COVID Sabbatical

Rethink, re-imagine, re-launch!  Retool, rebound, reinvent, recharge, reboot, restructure, re- everything!

How about we just RELAX?

Those who aren’t working or with reduced hours seem to be spending their time at home doing everything from learning new languages and baking sourdough bread to posting pictures of DIY home projects and art creations.

Those who are working are building new or updating existing websites and launching new initiatives.  They are making instructional videos, organizing zoom meetings and virtual conferences.  Don’t forget the new special lighting to be at your camera-ready best!

Power up and power on everybody!

We are being told we must take advantage to this down time to learn, create and grow. We must not waste it!  We must stay productive and busy, busy, busy

Which leaves many of us- myself included – feeling left behind or inferior for not doing these things.

Admittedly – COVID struck when I was going through a particularly difficult time.

I had finished up a couple projects and had a several proposals out there, and then all hell broke loose, leaving me with a short client list. (In retrospect, this was a good thing).

In March and April, a family member was in crisis and incapable of managing his own affairs.  I had to spend hours and hours and hours doing research and on the phone helping him – actually, handling it myself with help from  some relatives, for whom I am eternally grateful –  navigate through the world of hospitals, healthcare, rehab facilities and Medicaid.   At one point, he said “my life was in his hands.” No pressure there!

This would difficult enough during regular times but was made significantly worse during COVID.  The hospitals wanted to kick him out, but no facilities would take him without COVID testing, but the hospital wouldn’t test him, some places weren’t taking new people at all, some denied Medicaid patients,  etc.  At one point I had to enlist the CFO of a hospital to ensure the family member could stay an extra day (Medicaid wouldn’t cover him anymore) until an alternate facility was available.  It sucked up almost all my time and I was worried beyond belief.

Plus, I was managing this while trying to keep my business afloat, putting on a brave and happy face for clients and worrying about my own health and safety.  Not to mention the effect of the constant barrage of negative COVID news, politics, violence and civic unrest.

Every morning I woke up angry with a sense of dread and anxiety wondering what fresh hell the day would bring.

Photos of exquisite baked goods, art projects and the numerous emails, newsletters and cheery, energetic social media posts insisting I use this time to “improve yourself and grow your business!” only made me feel worse.

Everyone else seemed to be moving on and I was shutting down.

And then I decided, fuck it.

In early May we left the chaos of Chicago for the vacation home in the northern woods of Michigan. (I realize not everyone has this option, and I am very fortunate that we do).

After I calmed down and got situated, I realized I could accomplish most of my work in 15 – 20 hours a week. I gave myself permission to not force myself to sit in front of the computer all day to be “busy.”

I skipped Zoom networking meetings and virtual conferences. I passed on webinars and webcasts. I scrolled past industry updates and articles.

Instead I went outside and spent hours stomping around in the woods searching for the elusive Morel mushrooms. (Despite what were supposedly ideal conditions, we were unsuccessful). We hiked and spent time swimming and reading books on the beach. Jeepin’ around the same trails we cruised on snowmobiles in the winter.  Sat on a hill overlooking a beaver pond and the old orchard. Watched as the season changed from snow on the ground to fully leafed trees.  Ate outside.  Went canoeing down the pristine Au Sable River.   We visited friends and had campfires at appropriate social distances.

I gardened and tended to outdoor projects.  We built a scarecrow for fun. Sometimes I would just be still and soak in the nature around me.  I’d sit by the little waterfall  gurgling into the ornamental pond while watching squirrels chase each other and attempt to break into the bird feeders.   Shy deer carefully picked their way down the hill while territorial hummingbirds zoomed around their sugar-filled feeders.  I laughed as my silly little dog chased chipmunks.   I tuned in to the mournful call of the Loons and the peckety-peck  of woodpeckers.

I learned about tractors and mulch and soil conditions. We bought farmer’s eggs and cow manure.

I didn’t pursue any new clients or learn any new business skills.

And I’m OK with that.

After almost seven weeks, we finally returned to Chicago.  I’m ready for the “re” words. Refreshed, relaxed and ready to get back to work from a much calmer, centered and focused space.

So go ahead, give yourself permission to use this time in your own way. And if that means doing everything I mentioned early in this post, that’s fine. But if you’d rather go mushroom hunting, that’s OK, too.