Mostly, We’re Mad…

I’m mad, sad, furious, scared, tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, scattered, angry, disappointed, anxious, confused.

I want to scream, cry, run until I can’t anymore, crawl under a blanket and sleep for days, eat everything, can’t stand the sight of food, smash something, do nothing, write, scream again, clean the house, curl up next to the dog, kick something (inanimate), throw a temper tantrum.

And I’m not alone.

Once there was a child, this child was in the classroom when something bad happened – nothing to serious, a food fight, or something like that. Because no one would step forward, and the mess was so extensive, all the children had to stay inside during morning recess and remain at their desks. That’s it. All they had to do was sit quietly at their desks for 20 minutes.

This child didn’t think it was fair that they had to lose their recess for a mess others made, but they understood that losing one recess wasn’t that big a deal if it fixed the mess for everyone. After all, it was only 20 minutes. It wouldn’t be much fun, but it would be ok. They’d sit quietly for 20 minutes and complain about it later.

Most of the children felt this way too. Losing one recess wasn’t that bad a punishment, it could be much, much, worse. No notes were going home to the parents, and they still had afternoon recesses to play outside. They didn’t have to write and essay about what had happened, and they weren’t assigned any extra work because of it; all they had to do was sit quietly for 20 minutes.

But there were these two other children. These two children didn’t like the idea of sitting quietly for 20 minutes. They didn’t think it was fair. They wanted to play outside and they let everyone know it. They grumbled, talked to the children sitting at the desks next to them. They slammed their books. They repeatedly asked to go to the bathroom.

And then, just like that, recesses was taken away from everyone – for a week! A whole week because a couple of kids didn’t follow the rules and sit quietly. Now that first child, and all the others who begrudgingly followed the rules because they knew it would help get things back to normal faster, were being punished for the actions of a couple of jerks.

They were mad, sad, furious, scared, tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, scattered, angry, disappointed, anxious, and confused.

It might not be the best analogy, but that’s where I find myself right now, with a bundle of emotions and thoughts running through my head.

I tried doing the right thing and following the stay at home orders, most of the people I know did too. But it wasn’t enough. And now we’ve got 4 more weeks of stay-at-home orders. We weren’t able to slow the spread of this virus enough. There will be debates in the future about how it was handled, whether we did enough, acted fast enough, or even did the right things. But right now, the fact is, we have to stay at home longer.

As a business owner who tried doing the right thing early on, I feel like I’m being punished. I know that’s not logical, but that’s what it feels like. I’ll be the first to admit that my business is non-essential. That’s part of what made it “easy” for me to decide to temporarily close in the beginning – if people weren’t going out for the non-essentials, they’d stay home more, or at least limit their circle of exposure.

But then people started finding what some might call loopholes – congregating in parking lots; closing storefronts but handing you your packages with a grabber or leaving it in a drop box, talking to one another from cars parked next to one another, scheduling appointments to shop one on one, home deliveries…

None of these things are singularly bad ideas, but they encourage the very behaviours that the social distancing and the stay-at-home orders are trying to stop – going out and about, socializing, and close interactions between people.

I know it’s hard. I know it’s asking a lot. Humans are social creatures. But that’s why it’s so important too; humans are at risk – new humans, pregnant humans, old humans, humans receiving cancer treatments or dialisis, humans with asthma or COPD, humans in need of organ transplants and humans who have received organ transplants, humans with heart conditions, humans with autoimmune disorders (and believe me, there are many!), humans living with traumatic injuries.

That’s a lot of humans. If you think you don’t know anyone who’s at risk, your just not thinking hard enough.

My business is built around stuff, as most retail business are, but the “stuff” is really just a means to an end. A big part of my business’s mission is to bring together a local community of people who have a shared interest, to encourage a sense of community and to foster creativity and connectedness. Many specialty shops share this mission, it’s not unique to my business.

Think about it for a minute, all specialty shops share the same thing – they cater to a group of people with a shared interest, making them vital to the local community because they bring people together. Once you know one shared interest, you often find you have others. It’s how we made friends when we were young (We have the same shoes!) and it’s how we make friends as adults too.

But I’m getting off track. Yes, it’s great that I can stay in contact with my community through online resources and social media. I am reminded every day how amazing, loving, and caring, the people who cross my businesses’ physical threshold truly are. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming over the past few weeks. However, switching from being a physical location with a social media presence to being a social media driven business is time consuming and exhausting.

The thought that the stay-at-home orders, and therefore the closure of my shop, is temporary is reassuring – at some point things will return to normal, even if the new normal is not what we were previously knew. That also means that if I don’t figure something out immediately, it will probably be OK. Probably.

But it’s also terribly discouraging. Why? Because it’s so overwhelmingly time consuming.

The other day it took me almost 4 hours to upload one file to an online platform – a platform with which I’m familiar.

I’ve spent countless hours working on video conferencing options – how many participants? Who needs to download what? Can my community members figure this out? Can I figure this out? Should I use the free version or pay for a subscription?

I spent an entire day deleting things I had previously spent days working on – calendar entries, class listings on numerous websites, pre scheduled posts, etc. And when the date of the stay at home orders was extended through April, I had to update it all again.

I spent 2 days struggling to get an online shop up and running, only to have to halt sales ’cause I won’t be in the shop regularly to ship things out or update the online listings.

I’m continually answering emails from suppliers who are also halting shipments, trying to track the packages that do get shipped, and rescheduling future shipments for events and in store specials that are also being postponed or canceled.

I don’t mention all this for a pity party. I mention it because I am not alone.

There are many other small business owners out there who are scrambling every day to try and make sense of it all while maintaining an upbeat and positive social media presence. We’re being bombarded with advice from every source – most of it is well intentioned. Some have found acceptable for them work-arounds, or have staff to take on different aspects of the new tasks. Some are wondering if this is the year they retire. All of them are worrying about their bills – just like everyone who is out of work right now.

I mention it because there seems to be a lot of concern for the hospitality/ food service industry right now. And that’s fair, many of my family and friends work in the hospitality/ food service industry, plus I like eating out. But we seem to be overlooking the other small businesses that make up our communities; the retail workers, yoga and fitness studios, independent book and music stores, bed and breakfasts, hair salons, and any others I’m forgetting. All of these people are wondering what comes next for them too.

My point is, we’re in this together, and there are a lot of us struggling to figure out how to get through each day of our new normal. We’re frustrated with the “I’m healthy so who cares?” attitude. We’re overwhelmed by the sense of hopelessness in the face of uncertain times. We’re disoriented by the speed at which we’ve been forced to change our business and personal plans.

But mostly we’re mad – mad that so many people can’t seem to figure out what “stay at home” means. Because like the children who lost recesses because of a couple of jerks, we’re mad that a few, as always, ruin it for everyone.

Stay home. Stay safe.


A big cyber high-5 to all the medical personnel, delivery workers, food store clerks, supply chain workers, educators, sanitation and utility workers, veterinarians, feed and hardware/ supply workers, gas station attendants, bankers, and other essential workers, for keeping us running during this strange, strange time. May you all get the rest you deserve when this is over.