Tag: pandemic

Resistence is Futile

But in the end, it doesn’t matter. I don’t think anything I did would have necessarily changed anything. I’m hearing stories like mine everywhere (even the Vice President is similarly struck). I think this variant is just super-contagious and gets around barriers.

This illness does not mess around and we don’t know what the long term effects are. I’m so bummed out that, after over 2 years of assiduously avoiding it, I got sick.

Covid Tales – Coming Out the Other Side

I am about a week and a half into it and yesterday I tested negative for the first time since April 22nd. My energy level is nonexistant. The headaches come and go making focus very difficult.

I have patches where I feel pretty good and then immediately feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I need a nap after every meeting. Work is extremely taxing.

I am scared of long covid. It’s exhausting to have been so careful. Trying to make the best decisions we could and to still end up sick. We’ve avoided large gatherings. We don’t go out. I work from home and rarely leave the house. My wife works with a population that is already suspectible and maintains extreme because getting sick for her and interacting with folks she works with could easily mean death.

After going nowhere, doing nothing and generally trying to be a bubble of health in a county with nearly 90% vaccination rate and 95% partially vaccinated populace. We left that bubble and took a weekend trip and returned with Covid. Even on the trip we masked, we stayed in an isolated cabin. We were around enough people while eating and outdoors that it could have come from anywhere.

I know more people who have been cautious that have ended up sick recently. Anecdotally, I know more people who are sick now that have avoided it for the past two years. Maybe it’s simply a numbers game. We made it through the first waves and finally one found its way in. Or the new variants, aided by removal of restrictions, and two years of incubation, has gotten better at infecting people

For the first time in my life I took an entire week off work and could have easily taken another week (or two?) off to recover. And if I lived in a civilized country I might have had that option. we have no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave. 

I think about this a lot.

It’s a lot to put on a cabin

Work has always been frantic. The pandemic kicked everything into hyper speed. I spent all of 2020 keeping my head above water. Tracking Zoom changes as it grew and changed by the second. Webex plodded along but even they kicked things into gear eventually.

It was a frantic year. Trying to manager web conferencing platform integrations and starting a brand new job all at once. I came out of that year exhausted.

2021 wasn’t much better. The priorities changed. We had sunk into a new march forward. Ever forward. But it felt familiar. There were moments of hope. Like sunlight kissing a branch during golden hour before plunging once against into darkness until the new morning.

That’s a dark stage set for how my brain has been working. It’s full. My RAM is full and I’m having to use swap space. It’s slowing everything down.

Keep it all in memory

I don't really know how to describe this so it makes sense. But here goes…

I look at problems holistically. I look at the problem and not only the way forward. But as many ways forward as I can see that aren’t immediate dead ends. I look at those branching choices and look for threats and road blocks and wolves along my forest path.

I try to think not only of the next problem and how to solve it but the next problem and solution pairing after that. I don’t want to walk into a peaceful mountain pass instead of climbing over if there’s an army waiting for me in the pass. I’d rather pick the harder route at first than deal with an insurmountable problem around the next turn.

Because this is how my brain works, taking on a big project is like loading all of this up into my head. I’m looking at the problem and all the ways it can go wrong and trying to find the best path toward.

There will never be a perfect path. But one that doesn’t lead to immediate failure or insurmountable problems because we leapt before we looked.

This is fine when I’m able to focus on the problem at hand and map out a way forward and what other decisions need to be made. What other people I need to consult and what decisions we need to make now, or at least consider, before racing forward.

But this is not how the world works. Nor is it how work is done. Work is an ever-increasing set of context shifts and priority sliding. Walking the well-lit path becomes shifting sands of uncertainty when there’s a sudden detour thrown in the way.

When instead of working the plan I’ve made, it’s time to put that away and run in a new, unmapped direction. It’s exhausting. I can’t just turn off my brain and run into the unknown hoping for the best.

Before I move forward, I need a path. I’m going to pick the best path but I still want answers for what we find up ahead. During the day, I’m very happy to live in my project and work on the many, many many moving parts and looking ahead at decision points and who needs to be involved.

But that’s rarely how my days go.

Many days it’s Big Project work.
Then fire fighting.
Back to Big Proj—- FIRE!
Meeting.
Meeting.
Reviewing notes from the meetings.
Surprise Meeting!
Email.
Instant Messages AHOY!
invent time travel because it can’t possibly be only 11:30am

At the end of the work day, it’s hard to clear the cache I’ve loaded into my head. I find it challenging to turn my thoughts to other things. To let go of the problems I’ve loaded up and been thinking through.

Relaxing is hard.

Unwinding is hard.

Even when I do eat properly and take breaks away from my desk, by the end of the day I feel exhausted. I don’t know how to be a person outside of work. All I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for a month.

I know I am burned out. The Pandemic is about to start its junior year. I know I powered through all of 2020 and most of 2021 and I am rightly paying for that now. I know why I feel the way I do. I don’t know how to, not even fix it, because this isn’t fixable with a long weekend. But how do I start to mend? How do I nurse my sore legs and aching feet when I’m still running on the treadmill? How do I find space for self-care? If I’m too exhausted to think about how to take care of myself… how do I start to find ways to feel better?

I fantasize about going to a cabin in the woods with a pile of books for a month. Then emerging as some sort of human being. My wife’s response when I said that stays with me: “that’s a lot of pressure to put on a cabin.”

Zombie theory of the COVID World

In the course of making small talk tonight I mentioned my zombie approach to Covid.

I love a good zombie movie and I look at other people I don’t know as zombies. They’re walking through the world and they may be infected.

Zombies

They’re infected. They know they’re infected and they’re doing their best to infect others. Maskless. Unvaccinated. Going about their lives like nothing has changed.

The Unturned

They might be bitten and waiting to turn while trying to convince themselves they’re ok. Meanwhile surrounding themselves with other who may get hurt when they do.

Survivors

They’re perfectly ok and trying to navigate the infected works and trying not to get bitten. Or put themselves in situations to get bitten.

It’s exhausting. Trying to remain uninfected in a world filled with Zombies, the Unturned and Survivors.

Who’s afraid of the Four Day Work Week?

Here’s an enchanting idea. Being able to go to places open the same hours as I work. Being able to make appointments during weekdays. Not always trying to manage the rest of my life around the time I spend yelling at computers and bending them too my will.

If you’re a “full-time” employee, your work week is likely five days (if not more), and spans 40 hours (if not more). You might be paid by the hour, or you might be on salary, but you probably have two days “officially” off every week (although work might slide into those days) and they probably land on Saturday and Sunday.

Now imagine that your salary and benefits stayed the same, your responsibilities at work stayed the same, but everyone at your company only worked four days a week. Think about your current life, and the current make-up of your week, and what you usually have to smush into the weekend. What would you do with extra day off, every week of the year, for the rest of your working life?

Who’s Afraid of the Four Day Work Week? – by Anne Helen Petersen – Culture Study

When you have time away from work, you’re able to refresh yourself and return to work with renewed vigor and focus. I work in a white collar industry that involves computers all over the place. My job isn’t physical. I’m not moving, lifting, running, or carrying things around. Thought that can absolutely be part of a computer job. Technical Support isn’t just 1s and 0s.

My job is mental. It’s keeping systems and information flows in my head. It’s remembering how different variables work together within a greater system to perform tasks. It’s knowing where the limits exist. And a simple Yes/No answer could be the result of an hour of work researching and testing.

Time away from work to unwind my brain and let is breathe and focus on other things is vital to my performance. I dive deeply into hobbies because I need the break. I need the time to unwind and unstressed and build up reserves for another five days of 8 (or more) hour days diving into complex problems and stuffing flowcharts, settings, variables and options back into my head.

Findings from Iceland support this. I didn’t read the full report (PDF) but the same answer appears whenever experiments like this take place.

Worn down by long hours spent at work, the Icelandic workforce is often fatigued, which takes a toll on its productivity. In a vicious circle, this lower productivity ends up necessitating longer working days to ‘make up’ the lost output, lowering ‘per-hour productivity’ even further.

Sound familiar? Replace Icelandic in this sentence with United States and the same applies.

And we don’t even have any of the following (emphasis mine):

But if you don’t have time for an 82-page report, the highlights are as follows: Iceland has a strong social safety net, with low income inequality, significant parental leave, and a robust universal health care.

How many weeks have you really only worked four days? Slow Monday. Taking it easy from a rough weekend. Friday hits and you’re so exhausted you coast through the day counting the hours until the salvation of a too-short weekend arrives.

This is the principle at the heart of the four day week: working less can actually mean working better. That idea is particularly difficult for Americans, who fetishize long hours for many ideologically tangled reasons, to understand. It’s true in knowledge work, it’s true in medical fields, it’s true in construction. You’re just a better worker — a safer worker, a more creative worker, a more astute and alert worker — when you’re not exhausted.

There’s so much in this article to unpack. But it’s time to start thinking about how we work and why we work like we do. Work has expanded through technology to reach into your homes, vacations and every moment of our lives. Long commutes take more and more of our personal time out of our hands and place them into the realm of working hours. But aren’t counted as such.

As a society, we’ve repeatedly shifted our understanding of the “standard” work week. We’ve shifted — through union force, through governmental edict, through business leadership — when it’s made sense. When the work could be done in fewer hours, when employees demanded it for their own health, when societies realized the way things are doesn’t have to be the way things will be. And now is one of those times.

Anne Helen Petersen has quickly become one of my favorite writers and Who’s Afraid of the Four Day Work Week? is this week’s reason to keep loving her work.

Snapshots from solo pandemic life

Anne Helen Petersen‘s collection of stories from those riding out the pandemic solo is equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming. I find myself quoting “a closed door is a happy door” often. As it sums up my general need for solitude and my low-risk pandemic outlook. I refer to going out into the world like walking through a zombie outbreak. Only you don’t know which people are the infected and which are harmless.

There’s honesty in solitude and honesty in the stories shared.

what it means to pandemic, solo

But I love that literally nobody sees what I do with my days. If I want to wear the same sweatpants for a week and not bathe — fine! If I want to sing made up songs about the nephritic vs. nephrotic syndromes in a fake opera singer voice while I study — it’s fine! At one point when I was really isolated I was wearing a lot of costumey thrift store finds, like fake fur vests and rose gold sequin hot pants, usually paired with t shirts or scrubs or something because fuck it, why not, and the pandemic has really let me be my weirdest, most authentic, and sometimes most joyful self.

The intensity of my isolation has made me really re-think what I want out of life, especially as I plan to graduate from med school in a year and a half and have make some life-altering decisions about residency programs. In the beginning of the pandemic, I started doing regular zoom calls with a very close group of friends I’ve had for a long time, and those weekly calls have been the biggest thing getting me through these times: close, reliable friendships are hard to come by in your 30s, and they’re such a lifeline for single people. My goal is to only apply for residency programs in areas where I already have at least one good local friend, even if it means not applying to programs that are otherwise prestigious/interesting/good fits. I just don’t want to take my friendships for granted anymore, and assume that I can move to a new city and some kind of a community will just quickly fall into place?


I have always thought fondly of the times that I had lived alone and remembered them as fun times where I got to be completely in control of my life. I didn’t have to consider anyone else’s feelings about any choices I made in my home. Back in the good old days when I didn’t have to put up my boyfriend’s custom Star Wars art or find a way to artfully display his Funko Pop collection. And I could sit around watching TV all day without someone asking me what I want to do today (This, man! This is what I want to do today!)

I am too scared of COVID to start dating yet, because I am just too paranoid about sharing space with someone new. I am no longer able to work remotely, so I feel like the risk I put myself in just going to work is enough for me right now. The thing I didn’t really expect was how much I miss being touched, and not even in a sexual way. I am not lonely, per se. I don’t need someone around me all the time, but I miss just getting hugs from my sister, my niece, my friends, even my crazy mom. I miss being able to see my friends and hang out with them, and I hate that I can’t go out and try to make new friends yet.

But more and more people are coming to the realization that living alone doesn’t mean that you’re lonely. Living with someone and being unhappy is a much worse kind of loneliness than living alone.


I hug trees–full on squeeze for at least five seconds HUG. The lack of physical contact is devastating, especially as someone who was nicknamed “the velcro baby” growing up due to my love of hugs. There’s also this looming sense that I’m royally screwed if I get seriously sick.

I see this time as an edge case of the soul. I had a sabbatical from work last year where I was able to fully immerse myself in who I was without work and now I feel like I’m having a forced sabbatical from other parts of my soul. Who am I when I’m not productive? How do I love people when I can’t see them?

I have been able to embrace rest and boredom in a way I never have and want to see that integrated into my existence. Prior to this, I was already in the process of creating “little homes” on my nomading adventures in various spots across the country. More than anything, though, I truly hope this collective trauma wakes others up to the importance of community building especially when it’s messy, hard, and inconvenient. Trauma in my life taught me that everything can change in an instant, and my hope is that more people will carry that nugget of truth into our future. The key is letting yourself be changed and in discerning what needs to be done differently going forward: trauma informed vs trauma driven.

I worry the magic and momentum coming out of this period of suffering can be lost in our desperate desire to return to a normalcy that was a delusion anyway. Perhaps this shared trauma point can be used as a connection point, too — and I hope more people join in on doing the hard work, opting for messy humanity over virtual echo chambers.


I did notice some Sunday evenings I would feel sad and at loose ends, I ascribed that to "oh the workweek is beginning" but it might also have been a loneliness thing? I just really miss the casual interactions. Someone who wrote an essay about being introvert in the pandemic noted that for a lot of us, the little interactions — like talking to someone working the counter at the bookstore, or chatting with the barista in the coffeeshop — were far more important to us than we realized, and wow, do I ever feel that right now. I miss talking with a student in the hall, and going to the quilt shop and hanging out and talking with people there. A woman I had only known online through Ravelry started up a Zoom knitting group where we can drop in and talk and knit, and it’s been a lifesaver for me, and something that would probably not have occurred to any of us otherwise.

But I don’t have anyone to bounce thoughts off of so they loom larger and worse in my head.

We are not "all in this together." I have seen references, not blatant but still I picked up on it, that "the nuclear family you are part of is all you need and forget those other people.” While I’ve always felt a bit on the “outside looking in” in my life, it’s gotten worse. I’ve lost more than a few people during this time: people who died, but also some I just had to break contact with because of their attitudes about various things, especially the virus. I’m fearful that after the pandemic is over I won’t be able to cobble a support net back together — that people will close down and not want to admit others.

I also want to feel more free to just go and do things. Less tied to my job, less "you must get ALL your work done before you can have fun.” I didn’t take advantages of opportunities to enjoy life in the past, and after a year locked in my house thinking about the people I loved who died — well, I’ve stared into that abyss enough.


There’s so much that I miss! I miss flirting with bartenders! I miss watching football at my friend’s house. The last time I touched another human was a somewhat ill-advised birthday hug with a friend in late May. Literally, that was it. I haven’t so much as brushed someone else’s hand since then. The complete lack of human contact is …depressing.

But there’s nobody to get on my nerves, nobody to get sick of. I have so many friends who have vented about how stressful quarantine has been on their relationships. My best friend also lives alone, and we have discussed, more than once, how very happy and lucky we feel to be living alone right now. I’ve also been fortunate enough to keep my job and now I’m able to do it from home. I’ve always wanted to work from home, and do not take for granted that I am getting so much quality time with my very old dog in his last stage of life.

When this is all over, I’m definitely never taking a hug for granted again.