Zoom Zoom

Are you tired of people going on and on about their online meetings? Me, too, but I still have things to say about it. In the past few days I’ve had a number of talks with friends and colleagues (mostly on Zoom) about how the pandemic and issues around it have changed their interactions with others. I’ve found it pretty interesting.

I pretend this is what I look like on Zoom with my headphones all jaunty and wearing lipstick that would stain the heck out of my mask if it were real.

This week I spent at least half of every day with my headphones on smiling at little square images of people who are smiling back at me. At least on Zoom, people can tell you are smiling, which is good, since my mask only accentuates my resting grumpy face. And I smile a lot, hoping it helps the moods of my friends and coworkers.

Since I work (and volunteer work) Zoom so often, I limit my personal Zooming pretty strongly. I have the world’s comfiest headphones (by Jabra), but they still get to me after many hours. Most of my personal conversations, like with my son and sister, are by text and Facebook Messenger, because that lets me multi-task, and frankly, I type more coherently than I talk. I can fix typos, but not speak-os.

Un-retouched Zoom me. Note wrinkles and frown lines.

Phone calls I just do with a couple of folks (hi Mike). I don’t mind them as much as some younger people do, but I don’t like yelling at the speaker phone where people can hear my whole conversation as well as what the other person says, but my ears need a rest from those headphones, so I don’t want to hold up the phone. And of course my fancy iPhone earpieces make me sound like I am talking from inside a well. Thanks, technology.

The COVID Effect

I’m pretty sure, though, that I communicate more often, and also communicate more deeply with others since the pandemic started. The threat over each of us that an invisible thing can come get us any time, anywhere, really makes me, at least, treasure my connections more.

What happens when I am on Zoom all day then open SnapChat. This is scary.

Many of my recent work meetings have turned into personal conversations, as well, since we agree that we need someone to safely talk about our concerns who doesn’t live in the same house with us. I’ve heard a lot about the difficulty of negotiating the current list of hot topics with relatives, talking to children about illnesses, and how important our pets are to us (see, it’s not just me!).

In some ways, I’m getting to know people better than I did before, when you tried so hard to just stick to the topic at hand. We all realize we NEED a little down time and that building relationships is important. Now, that’s a great bonus from all this isolation, for me.

Being able to see each other’s homes, our personal work spaces, our pets, or our back yards, reminds us that coworkers are way more than the spreadsheet maker, the project manager, the programmer, or the writer. That’s a key for greater understanding among all of us, which I’ve repeatedly stated: we all have more in common than we often realize. When you see that people in Israel or South Africa have the same collection of kitchen stuff on their counters as you do, the world gets smaller.

This meme hits way too close to home, doesn’t it?

2020 really has been a challenging year so far. Maybe these new connections will help us as we figure out what to do in the brave new, potentially even scarier, world of next year. Until then, I’ll keep on Zooming, texting, chatting, and writing.

How about you?

Testing My Resolve about Good Intentions

I keep telling you one of my rules for life is to assume good intentions. I want to make the assumption that everyone I interact with is doing the best they can with the information they currently have. I want to assume the vast majority of people don’t set out to be mean, rude, arrogant, or unkind on purpose. I like to think that nearly everyone is capable of caring for the health and well being of others.

I can dream, can’t I? This whole pandemic thing seems like a big test of humanity, and one that is supporting the “man’s inhumanity to man” viewpoint (I’m quoting, so forgive me for the sexism).

Yes, what this donkey is telling us.

Like many of my friends, my convictions have been tested strongly by people who come across as unconcerned about making friends and family members sick from a potentially deadly disease. No matter how hard you try to isolate, wipe things down, go nowhere, and see no one, it just takes one person who isn’t as careful to get you all infected.

I keep thinking of people I know who are essential workers, and have to be out in public. You know, the grocery store workers, the health care professionals, the police, the delivery drivers. They never know when a person who just doesn’t care will walk in and cough all over them. That then puts their own families at risk.

This doesn’t protect you from people who don’t care.

No longer is this just theory. Every single day I hear of a person who “doesn’t believe in” germs, or something, who gets infected and goes on their merry way. Not somewhere else. No, in the places where my loved ones live. They infect people I care about, and I can’t go help them or be with them. That makes assuming good intentions quite difficult.

Of course I’m not alone in this. Most people I know feel this way. Even people who are philosophically opposed to taking certain precautions don’t seem to want to make other people sick.

Where was I going with this? I guess the thing is that even if nearly everyone is coming from a place of good intentions and trying to do the right thing (even if their different backgrounds might cause them to choose differently from me), all it takes is a couple of people who honestly don’t give a flip about the rest of the world to ruin lives.

Let’s just get out of here, like Sara and Apache are here.

Is there nothing we can do about this? Should we just throw out the idea that people are doing the best they can? Maybe, just maybe, we can learn something and build a better future. I guess that depends on who’s left after all these viruses and other contagions (racism, fascism, random divisiveness, etc.) run their course.

Asking for Input in Troubled Times

While I do try to remain upbeat, some days are easier than other. And the daily grind is challenging. I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that right now!

Every day I hear grim statistics about COVID-19. Every day I read about people who “don’t believe in” the virus. Every day I see people scurrying around in masks trying to complete their business and get back home. Every day I see people playing contact sports, walking in large groups, and choosing to ignore social distancing practices.

Everyone has their own ideas of what’s safe, it seems.

Such contrasts!

The NY Times says fighting over masks is the new national pastime. That’s so sad.

How do you deal with the conflict that’s so obvious in our state and nation during this pandemic? I don’t think yelling at each other is a good idea. Shaming doesn’t seem to work. Everyone’s stressed out enough as it is, and being yelled at and shamed won’t make anyone change what they’re doing. I totally understand that, but I also understand how people react that way.

So, I’m looking for input. What are some ways of coping and maintaining an even keel that you’ve tried? Here are a few of mine (which aren’t working too well right now):

  • Deep breathing
  • Limiting reading of social and news media
  • Spending time with animals
  • Reading cheerful books and magazines
  • Writing letters
  • Doing kind things for others (I ordered some herbal supplements for a young friend, for example, since I could get them at a discount)

This is a good start, maybe!

Be good to each other. We’re all we have!

Pandemic Pouting

Honestly and truly, I have been doing my best to be a good citizen (or sheep, depending on who’s perspective you’re taking) about this whole COVID-19 issue. I really haven’t gone anywhere other than back and forth from the ranch to the office, I’ve Zoomed with people I want to talk to, I’ve dutifully sat on the porch and enjoyed nature…all that stuff. And I’m truly grateful for the family and friends who care for us all.

Yes, I still have the dogs.

Still, it’s okay to mourn things you’ve lost, even if you know it’s for the best. Here’s a great blog post by Rev. Joanna Crawford that hits home. She concludes:

You can’t logic away feelings, nor should you. We have to just live with complexity. Relief that the government is doing the right thing to protect lives. And sadness for the loss of the ordinary dumb things that before we could just take for granted.

You Can Be Sad With Decisions You Agree With, Boots and Blessings, April 20, 2020

So right this minute I want to declare to the world that I’m really, really sad to see more and more of my favorite Austin restaurants closing forever. Sure, it’s all for the best that we can’t eat out (and in my case can’t even be in Austin), but damn, I will miss the Threadgills Old Number One where so many of my friends have played, the Magnolia Cafe in the beautiful (but expensive) location, etc. I’m very sad for all the people who worked there, their suppliers, and the people who owned the place.

I still have sunsets, even ones with ominous clouds.

I’m sad that oil futures went negative. Income from wells was the source of income that let Lee retire to focus on doing good in the community. Everything’s closing down. Whether I agree or not that fossil fuels are great, I know many people who earn their livings in that business, and who will not be bringing home paychecks for their families. (I am relieved that our nephew, Chris, has many skills that are useful outside of oil fields and can start his business renovating old houses soon.)

Nature is still everywhere, even in our dirty little pond, which is full of tadpoles and bugs.

I’m pissed off that because people are unable to pay their rents (Lee’s second source of income), we’ve had to lay off Mandi (who is fine; she’ll make more on unemployment than we pay her, and we do plan to bring her back). Laying off your friend is never the highlight of one’s day. Speaking of layoffs, I’m also pissed that my boss in Austin, you know, the best boss I ever had, got laid off, leaving a big hole in my team.

Did I mention I still have dogs?

And darn it, I miss seeing my friends and my family. I miss Anita and Declan and Rollie and my Austin neighbors and coworkers. I miss my Cameron friends and my sister.

While we’re at it, I want to GO SOMEWHERE. ANYWHERE. I think I’m gonna get in my car and just drive down dirt roads for a while, just to see some other scenery than FM 485 and Travis Avenue in Cameron.

And I have the Hermits’ Rest. And the porches. And Kathleen, heading to the porch.

Yeppers, I still have many wonderful small things to be grateful for, and I am glad I am able to keep myself relatively safe (many don’t have that chance; have you read about how the Navajo Nation is overwhelmed by the virus?). But:

It is absolutely okay to mourn the many small things you’ve lost.

I’m not gonna dwell on this stuff. Just putting it out there to help me let it go, take a deep breath and get back to that one step at a time thing. Hoping the same for you.