March 5, 2021 Edition

Has the grind of work ever gotten ya down? This week and last week have been two of the most intensive work weeks I’ve had in a long time, the consummation of almost of year’s worth of Zoom fatigue, everyone forgetting the “grace” we promised each other in these pandemic times, and stupid, stupid reports, meetings, and emails all coalescing into a toxic blob that has eaten me with b-movie fervor. Since I got hit with a stress-induced stomach debacle that laid me out flat for the last three days, my memory is a blur of youtube videos on only for white noise, saltine crackers, and remnants of dog walks that suggest I did manage to get June outside as nature called but with no living memory of that activity. So my round-up is a reflection on the conditions that are snowing me under.

Let’s dissect that disaster that was last-week shall we?

question 1: Who moved my cheese?

One of the things I’ve been tracking in pandemic times is the fraying ability of type-A crazy people, many of whom run organizations because of that trait, to handle change. I always follow the introduction of myself as a sociologist with the statement, “I like to live in reality.” It’s true. You can’t study sociology and not accept what is real, presenting itself to you in the here and now. Yes, it’s ugly and often harsh. I prefer to live on those terms. And it also means that I’m acutely aware of, and have made my peace with, 1) micro-changes in the social sphere and 2) ominous conclusions about life that trends often suggest such as: the pandemic has irrevocably changed the way life is going to be moving forward.

Many people, especially those “in charge” of something can choose to live in a reality of their own making and thus, when their cheese gets moved, believe it’s completely their right to act in a manner that experts might call, “bat-shit crazy.” I have no sympathy here, probably because these are people of privilege: first, they’re a “boss” which means they have more resources and more power than most people, generally speaking; second, they can control the circumstances of day-to-day life for many people; third, YOU ASKED TO BE THE BOSS, NO ONE FORCED YOU TO TAKE THIS JOB; fourth, who told you your cheese would never be moved? Grow up.

So, of course, what has happened as is wont to happen with these type-A stress shows is a clamping down on reality in the hopes of controlling or stopping the change brought on by the work-at-home reality. Can’t see employees at desks everyday? Let’s have 40 more meetings a week. On soul-sucking Zoom. (Remember when we were amazed by that technology?) Can’t prove people are chained to a task for 8-hours everyday? Let’s ask them to submit more reports with more pages and spacing and word-count requirements. Can’t handle my own panic in a way that makes me feel superior? Let’s get nit-picky with the staff and cause them to panic. Feel powerless in my own life because I’m now questioning my own capacity in this job? Let’s hijack meetings and belligerently thrust my opinion out as truth in any forum that grants me the floor and wear people down with my incoherent doggedness.

I’ve seen all of these happen in the town and network in which I work and it’s a disgusting show of what leadership lacks there. (Note: I am not referring to my own boss or office culture, thank you Jesus. However, this culture does affect me as it did this week). Bosses: we’ve all been at home for 12 months now. Time to come back to humanity and get a grip, thanks.

question 2: What happened to “give everyone grace”?

Right about at the mid-point of working from home, a conversation about “granting grace” gained momentum as people were, frankly, getting snippy by email. I saw leaders of institutions big and small extol this virtue. I’m Roman Catholic, so I’m already in on the “grace” discussion regularly…typically we ask for grace and not grant it. Who do you think you are? But, that aside, the idea is good…I really think what we’re granting here is space. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Give people a little extra room. Don’t ask “who moved my cheese” so often. You know, act like a human. I was really for this and I still am, the problem is we seem to have abandoned that idea starting this week.

I suspect there are two problems. One, I already mentioned above: people in power are going stir-crazy and “want to get back to normal.” Talk about a signal for who was benefiting from “normal” (hint: NOT. ME). Whoever previously benefitted from The System working are sitting on the strugglebus now. Welcome to reality. The other problem, though, is that those same people, bosses, whomever, are inclined to assume we’re eventually going back to that place so, in the middle of still pandemic conditions, they’ve decided to throw the grace engines in reverse and now double-down on “getting results” or, at the very least, “proving we’re doing something.” Hint: I suspect not all agencies that existed pre-pandemic are going to prove SO IMPORTANT in these after years. No manner of stamping on the gas peddle and forcing everyone to walk up an impossible mountain is going to prove we need swimming lessons for dogs or whatever other kind of stupid shit your non-profit does. It’s going to be about homelessness, hunger, and jobs/school from here on out. Again, a hard truth. Don’t worry, I’ll give you grace while you catch up.

question 3: what the fuck is wrong with Texas?

As previously noted, people who have power are going crazy and making the lives of the rest of us miserable at work (if we’re lucky enough to have it) or just in general, otherwise, as is the case with Texas. I suppose this could apply to other states that lifted mask mandates and reopened business at 100% capacity one day after the CDC announced the COVID-19 morbidity and mortality curve is starting to go in the right direction but, I think what with Ted Cruz, the electric-grid run by Ayn Rand-spouting privateers, and Dallas…just Dallas, Texas is the perfect example of taking stress to the next level.

In any given week in a normal, non-pandemic, non-attempted-presidential-coup year, I don’t think about Texas. I live in Chicago. I don’t need to think about Texas. But now that we have a hyper-spreading, hyper-varying contagious, fatal disease spreading through air we all breathe, the fact is I have to think about Texas because what they’re spreading down there is going to come here and kill my well-meaning, flat-voweled, god-fearing family. And the fact that their leadership is so collectively stupid, criminal, and condescending ratchets up the stress of this week…because it promises this reality will be prolonged. And there seems to be no accountability. Ever. Ted Cruz tries to overthrow the US government, then goes home during a fatal freeze brought on by climate change he denies to gather his beach gear to head to Mexico, a land of people he clearly hates, to go on vacation. AND HE LEAVES HIS DOG HOME ALONE. Who do we speak to about this?

For every week and day that careless politicians let people suffer that they obviously could care less about, the entire country will have a week like mine. And they’ll also die.

This is a weird, unparalleled time in US history. We’re about to have a huge stock market crash. There is already more unemployment, more debt, more hunger than any other time in history. Who moved our cheese at work isn’t going to matter much anymore because some of us who have lived with stable income and resources our whole lives will soon not have those. Things will get worse before they get better. But, it doesn’t have to be that way if we can learn to pivot.

Those who already know how, get your leader britches on. Our current leaders aren’t tooled for the task. You’re on deck.

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