If one more person asks me what my goals are for this year, the answer is going to be “to dropkick the next person who asks me what my goals are right through the posts.” I mean, it’s not that I’m angry that people are asking that – I’m excited that there are some people who feel they are at a place where they can set goals again. I’m just… not quite there yet. Maybe I’m jealous of people who are feeling firm enough, solid enough, to set goals?

It’s not that I don’t want to make plans, believe me. There are a ton of things I want to do, want to get done, want to accomplish. So what’s holding me back? I mean, am I the only one wary of committing to getting certain things done? Or do we all have a bit of that? Thanks, 2020. Maybe I just need to make a list? I mean, I’m sitting here, with a brand new computer, in a house I’ve had a connection to for close to twenty years, being present for people I love, and I’m feeling 100% motivated to get things done. I’m just… wary of writing them down and telling someone I’m going to do them. It seems like every time lately I’ve promised something, I’ve fallen behind or dropped the ball or somehow missed the deadline.

Maybe I just need a shower and another cup of coffee.

Through the magic of time dilation, I have taken a shower! No more coffee, though, I’ve had enough. Time for water. Lefty needs a caffeine break!

Now then. Where was I? Oh, right, bitching about the term “goal”. I even googled “why is it hard to set goals in 2021” and y’all, the business posts! I was hoping for maybe a Slate or Lifehacker article on why goal setting is so difficult emotionally right now when everything around is so uncertain, and once again, all I got was pages of “HOW TO CRUSH YOUR BUSINESS GOALS AND BE THE BEST BUSINESS PERSON EVER AND BUSINESS BUSINESS BUSINESS”. Oh for crying out loud. Am I going to have to dig deep into myself and power out a helpful blog post or three about why we’re all gun-shy about setting even the lowest bar of emotional goals right now, how to recover from that, how to relearn how to trust that we can do things we set out to do even when everything around us is chaos? If I can’t find the light, I have to be the light, right?

Stay tuned for my upcoming lectures, How To Commit to Cleaning the Cat Box More Than Once A Week, and Your Laundry Can Get Completed in One Day. Maybe a monthly rotating column on You Won’t Believe This One Trick that Crosses Shit Off Your List and Helps You Over Those Hurdles.

OK, now I’m just rambling.

But seriously, y’all. Everyone I know is somewhere on the chart between tired and exhausted, there never seems to be enough hours in the day, and we all have stuff we want to get done but are somehow never getting to even though we’re always busy. You’d think we wouldn’t be getting shit done because we’re all sitting around watching soap operas and eating bon bons (are soap operas even a thing any more?), but no. We’re not getting shit done because we’re too busy doing shit. How is that even fair?!

After some thought, I think that for me, the trick to setting goals is going to be to stop calling them goals. They’re not resolutions, they’re not goals, they’re things I want to get done. So I should do them.

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful

Ugh. I feel like I’ve been writing this blog post for a million years. Or since mid-April. Same thing. How is it only/still May? Of 2020???

The good is … I’m feeling mighty privileged right now. Nobody in our immediate family has contracted C19 (although of course we worry for Tim’s siblings in the medical field). We live in a rural place on a lot of land so I get outside every day, just as much as I used to, because we don’t have any close neighbors (we can barely even see their houses through the trees!). Tim has been working at home, which means he’s been getting a steady paycheck through all of this and I haven’t had to worry about him going into an area that has a higher rate of contagion than what we have out here (last I checked there were between 5 and 9 people in our zip code with C19). Sales at HaldeCraft have been Christmas-time level numbers; I’m selling soap almost as fast as I can make it, and have a waiting list for a handful of mugs. While our small grocery stores have been out of a few things the rare times I go (three times now I’ve gone out and done shopping for at least 3 weeks worth of food, and I’ve had to go to two grocery stores each time) for the most part I’ve managed to get everything I need, if not everything I want. And stock is coming back onto the shelves – our grocery store even had toilet paper this weekend! I bought some even though we don’t need it, so I have twelve extra rolls. Hit me up if you need some!

Anyway. My point is that we’re healthy, we’re fed, there’s a roof over our heads, and there’s money coming in.

So then why am I so anxious all the time????? Hi, welcome to 2020. If you do not already have an anxiety disorder, one will be assigned to you.

I didn’t realize at the beginning of all of this that a good chunk of my anxiety was Tim going into work every day. I mean, I knew there were things I was anxious about — having grown up on dystopian, post-apocalypse science fiction I was ready for anything from disruption of supply chains to an increase in home burglaries, internet or cell phone or electricity problems, and anything from severe government overreach to lack of any functioning government at all. I was worried about my friends who live in big cities. I was worried about my friends who work at Disney. I was worried about my friends who live alone. I was worried about my friends who already fight invisible demons every day. I was worried about my older relatives, Tim’s older relatives, even some of my friend’s older relatives.

I had about a week or so where I was fighting off panic every day, and wanting to reach out and take care of people I love but it was everything I could do just to keep moving and not crawl under my desk and chew on my hand like a dog afraid of fireworks. I emailed my Primary Care Physician to ask if it was possible to up my Prozac dose (I’m on a super low dose for blood pressure, because a lot of blood pressure medications can’t be taken when you have only one kidney, and Prozac is relatively safe). They upped my dose and I started to feel better after a couple of days, and then Tim started working at home and my stress level went down even more. I was still finding it hard to concentrate, hard to focus (especially on writing) but at least I felt like I was in a better place to take care of people and started reaching out to my loved ones, checking in on them, seeing how they were doing (and if they needed toilet paper, haha) (seriously Denise and Tarrant are probably really tired of me asking if they’re OK on toilet paper).

And I started to see some really beautiful things about humanity. People rage-sewing face masks, for sale or for donation or for loved ones (I have a friend who has sewn so many she’s broken two sewing machines, and GUUUUUURL. YOU ARE A BADASS!). People going shopping in dinosaur or storm trooper outfits. People making tiny art galleries for their komodo dragons or guinea pigs and posting about them online. Artists, musicians, actors, yoga teachers, fitness instructors… so many different people from different walks of life all reaching out online and offering … things. Yoga classes. Fitness classes. Readings of poetry or literature. House concerts. Tours of museums and parks. Just… so much. So much being offered, so many people lifting up a gift and saying “you need this right now, but also I need to give it to you because this connection is everything.” One of the podcasts I listen to has quite the following, and they got an email from a group of listeners in a big city that said they were putting together a sort of… supply train; they were putting together care boxes for other listeners of the podcast in the area who didn’t have toilet paper or couldn’t feed their kids or whatever. Just… people taking care of people. Those that have taking care of those who don’t have, because it could be any of us at any time.

The truth that it’s the people who have the least making sure that people who have even less than them are taken care of is not a truth that’s lost on me. I mean, I see a few CEOs and company heads taking pay cuts or donating their salaries to employees, but not many.

I also see a bit of a … quiet turning. With a lot of big chain stores temporarily closed, I see people turning to farmer’s markets, local farmers and CSAs, planting quarantine gardens, learning to bake bread, learning to sew, knit, make things. I have at least four friends I can think of off the top of my head who have gotten chickens. The roadside fruit and veggie stand on the way into Gainesville has been packed with people every time I’ve driven by (which ok, it just twice, but to see their parking lot packed both times?!).

I also still see people carrying burdens without complaint. Friends undergoing chemo. Friends who had to get pets put to sleep. Friends whose parents, aunts and uncles, spouses have died. Life goes on. The world keeps spinning.

Of course now I’m also seeing people shooting people who are just out jogging, shooting people because they’re asked to wear a mask, people who just months ago were 110% “blue lives matter” who are now screaming into the faces of policemen that they’re being oppressed… and that’s a whole entire level of what-the-fuckery that I almost can’t even with. Of course I want to immediately go out and slap some sense into people like that — you have to fucking wear pants, too, and you’re not crying oppression about that. Your rights are not being infringed upon, you’re being asked to be aware of other people. And stop fucking shooting people because of the color of their skin! Ugh. The only way I can deal with things like that is to feel sorry for those people. They must live in constant fear, and fear makes you lash out because you haven’t any other coping skills, and that must be terribly… draining. That doesn’t mean I condone their behavior – not at all. But the only way I can deal with it emotionally is to fight to choose compassion. Otherwise frustration is going to eat me alive. I would rather use my energies to choose to take care of the people I can than to fight the people who wouldn’t even notice or listen to me.

Speaking of energy, I should wrap this up and go focus my energy on a little treadmill time, followed by a (hopefully) productive day in the studio. Thanks for reading, y’all. I know many of you feel the same way.

To policy or not to policy, that is the question

What follows is one of those long rambly over-thinky work posts. I will probably, next week, edit it down a little and post it over on my work blog, so think of this as the… rough draft?

Since all this started a few weeks ago, all the talk about Covid-19 and social distancing and essential businesses and who should be open or closed and what safety precautions should be taken at work, I’ve been struggling with what to say. I’ve been asking myself; am I essential? Should I have a policy? Should I post the policy? If I don’t post a policy, will people not trust me? If I do post a policy, will it remind people that I touch literally everything I make, and they won’t want to touch the things I’ve made? Maybe I should go look at some of my friend’s sites, see what they’re posting? Maybe I should go over to Etsy and read through the forums and see what people are talking about saying?

Hooo boy, was that a mistake.

I thought the people at the grocery store were paranoid and tense and frightened? They had nothing on the things I saw on Etsy.

I was hoping to find … strength? Solidarity? Connection? A “we’re all in this together” vibe…? I don’t know. What I found was … makers closing their shops right and left. People closing shops because they don’t want to overwhelm the postal carriers with packages of things that aren’t essential. People closing shops because they don’t sell essential things and they want to help people save money by not tempting them with things they don’t need. People closing down shops because they don’t want to deal with customers asking when shipments are going to get there if there are postal delays. People closing shops because they used to sew one thing and started sewing masks and either people who already made mask coverings are attacking them for jumping on a bandwagon or Etsy is delisting any and all listings that mention Covid-19 or Coronavirus. (Side note: some sellers were also saying they got an email from Etsy saying that they are actively encouraging sellers who sew to start making face masks if they’re not already doing so, so….. Take that for what you will.) People in a panic because they’ve heard the United States Postal Service could possibly shut down in June (I have not even had the mental space or time to research that one and see if it’s true; people in the Etsy forums are screaming both “yes” and “no” and both sides are completely convinced they’re the ones who are right). People closing their shops because their shops weren’t doing very well anyway and they think this is going to be the death knell of their business.

So again; hooooooooooooooo boy. I’m feeling GREAT right now. If by “great” you mean “well I WAS feeling better but now I’m starting to get anxious again”. So let me break this down.

My packages overwhelming the postal system is honestly not a thing that even occurred to me. And believe me I am THE QUEEN of taking on responsibility for and feeling guilty about things that are absolutely not in my control or that even really involve me. Was I even thinking about the postal service at all? I mean, I think about my postal carrier; I like her and she is kind and funny and listens to audio books as she delivers her mail. She probably finishes a book a day. I was wondering if it would be weird of me to give her some soap, as a “thank you, be well” gift. But … overwhelming the entire United States Postal Service with my few packages a day….? Not something I was worrying about. I would think people suddenly buying thousands of rolls of toilet paper from Amazon would be more of a threat to the system. Why would I even worry about using a system that has been… designed to be used?

Shutting down because I don’t sell essential things is not something that occurred to me. I mean, it’s not like I randomly send things out. I send things because people buy things. If they’re not buying, I don’t mail things. Why should I close my store, actively discouraging people from buying things? What if they want my soap? And who decides what is “essential”? A friend on FB posted that she went to Target, and all the clothes were roped off as un-buyable because they weren’t “essential”. But the makeup aisle was open. What the adfljad;slsdajfsd;j.

Closing my store because I don’t want to answer customer’s questions is just flat asinine. I mean, I just can’t even, with this one. Who starts a craft business and thinks that nobody, ever, at any time, will ask them a question? That’s… just… what… I can’t even. Those people probably shouldn’t have opened a shop in the first place. It’s not like a handmade craft business is some dropshiping site for batteries or something. People are going to want to talk to you. That’s part of making things by hand; people want a connection. What the a;dlfja;sldfjkla;sdlfj.

The USPS shutting down in a few months was totally not on my radar. So, thanks for that one! I mean, I could maybe get away with shipping just UPS and FedEx, maybe bringing in DHL or some other lesser-known transport company. Who knows, by June, maybe Jeff Bezos will have bought the United States Postal Service and it’ll go forward being known only as United Amazon Shipping Service. Sigh. Overall, these comments didn’t do anything except make me worry about something I wasn’t even thinking about before. So thanks a pantsload, Etsy.

All of this makes me think that I’m not going to find an answer off-site; I’m going to have to come up with the answer myself, no matter what other people are doing.

So let me answer some of my own questions.

So. Do I touch everything I make? Yes; yes I do. Because I make things by hand. Most likely, hopefully, that’s even what drew you towards me. I make things by hand, and you use the things I make (since mostly what I make are functional pieces)… and through that, we have a connection. Do you want to be reminded about that? Again, hopefully, that sense of connection to you and to me and to the handmaking process and to all the people who have come before who have made things… that sense of connection is what you want. Not what you fear.

Am I following CDC guidelines at work? Well; ok. So. There’s a joke going around the ceramics world right now that says “Ceramic Artists: washing our hands every twenty minutes since (insert year you started working with ceramics)”. Hahah! Thank you, I’ll be here all week!

But really though; a lot of the CDC guidelines aren’t applicable to me. I work alone so there’s no issue about 6’ between me and a coworker (I’m really trying to not put in something funny here, about my cats being coworkers or supervisors). I already work at home. I already wash my hands about 30 times a day. Of course I would send myself home if I started feeling sick, but paid sick leave for two weeks? Uhm, can I just vaguely say that I would pay myself the same that I get paid when I am working? *side eye*

So. What are the other recommendations? Well, I do have some masks that I got for when I’m dyeing yarn, but if I don’t work with anyone else and I never go anywhere, do I have to wear one at work? And gloves? I have some latex gloves, also for dyeing yarn, but again, I work at home and have no one else in my studio, so…. ??? It’s also heckin’ hard to work with clay while wearing gloves. Cleaning? I already clean up after dyeing yarn and after making soap, with bleach… but a lot of the rest of the studio is full of clay dust a lot. So, I’m cleaning, but I was cleaning before this, so….??? And I’m providing protection for myself but it’s the same protection I provided myself before this, so…???

But here’s a thing; I’m under 60, but I have asthma and kidney disease (well, one kidney, and while Lefty’s a champ, they do classify me as having kidney disease). So I fall under the blanket of people who should stay home and should social distance as much as possible. So if I get sick…? First, that’s going to be really bad luck because I hardly ever go anywhere or see anyone. Second, I’m going to quit working and lay in bed for a week, because with the asthma, a virus that settles in the lungs are gonna kick my butt. I won’t want to work because I’ll be exhausted, and I also won’t want to work because I won’t want to touch anything that I’d be sending to someone. I’m not an animal. I wouldn’t deliberately infect someone if I knew I was infected, and I would do my best to not accidentally infect someone by putting myself in a position to get infected. If I get it, I temporarily close my shop so that I’m not touching or making anything that someone else might wind up with.

Why should I trust/believe you? That’s a good question. I’m pretty up-front; if I’m thinking it, I’m showing it, and if I’m telling it, that’s what it is. *shrugs* I could sit here and tell you how honest I am, but I feel like the more someone says that the more it sounds like they’re covering something up. So let’s just say that I’ve laid it all out here but if you need to ask me some more questions, go ahead! Anything that helps you get rid of doubt.

Should I post a Covid-19 policy on the HaldeCraft website? Ugh. I still don’t know. When I first started talking about it I was like “maybe I’ll just write a blog post about trying to write a policy”… Now here I am, thousands of words later. Ain’t nobody gonna read this if they’re just looking to see if I wash my hands.

Am I essential? This is one of those existential questions that makes my mind spiral off. I don’t usually feel essential. I feel like one of those people who is mostly tolerated by the cooler kids but next week they will not remember my name. But check this out – according to the Governor of Florida, I’m essential. Why? Because under the list of essential businesses that can stay open? “gg. Any business that is interacting with customers solely through electronic or telephonic means, and delivering products via mailing, shipping, or delivery services” … Huh. So all of these Etsy sellers saying they should close their stores because they’re non-essential, if their State’s Shelter in Place Policy is similar, they could also fall under the “essential” umbrella. I feel a little sorry for the people who decide to close when they didn’t have to, and maybe are never able to reopen their shops.

Almost 2000 words later (and probably 2000 words I should have been writing in my chapter for Patreon) and I’m not really any closer to where I was.

But also… if I did close my shop, what would I do? I would probably continue to make things, continue to worry about things, but I wouldn’t get paid for either. That’s just dumb. I wish rocking back and forth under your desk while chewing on your hair and whispering to yourself paid well! Until it does, though, I’ll keep making mugs and soap and yarn and filling each molecule of what I make with love.