some, especially now, it's 99% "holy $#@&in' shit".

So it's not important what those specific new changes are for me, what matters is that they're intentional, positive, and fulfilling. Naively, I like to think that something like that is always possible, despite the circumstances.

So...

We could learn to garden.

We can start meditating.

We could practice drawing.

We can approach meal prep and cooking in a new mindful, healthy, or experimental way.

We could make 'zines.

We can learn to bake bread and make pasta.

We could start a new home workout regimen.

We can pick up trash while we're out for a (spatially-distanced) walk.

We could do some good by volunteering to help those unable to help themselves at this time (if safe and possible) or donating to relief organizations (if you are able).

Or...

If not new, different things maybe a new, different perspective?

Walk the dog as an escape, not an obligation.

Clean the house as a meditation, not a chore.

Exercise as a relief, not a challenge.

See minor frustrations as edification, not annoyance.

Of course, you can just take a damn break, too. We're all going to deserve and need it. And for the first time in history we can help save the world by just sitting on our couches.

So catch up on those TV shows you've been meaning to watch.

Read books. Please, read some books too (I have a feeling that all those "Little Libraries" you've always walked past are going to become rather beloved).

Play games, video chat, swing in a hammock, stare at art, hike in the woods. Or do nothing.

Because...

That'd be better than what some are doing.

We've seen people hoarding and price gouging hand sanitizer...

Still gathering in large groups even when told that it's dangerous...

U.S. senators cashing in stocks using insider information, simultaneously playing down the crisis...

Convicted felons hawking fake cures, scammers selling fake testing kits...

On the other hand, fashion designers are offering to make masks for medical workers.

Family and friends and neighbors are reaching out to and shopping for those who must remain isolated.

People are donating gift cards and businesses are donating food and kids are offering their piggy banks.

And true leaders are truly leading so they can help vulnerable people, not massage fragile egos.

Literally, besides survive, the best we can do right now is take advantage this strange and unfortunate opportunity to simply be responsible and good and maybe better ourselves in even the smallest way, rather than use it as an opportunity to be selfish and take advantage of (or endanger) others.

The whole world is traveling less, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That's big, but history tells us everything will spike back up when the pandemic passes. It's almost impossible to teach anything to the world as a whole.

But we, as individuals, can learn. Maybe in getting through this some of us will change ourselves in more little, wonderful, beautiful, meaningful, and permanent ways than we can imagine.


Photo by Bill Keaggy, of a mini 'zine I made over the weekend (Socialdistanzine #1) using a cut-up newspaper.