It’s devastating to see how fragile my small business is. This thing I have carefully breathed air into for the past four years has deflated over night.
Artists and makers are hard hit by this pandemic, as countless art fairs and wholesale orders are cancelled. My business has come to a near standstill, ever since my retail partners - jewelry galleries and stores - have been labeled “nonessential” and are forced to shutter. We were not ready for this.
My anxiety rises in proportion to the amount of news on the novel coronavirus, a virus so new it has crippled our economy, shut down society, and pushed those in precarious circumstances further into poverty. The president says everything is a-ok, and I begin having nightmares.
For two weeks, I watch as the livelihoods of my artist and maker friends crumble. A fog settles over my mind, and it’s difficult to think straight. Productivity is as rare and as coveted as hand sanitizer. I wash my hands, over and over again.
I feel guilty about my inability to wrestle anxiety to the ground, when I have shelter, food, and savings, and others don’t. My therapist gently reminds me to be kind to myself, his voice barely audible above the phone static.
“We’ll get through this together.”
The pandemic has forced me to slow down. When it gets hard to breathe, I go on walks. I research small business loans, then take a break. I make sure to keep breathing as I do bookkeeping and think of ways to stay afloat during shelter-in-place. The more social-media savvy of us have already pivoted - they stay in touch with customers through DM’s and offer shelter-in-place sales to encourage social distancing.
In the middle of all this, I’ve picked up a funny habit of microwaving potatoes in four minute intervals, carefully flipping the potatoes onto their backs between each session. Microwave. Add butter. Eat.
I find comfort in reading an article by Scott Berinato about our collective grief around this pandemic. Because that is what we’re doing, grieving. We’re grieving lost lives, jobs, human touch, a sense of normalcy. We’re also anticipating grief to come. Things will never go back to normal.
With grief, comes a cluster of emotions. Denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance. Some days I wake up in the middle of a nightmare, scared breathless. Some days I feel myself softening and easing into a new routine. On the extra hard days, I work on being kind to myself. I hope you are, too.
David Kessler, a writer on grief, adds a final stage to grief: meaning. I recently brought groceries to an elderly neighbor. You can support local businesses by shopping online or buying gift cards. Help your favorite restaurants weather the lean times by ordering takeout. Keep in touch with family and friends, though preferably not via a video conference app with lax security.
I’ll see you on the other side.