Until recently I never really understood the iconic line “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (full disclosure, I never read the book). How could times be both the best and the worst. If something is the worst time in your memory, how could it also be the best. But recently I have come to embrace this idea of plurality. And it is far more than finding the silver lining, or focusing on the positive, or always looking on the bright side. Lately, I can truly and honestly say, 2020 (and who knows how much of next year) is going to be amongst the best and worst of my memories.
Finally, seven months into COVID-19 and shelter-in-place (that’s right folks, some of us still are still sheltering-in-place and not leaving our homes unless necessary … and yes leaving the house to entertain a 4-year-old is necessary) I feel like I have finally hit my stride. My family has a good daily routine. We have a very small bubble of close family members and two neighbors. We have support for childcare with a babysitter whose only other clients are the people in our bubble. And I am even starting to get some work done again. This newly developed routine, this somewhat return to normalcy (not that life right now actually resembles anything close to normal in 2019), has helped to give me new perspective. This year really is manic-depressive, the craziest up-down-turnaround rollercoaster, living in full color definitely not in Kansas anymore, eyes wide open, kind of year. And that is okay.
So, unlike Dickens, lets deal with the worst first. I cannot tell you how many times in the last seven months I have wanted to curl up in a ball, throw the covers over my head, scream, cry, and sleep for a whole year. Between issues with childcare, entertaining a 4-year-old, balancing two adult’s full-time work schedules, dealing with family, fires, evacuations, new pets, employees, finances, etc. etc. etc. life has just been exhausting. I hate to admit it, but I have screamed at my child more in the last seven months then the whole of her life before COVID. I find my husband annoying in ways I never thought could be possible (how the hell do they deal with him at work?). And do not get me started on our parents… that is a rant for a different blog post.
On top of all the horrible personal stuff, work is not easy either. Thanks to the Scrooge like economic assistance given out by the government (might aw well stick with the Dickens theme) Rubber Duck Lab was able to obtain a PPP loan and an SBA loan to help keep our people employed during this time. But that was five months ago and now we have had to furlough half our team just to try and stay afloat while we pivot and try to bring in new clients. No one will ever know how much these furloughs crushed me. It is part of RDL’s, and my own personal, mission to provide jobs for educators, artists, and makers; yet here we are furloughing half of our people in hopes of bringing them back in January. Seriously, the worst of times. Rubber Duck Lab has never been so close to closing.
But despite the metaphorical waist-high slog through reeking brown sphincter projectiles that this year has been, both professionally and personally, there have been true moments of good and joy.
Despite having to furlough half our team, RDL is refocused on a digital product and supporting distance learning. We have a plan to move forward, our team is more organized then ever before, and I think we really can make it (please help promote us, we need all the marketing hep we can get). Even more important, I think we have found a mode of working and team structure that will serve us for years to come, even after COVID is a distant memory. Despite our financial troubles (which keep me up at night), we are doing good and have a clear path ahead of us to sustainability. Even better, my personal life is finally supporting my professional life. I am actually able to work every day. I can sit down, at my computer, coffee in hand, and do real work for 5 uninterrupted hours every day. This is glorious. Best of all, my husband can do the same (admittedly we then work at night while our daughter sleeps, but you know, who ever said adults need sleep).
What is better is that we have found a bubble of families who all work together to keep the kids happy, the parents sane, and make life a heck of a lot more enjoyable. We all live within easy sightlines of one another, our kids are all the same age, we are lucky enough to have outdoor space in our neighborhood to be able to safely play outside, and we have started FAMILY DINNERS. If you are not doing family dinners with your bubble, you are missing out!
What started as once a week has turned into at least three-times-weekly and the kids are begging for this to be the new nightly routine. We cycle through which family hosts dinner, lately it has been at our house because we just cleared out our backyard and got a grill, but everyone brings food, we have a big potluck, the kids play, the dogs chase the kids, the adults get to relax and talk and vent… and everything is good. Why the hell did we not start this six months ago?
Family dinner has become the highlight of my week and I, like my daughter, am pushing for this to just be the new normal for dinner. Having everyone over to our house for dinner is just awesome. Once you come to an agreement that no one cares if your house is messy, or if dinner is hotdogs on the grill, or if the dogs are barking, or the kids are screaming as they play tag, or that the potatoes are a little overdone … once you have the understanding that life is not perfect and that is okay … family dinner is amazing. Our kids have never played better together with minimal parent intervention. The kids actually sit down and eat their dinner, they entertain themselves, they make up games, and (for the most part) follow the few rules we put in place for safety (stay AWAY from the grill). Its manic sure, but joyous in a way I cannot even explain. And the adults can breathe. We can sit back and talk about our day, commiserate about the state of the country, support one another, and offer a cathartic release. We no longer are living through this alone, only occasionally entering each other’s orbits to cause chaos. We are actually supporting each other, and its awesome.
Thanks to family dinners I do not feel guilty anymore for the time I am not spending with my child because family dinner helps me set aside time for her. I do not feel disconnected anymore because family dinner is helping me connect to people who are becoming my best friends. I do not feel neglected anymore because my husband actually puts his phone and computer away to talk, not just to me, but other adults who have interesting things to say and views to express. Life is just easier and better. These are going to be amongst my favorite memories for years to come. I already cannot wait to do this when we all have grandchildren!
It is definitely the best of times while we go through the absolute worst of times. But maybe that is just how it is. Maybe you have to find ways of making the worst of times into the best of times, otherwise, there isn’t any getting through the worst of times. I feel so lucky to have found our best of times.
What are you doing to make good memories during these hard times? Share so others can find hope and inspiration.