Tolerating uncertainty

I’ve been working from home since Monday, thanks to the coronavirus. Like many workplaces, we switched to remote working to be on the safe side.

I’m fortunate to work in the software industry — it is still functioning, and thanks to my home Internet connection I can do every aspect of my job from home. I don’t enjoy working from home, but it keeps the paychecks rolling in. Not everyone is so fortunate. I spoke with my boss this morning. He has a close relative who works as a server in a restaurant. So does her boyfriend. Neither of them is working now and the rent will soon come due.

That’s not to say my job is protected against what may come. The product we make is a Web site and mobile app that everyday people use. Their daily consumption of our product directly drives our revenue. It remains to be seen whether the current world conditions change our users’ behavior and have a negative effect on our bottom line. I’m sure we can tolerate some loss for some while, but at some point declining revenue would affect the company’s ability to employ everyone.

My wife works in retail and it is a matter of days, we’re sure, before her store closes. If we tighten our belts we will be okay.

In this crazy era where it’s hard to know which news sources to trust, I hear widely differing projections on how long this will last. I’m choosing not to believe any of them. I’ll just take this day to day. Yet I’m mindful that this could go on for a long while and, if it does, it will have deep and far-reaching impacts.

I’m focusing on two things: first, living as normal of a life as possible; and second, maintaining my composure.

There’s stress in working from home, in finding the grocery store perpetually out of ground beef and toilet paper, in not being able to go out on a date with my wife. (We had theater tickets for Saturday; the production closed thanks to the virus.) These are all little stresses, but they do add up. Fortunately, so far these little stresses have come with little benefits. We’re having more dinners together as a family, we’re spending less on food because we’re not eating out, and I’ve got an hour back in each weekday because I’m not commuting. So I’m just trying to remain open to what each day brings and enjoy what I can in it.

There’s also stress in worrying about the future. I’m attached to a vision of my family’s future that, if the worst projections come true, will change unpredictably. I’m trying to suspend that attachment and be open to new and unexpected outcomes. Hopefully that’ll let me sleep at night.

Sunnier days are surely ahead

21 thoughts on “Tolerating uncertainty

  1. I am fortunate that the world that surrounds insurance claims and the law suits they beget is fairly insulated from the woes of many other fields. After starting a new office last fall I am back working at home, but not much else has changed.

    My thought this morning is that I could be living the introvert’s dream. As long as we have toilet paper in the closet and meat in the freezer (and an internet connection) I could go like this for years. My Mrs, however, sees things very differently.

  2. analogphotobug says:

    Working in the Tech industry (satellite imagery processor) and able to work from home also. I am making the effort to contact 2-3 people per day, and signed up to have a Church Partner. to regularly communicate with. That is what life’s all about nowadays……..

  3. I keep thinking about Mark 16:18 “They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” But faith is something that doesn’t come that easily to me, especially in times like these. And right now there is a real pervading sense of lack, which is largely invented. The truth is, stores still restock on a daily basis and we’re not going to run out of anything. It’s good to have things set aside but the people going into panic buying mode have made the situation exponentially worse.

    As far as my situation, it’s probably not too good, working in the tourist industry, as we were working up to Summer. Thankfully I was earning a lot of money during Texas Spring Break so I had one good paycheck and just got my tax refund check as well. I have no idea what the future holds and whether or not I will be able to go back to work in a few days or whether it’ll be months; I’ve already started looking into essential jobs like delivery/warehouses but the opportunities in my immediate area aren’t numerous. I don’t know what the solution is.

  4. Jim, your thoughts are shared by many others. “one step at a time” changes are ahead of us but not all will be bad. Dump as many negative thoughts as possible and concentrate on the positives. Just take care of yourselves. From another self isolating person.


  5. I’m a born worrier. I’m worried about my friends and family. I’m worried about wider society. I’m worried about my job in the aviation industry. But like you I’m taking things one day at a time. And somehow I’m surprised to find myself relatively calm. Perhaps the unreality of everything is just too much to absorb?

    I’m pretty much locked down alone in the house for the foreseeable future, other than going to the supermarket and taking daily walks and runs. I will see my girlfriend and the dogs at the weekends though. And I do intend to keep getting out to take photos, at least in secluded places and as long as I’m not showing any symptoms.

    People’s humour on the internet has been a wonderful thing and is keeping me going! And although when it comes to blogs, most of the ones I follow are photography related, I hope people will share their updates and experiences.

    I hope all goes well for you Jim. I do appreciate your daily posts, especially at a time like this.

    • I’m a born worrier too. It is really annoying! Awake at 3 am, worrying about things that if I could control them I sure as hell can’t control them at 3 am: “Shut up brain! Shut up!”

      A snowstorm stranded me at home for a week once, six years ago. I lived alone then. I was a little stir crazy by the end.

      Now I live with 4 other people, Margaret and 3 of her kids. At least there’s company. Margaret and I took a 2-mile walk over lunch today.

      I, too, hope all of my blogging friends share their experience through this!

      Be well!

  6. Darts and Letters says:

    This is such a graceful yet simple account of facing personal uncertainty in these strange times that I find myself both reassured and humbled. I’ve found it extraordinarily difficult to express anything in my own journal/blog about the pandemic other than oblique references to day-to day stuff. I think it’s because I’m so afraid of trivializing my experiences, fears, and hopes about how this is going to go……along with those of others. Reading something like this steels me up. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. As someone with chronic anxiety and for whom being outdoors in nature is therapy the current situation is a living nightmare. I’ve worked from home for almost two years but I always took breaks to meet a friend’s for lunch or walk around the neighbourhood. This will not be a short two week situation. This is going to be almost a year. I don’t think I’ll make it.

    • I’m sorry, Khürt, that this is what you face. Are you truly prevented where you are from taking solitary walks? We are not here, yet, and so I’m doing that.

  8. Laurie says:

    Jim I like the idea of going day by day. I am also a worrier by nature and this has been difficult for me to try to not obsess over. I am currently unemployed and about to start looking for work, of course now I don’t have an idea what will happen. My husband is still working and I have been selling online (which at this point is still going okay). For me this took a turn on Friday when my younger brother passed away suddenly from a heart attack. He was my person to talk to about things like this, even more than my husband as our personalities were so similar. So that added into the unreality of the world situation right is going to make concentrating on just taking it day to day difficult. But I’m going to try. I wish good health to you and all of your blog followers here, all we can do is trust that God is still completely in control and we will get through this.

    • Laurie, I’m very sorry you lost your brother so suddenly. It certainly makes this difficult time even more difficult. It’s my hope that all of us bloggers can share appropriately about our experience in isolation and we will all feel less alone and more capable of coping as a result.

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