business, life lessons

STARTING AND STOPPING

At the beginning of Covid, March 15th to be precise, and also my birthday, I made a list. I am a perpetual list maker, a story board creator, a sticky note addict, writing endless plans of what I need to do, want to do. All part of the creative process, I tell myself. To do lists and life plans and organizational charts, brain dumps, then reorganizations of all of the lists when I realize that this lists I have poured my heart out in creating for the future me have sat there waiting for that very future me.

List making is an active process. My personal theory of list making is to get out all of the endless brain jumble on to some magic space under the illusion that I am in my highest state of creative fire.

This is a truth. When I am in that space where all things — everything, all thoughts, diagrams, ideas, are mysterious possibilities waiting for the magic wand to work that is my process, there is a momentum that takes hold of me that is a force like no other.

Once I get it all out and my walls are covered with bright neon sticky notes, labeled with matching sharpie colors, I walk away. It is like the serenity of the bed time ritual when you have washed up, changed clothes, and that first slide into those clean sheets you washed that day. There is a calm that washes over me when I go through this experience of pure fiery creation and it reminds me that if and when I set my mind to something, results happen.

This process has worked for me for most of my life. Many sticky notes sit there in wait, screaming, Pick me pick me! hoping they will be the chosen ones for the next big project. More times than not though, most just stay put, right where they are. But two or three that do come to fruition become the magic bullets that take my ideas to super strength action.

For an entrepreneur, this is one of the high points. Creation. Design. Having the idea and then marching forth or sprinting towards. The energy of the experience is a fulfilling high that is unmatched in any other experience.
There is this funny meme going around with the title Coronacoaster, and it explains the absolute mayhem that this virus has created both on our outsides and in our insides. All true. Covid has activated me and many other business owners I know in a way that has taken my breath away.

I have experienced the deepest moments of connection with like minded women and have formed new friendships I never knew I needed as much as I do. I have released other friendships, not for any malice, but have found they just don’t offer as much connection as I have found myself needing at this time.

I have shifted the way I think about my business, my life, my future, my team, my ideas and frankly, my entire existence. Some foreign thoughts that have made their way into my brain have been sharp and painful ones of self loathing that I never saw coming. I have had the extreme experiences of heightened sensitivity to my surroundings and to the things people say or don’t say that made me feel like an eighth grader not getting invited to a sleepover.

At times, I haven’t recognized myself.

I have had surges of power and revelations that have felt like a tsunami. I have had moments of such deep connection with my soul that my eyes have become wet with joy at the realizations. And these thoughts and ideas are like fire crackers, short quick pulsing sounds, moments of quiet, big bangs, smoldering fire, ashes and rewind, repeat until there is silence. Just silence.

If I hear the word, unprecedented, one more fucking time…. BUT IT IS.

There are no handbooks or resources to hitch a ride on. We are all going though this unique and often simultaneously frightening and energizing time together as a world. We are experiencing it differently depending on pretty much everything. Socio economics for one, employee, employer, mother, father, child, grandparent.

Holy crap. It is a total mind fuck.

I started my pre-covid original list on a large sheet of poster board. It had the audacity, the cockiness even, to say as its title, “At the end of Covid, I will have accomplished….” (Insert cringing and laughing here). That there would actually be an “after covid” in itself seems absurd four months later, but at least then I had hope.

I seldom lose hope.

It is here that I wrote a list that even pre-covid would have been a set up to fail. I don’t even know where the fucking list is now. What I do know is what I didn’t accomplish like actually finishing the pile of books I have on my nightstand. And I hope I never find that original list because it will likely just add insult to injury at this point.

One amazing experience that has risen from the burning Covid flames is the three writing groups I have started. We write from prompts and share the work weekly, a salvation to say the least. I have a category in my collections of writings called, Covid Time. It contains all of the pieces I have started.

And there they sit. Like some of my lists. I have started over ten different pieces and stopped. Unfinished. Highly unusual for me. Previously, I had no challenge finishing my writings, but this experience has left my brain foggy and rumpled and somewhat demobilized.

I have moments of extreme clarity and other moments of such confusion and failure. Being a business owner during this time has added another layer of worry and concern. I have had to make decisions I never thought I would have to make. I am still making them and I will likely have to make more. As I make them, at the same time I have found myself crippled with the decisions. After all, how can these decisions not be taken personally? I am trying to save my company so there is a company for people to actually have employment at.

Many days I have just wanted to crawl back into bed and cancel out the noise. But I don’t. Because I embrace a good challenge, or maybe I am a glutton for punishment. I will prevail. My company will prevail. I know this. It is just the dark grey area I haven’t been able to define.

This shit is real and that feels as cliche as using the word unprecedented.

And sometimes I forget this. I am not the only one going through this experience as a business owner. I don’t know what the future holds for my type of business, the beauty business- the hands on in your literal face high touch super intimate experience that I have loved and promoted for my entire adult life.

There are extreme moments of hope and despair and back to hope in the same minute.

One of my beauty heroines, the one and only Estee Lauder has been quoted as saying,

“I never dreamed about success, I worked for it.”

Working is what I have done. Every business leader and entrepreneur I know works hard at success.

The difference between owning a company versus working for a company is that the dreams become calls to action. The screaming notes fighting for recognition, the endless to do lists, the reimagining of your brand to save your company during a global pandemic require such vast amounts of thinking and planning and reconsidering.

And I am exhausted. I don’t give up easily. But sometimes the stopping is just what the health and wellness of the fabric of my being scream for.

And that is not on the list.

Yet.

Beauty, business

FIGHTING FOR BEAUTY

Hair salons are not spas. Neither are nail salons. Nail salons are not hair salons either. The beauty business is usually in the bottom of the barrel when it comes to most conversation. That is until someone needs their hair colored or their eyebrows waxed. But now- during Covid- the beauty business and all of its economics- gets lumped into one big pile.

Comparatively speaking, hair salons are much easier to get up and running than a nail salon or a skin salon or spa. Taking the obvious impossibility of social distancing out of the equation, at least in a hair salon the hair stylists are standing up above the client, they can wear a mask or a shield, and so can the client. They can sort of wear gloves, maybe a little more difficult cutting hair than applying color, but compared to a spa, a much more adaptable predicament.

Nail salons are right in someone’s face, again though easier to wear a mask since there is no direct connection with the face. But here it is a little trickier since skin is flying, cuticles, nail dust and potential of blood is more likely. Same with pedicures, and the common denominator with hands and feet is that they are known for their harboring of germs. Sanitation isn’t often what the multitude of nail salons are known for and there is little policing of it before Covid. I shudder to think of how this will be policed during.

Then there are the spas. The skin studios. The businesses of skin beauty that are not medical. Medical falls into a different set of rules and regulations for monitoring best practices. Spas fall under beauty and, again, the regulations, though they try to be clear, most sanitation happens because of the good consciousness of the owners and the systems in place for running a strong operation.

There is also the obvious to me, but clearly not so obvious to the people deciding who will open when, and that is the physical aspect of getting a service, completely different from a haircut. Logistically it is easier to separate, often the services are in separated rooms, closed off from each other so this is a plus. But these rooms are often less than 8×10 and have more of a deliberate cocoon feeling on purpose for the intimacy these services provide. These services offer respite and care.

They offer intuitive touch, closeness and deep breathing. They are about great skin so this means, lots of massage and mask applications, hand to face connection that has now turned into hand to face combat like a war instead of the love they were set out to give.

They are about pore cleaning, yes with gloves, but blood is sometimes a possibility, they are about intimate bikini waxing, closer than this writing needs to write, but I am guessing you get the point. Again gloves are used, but then there is the disposing of all of this.

I think there are three E’S to consider.

Engagement. Environment. Economics.

The latter two are pretty obvious, but the rules of engagement make it impossible to perform the services that the spa business commands. The business we are known for. Touch. Intuition. Hugging. Hand shaking. Getting under blankets, changing into gowns, more sheets and towels than I care to think about, (well… how about $1500 a month for the sanitized linen service in case anyone was wondering).

At my business, and many other spa business owners this unfortunate pandemic has introduced me to, we have always done it the right way. Despite the fact that we are mostly under regulated, often barely mentioned in this world of Covid, but employ hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women.

Women who will find it difficult to return to work for all three of the E’s. Their kids are no longer in school and they are home, home schooling, they are rethinking their entire career choices wondering if they will ever get back to the business of beauty and touch they have loved for their careered lives.

And not so much when and how, but if they even want to. And yes. These are careers for these people, not a hobbies or silly playing store kinds of jobs.

The beauty business is a multi billion dollar business employing millions of people across the world. There are the makeup counters, the retail, the gyms and yoga studios that have saunas and steam rooms and whirlpool baths. There are the hotel spas, the small one room and the large twenty room spas. There are the franchises.

Are we doomed? No. But for the next two years as we slug our way out this mess, we have some serious grown up business decisions to make. Last night, I listened to Tiffani Faison, a multi location Boston restaurant owner and James Beard nominee. She was being interviewed by Jim Braude from Greater Boston and she was saying the exact same thing I have been saying.

If we are expected to operate at less than a certain level of productivity, we operate at a loss. Our business models rely on a certain amount of traffic. We, in the beauty business whether we like to admit it or not, sell time. The more time we sell, the better our businesses operate.

Selling a certain amount of time is what sustains our companies. Without this formula, it is impossible to work unless landlords want to drastically cut our rents in our high rent districts that afford us the opportunities to have the businesses we have. And they have to make a living too, they have their set of parameters that make their businesses of landlording run efficiently.

This is a conundrum. Reinvention is a possibility, but how? My landlord said to me recently, Alayne, you’re a fighter. He doesn’t have to tell me something I know deeply about myself.

But the unique question is not whether I am a fighter, but rather, do I want to fight?

I love my business, I enjoy my team immensely. Many business owners can’t say this, but I can. Sure, I realize that they are employees and I am the employer, but my team is my heart. I go to bed, just like I heard Tiffani say last night, thinking about what I am going to do, how am I going to operate and sustain their livelihood. And mine. Because without my livelihood, there is no livelihood.

I fight for my company, but I also fight for safety. We can’t possibly open under these conditions in the way that my business model and every spa owner I know operates in. I am not willing to take on boatloads of debt for a business that may or may not be a sustainable operation in the next two years just to reopen half ass.

Clients are all letting me know they can’t wait to come back, but what does that even mean? Will they? I don’t even know if my team will be able to come back, and it is not because of their stimulus checks. I am tired of hearing that this is the main problem with people not returning to work. My team has no childcare, they have to worry about their safety in a business of intimacy like no other.

I always said that the business of beauty was one of the mighty ones.

Liquor and Lipstick, the two businesses that historically thrive during a recession. My business has never steered me wrong, but this time, I am really not sure what type of business I am fighting for.

I myself have been getting pedicures, waxing, haircuts and facials since I was sixteen years old. That is forty years of beauty. My mother got me started with beauty early and I knew that this was my calling early on. For the past nine weeks I have missed at least eight beauty appointments that I would have had if not for Covid.

Oddly, I have managed. I am still alive. My toenails don’t look as bad as I thought they would, my long hair easily mends with a pony tail elastic. I miss my facials, but there is enough of my product to virtually learn an at home facial, not nearly the same, but it is good enough for now. Waxing is really the only thing I really need, but thankfully it is not short season so I have lived without this service too. (And for the amount of calories I have consumed on a daily basis, shorts will likely stay right where they are for quite some time anyway).

What I have found amazing is how much I have lived without. I have saved enormous amounts of money from not spending it on my beauty routine. And I was pretty simple before. So this leads me to think that as much as clients will want to return, will they return at the rate they did before?

The greatest thing about aging is that the fight is not based on ego anymore. Sometimes choosing to not fight is the person who wins.

We shall see.

Beauty, business, grief

LET’S FACE IT

Churning. This describes my brain. My stomach. My heart. I try to meditate. I meditate. I walk outside almost daily for fresh air and to keep my heart energized and calmed, a contradiction out of the gate. I attempt to workout with my variety of accoutrements, a Pelaton, a Nordic Track, weights, virtual workouts from my gym. 

I say (every night before I go to bed), tomorrow is Day 1. 

Day 1— again. 

It is so easy to plan for Day 1 the night before with a belly full of sugar and wine. 

But this is my pattern, when the times are the most stressful, the most chaotic, I decide to do some twenty eight day fitness challenge. 

I’m in a master mamma group with two powerhouse female business owners. One  said, with a frankness I have come to appreciate, “Alayne, why would you quit drinking in the midst of this disaster?” 

“This is just what I do.” I replied, so matter of factly, it almost sounded normal. When the times are at their most dismal, these are the times I decide to take on a brand new health challenge. 

I laugh aloud. If I didn’t, I would be sobbing aloud. 

Let’s face it. The beauty business, the business I have raised myself in, raised over fifty women in for the past thirty years will never be the same, or at least will not be the same for at least the next two years. 

And it is the next two years that are what concern me. I know that if I look at the after, everything will be back to a new normal, social distancing will likely be a thing of then, but it is the next two years that frighten me. 

My Providence landlord, who has unintentionally mentored me for the past eleven years, has given me at least three unsolicited pep talks. “Alayne, you are a fighter.” He says this with so much confidence that I have to remind myself, Yes. I am a fighter. Just being a small business owner equals auto fighter status. 

Every single day, we small business owners have to think in a way that employees don’t. We are mostly a group of control freaks that don’t know what to do when we are out of control. This is the work we do as leaders as we transition through the growth from playing store to grown up bad ass leaders.

And I wouldn’t change this for the world. I love being an entrepreneur. There are facets to this title that define my brain. Creative power, charitability, kindness, strength, linear thinking, leadership, direction, grooming, beauty, humanity, lifting, figuring shit out. Empathy. Seldom do we let our employees see our vulnerable sides. As entrepreneurs, it is our duty to keep our chins held high and to lead our troops, no matter how much of a sinking heart we may have.

This time, though- this time, we are amidst a global crisis. Together, with no clear direction. The how. The when. None of it is really obvious. And I, in turn, am part of the crisis rather than the head of the pack. Someone said to me yesterday that I am a leader in the industry. It is true that I have a big voice in my community and in my industry. 

But I am tired. 

Maybe if this was happening when I was thirty, I’d feel more of a passion to fight the battle and come out badder ass than ever, but I am fifty-five fucking years old. I have had enough battles already and I can’t see how this is going to be repairable in the short future. 

As I write that, I feel like I am letting my industry voice down, my team, my clients, but how much life coming at us can one business owner take? I wish I did, but I don’t. And this in itself is a revelation for me. It actually feels liberating and powerful to say aloud, I don’t fucking feel like figuring it out. 

Let’s face it, my beloved beauty business, the business of touch, the business we already have one of the best sanitation procedures in, will not be able to perform the way it did. My employees and I will be expected to reinvent our entire business model with no clear direction that when we do, it will even work. This is a traumatic event, and we haven’t even started to repair from, let alone grieve its loss. 

So I write. I write my heart out, my guts out. I share my thinking so that it leaves my body instead of taking up permanent residence and I feel better saying it aloud. 

Writing is therapy. Letting my brain relieve itself of its busy and constant yapping calms me immediately.  I feel better just admitting what I know many like- minded entrepreneurs are thinking. Recognizing that there is an elephant in the room that needs to be acknowledged is my superpower. Saying what people are fearing out loud is the quality I enjoy about myself when I get right down to what I really would miss if I was no longer. 

This is the crux of the problem I now recognize through this piece today. I don’t have a fear of not having my business, I have a fear of not getting to be the leader I have loved being. 

I have worn and grown into my leadership cape with every trial and tribulation that has come into my life and fought it with a fierceness to be reckoned with. I know now that what is surprising me the most is my lack of interest in the fight this time around. I am releasing the need to fight and instead just lying back waiting for the course correction I know is there, but I don’t want to be the one to have to make the decision. This has never been who I am, lying back in the wait and see. I am an action figure. Running to the trunk to get the cape before I even know that there is a fire to be put out. 

What I realize about the cape and all of its superpowers is sometimes not putting it on is a strength, just allowing it to stay in the closet or the padlocked trunk and not trying to figure out how to solve or fix a problem is the lesson. 

I don’t feel like redoing every single protocol, figuring out how to communicate this to every client so that they feel less afraid to walk into my business that is already clean and sanitized and safe. The cape is put away and after all of this sugar and wine partying, I am not even sure it would fit around my expanded girth. 

It has been seven weeks today that I closed my beloved company and I haven’t even grieved that loss yet. Though the money is what makes it function, it is about the integrity of everything I have worked for. It is about feeling a deep sense of responsibility to my team in thinking about how the hell am I going to afford to bring them back when we can’t operate the way we used to. It is about the loyalty I have to our clients who trust that we will figure out how to reopen and the pressure to do it “better than ever.” 

But then, like the magic that comes with the rewards of reinvention, I was invited to be a guest on some national calls to speak on this unintended reinvention. The beauty company, Gloskinbeauty I do business with, asked me to speak about my virtual beauty ideas and curbside product delivery. In the midst of the chaos, little golden nuggets come at me reminding me that what I am doing does make a difference.

Yesterday, after finally taking my head out of the sand and facing the inevitable budget I had been avoiding like the plague, (if only this was a pun), I came home to a hand delivered bag on my front porch. My account representative, from GloSkinBeauty, had driven from her home in Boston and delivered a fully stocked bag of homemade Italian goodies. 

Apparently, she hadn’t received the memo that yesterday was Day 1 and along with the homemade delights were two bottles of my favorite wine and a card that said, “You’re kindness made a difference.”

My kindness? Hardly. This changed my night. Made my heart sing and yes of course, Day One got bumped to Monday where all Day Ones happily reside.

As this essay works itself through me today, I feel better already and more hopeful.  I stopped writing for a brief moment to film my fox family that has taken residence in my backyard for the past seven weeks. I took a detour to my email and Facebook where I found lovely comments on a video I had posted from my team that made me remember that I have one, the strongest and most caring group of women who work for me and alongside of me for twenty years. 

As I checked my email, I came across a note from a client we have been taking care for our entire twenty years in business. Its simplicity and timing brought me back to my reality and out of the nightmare that closing my business has been. Sure, the product order itself is lovely, as I have said, we need money to make this business clock tick. But more important is the word TRUST and EFFORTS. 

Alayne,

How are you? I miss seeing you, and of course my other fav goddess, Jenna! Thank you for your continued efforts in promoting self-care during this time. I always trust your beauty feedback! I would love to place an order (your video was awesome). Could I purchase the Glo hydrating gel cleanser, Pro5, Super Serum, and toner (whichever you recommend for my 46 yr-old-skin)? And I would love to take a drive to Bristol whenever it’s ready 🌞. Talk to you soon 😘

With gratitude,

Catherin

There has never been a shortage of effort from me, and trust is how I have built my business, one client at a time. I realize now that the cape I own is not something that needs to be worn for people to have to visually see my strengths and goodness. After all this time in business, this is just something that my clients and my team know about me. This is what makes me get out of bed to face another day, cape or not. 

With gratitude, Catherine, indeed. 

business, Health, life lessons

THIS IS NOT A STAYCATION

Five weeks ago, while I was lounging comfortably on the white sands of Siesta Key visiting my beloved grandfather, my manager was sending me what seemed like moment to moment text messages about what was unfolding in her home country of France. I didn’t quite roll my eyes, but in full transparency, I thought she was being a bit dramatic and I am confident I said this to her. 

 This was the last week of February. 

Twelve days later, two of my favorite yoga studios close by voluntarily closing their businesses. My initial knee jerk thought was, are they overreacting? I didn’t say this aloud, but I thought it. It was the week of March 11th . My team was looking for me to make a decision. After much discussion, we decided to take on the role of a respite from the outside mayhem. 

We would sanitize, keep clients at reasonable distance, and clean clean clean. Clients needed us. They needed our business to wind down, to relieve stress from the outside world. We would be of service.  Just like we always were in times of grief and sadness of what was going on out there.

Meanwhile, my dear friend from Madrid, began giving me her daily updates. News of Italy dominated the news. We marched forth. After all, if it were really that bad, wouldn’t the leadership of our country or our state be giving more clear and concise direction? One week later, as my 55th birthday fast approached, three weeks ago today, I went out with my girlfriends to day drink to drink our woes away. The news in Europe was dismal. California and Washington State was showing signs of demise. So we did what we do, soothed our worries with some local faire. That night, I went out to dinner with some clients, then out again for some dancing and more drinking. After all it was my birthday weekend. 

On Saturday, I woke up with a terrible feeling that was more than too much wine. Information had changed overnight. It was March 14th. I reached out to my former breast surgeon who is also a great friend and asked her opinion. She forwarded me a letter written by a Boston doctor and I immediately did a 360 degree flip in my thinking. 

We needed to close. But it shoud have been in hind site.

This was not mandated by anyone. This was the decision of collective leadership. Searching for more information, listening to my team, and taking action with the most difficult business choice of my life. It is not easy to close your business not just because of the loss, but of the economics of each woman I employ. Heart wrenching. 

At the time, and it seems like a billion years ago now, we had decided to close for just two weeks. March 16th-March 28th. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the naivety of this with the now unfortunate wisdom of retrospect. I did a self imposed two week quarantine because of my Friday night shenanigans. I had already taken my son shopping for a two week supply of food, more because I wanted to spend time with him for my birthday weekend and since discussion of toilet paper shortages was starting to seep into our brainwaves, I did what most mothers I know would do- stock up. 

Little did I know that just three weeks later, we would be living in what seems like Armageddon. I have watched my business and every other business in my community close, but as I reflect back on the week we closed, when I started my personal mission to tell every beauty business I knew in the country to #stayhome, I am happy that I was ahead of the curve. I am even happier that I got my team of twenty out of harms way. I am glad we didn’t expose our thousands of clients and vice versa. We did our part as responsible business owners. 

Business ownership, when I first started, felt a bit like playing store. But with more and more experience, I realized the depth of seriousness business owning is. Money and economics are certainly a major part of owning your own business. This isn’t a hobby, but it has never been my personal driver.  If I really cared about this as my main priority, I would be a better money manager. I have just never been directed by this. But the fact of the matter is, in order for your business to work, you must have cash. Closing ceases this unless you can come up with something creative fast. 

 I saw the challenges we faced as a country in our struggles with the need for economics. I saw people in the service industry not make the decision because of money and because they chose a different business model that would offer no protection to their “employees” or independent contractors, their decision to stay open was misguided. This has come back to hurt our economy more than we ever thought possible. At least in my situation, my team can collect unemployment because I have paid into it for over twenty years barely using it. This is responsible business ownership, yes expensive, but now as a country we can see the ramifications of under the table and 1099 business models. More on that later.

Information during this unusual time is free for the taking. Yes, it can be confusing, but if you read the paper, and watch the news even in the smallest snippets, you are informed. As business leaders, it is imperative that we stay informed and do not solely rely on our government to make business decisions for us. In this case we all had the information to make informed decisions the first week of March at a minimum. Yet here we are, with certain states seeming to just get the memo (Georgia, Florida, Alabama to name three, instantly) missing a window of opportunity to stave off this horrible disaster. 

In my need to get fresh air, I have seen troves of people at parks and out and about not adhering to the recommendations causing our state Governor, powerhouse ball of Italian fire, Gina Raimondo to have to tell us like we are kindergartners to KNOCK IT OFF as she has tried to give her state residents the benefit of acting like grownups and adhering to the advice. 

We have missed the window. We should have started self imposed quarantines the first week of March at least. We didn’t. Those extra two weeks are going to set us back for months if not quarters. I have spoken to the plethora of women I am privileged to know who continue to tell me that their kids are getting invited to gatherings while school is now virtual. These families are smart and educated proving that a college degree doesn’t always equal common sense. 

I had a meeting with my team, as I have been trying to keep this all as communicative as possible, to begin getting them to wrap their head around at least a three month closure. The fact is, though, that with half the population not following the advice of our heath care organizations, we will be lucky to get back to our work in three months. 

This is beyond staying home now. It is a stark realization that we have a country filled with people who are so distracted, that the thought of being “stuck” inside their homes for two weeks is worse than taking the risk and risking the lives of everyone they come in contact with. Ou health care workers, our police and firefighters, our prison guards, our food bank volunteers and first responders need us to STAY THE FUCK HOME. This is not about an individual’s tolerance level of home confinement. This is chump change compared to the amount of people who will be forced to die at home, alone. 

This shit is real and it is about time we come together as a country and make a decision collectively to STAYHOME. We are individual states with each of their own chiefs and cheiftresses, but for this global health and economic disaster we need to take charge of our own humanity, put on our grownup pants and not wait for anyone to make another decision for us. We are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Lets take our call to action by the name of our country verbatim. Let’s unite and do the right thing. It is not forever, but it could be if we do not act UNITED. You have enough toilet paper by now. 

#Stayhome.

life lessons, NATURE

THE IRONY OF SOCIAL DISTANCING

“Are you bored?” My mother asked me yesterday.
“No not really, I spent the previous day deep cleaning my kitchen and it took me seven hours.” (Cleaning my house is not something I have done on a regular basis).
“Cleaning for Passover?”she asked.
“Passover for one, hardly,” I replied.
“You aren’t having Passover?” She asked with a tinge of that old school Jewish guilt I haven’t heard for a long time.
“No Mom, this shit is real up here in the North,” I said with a tone of churlishness I tried to mask. My mother lives in Alabama and based on some of the history down there, the present governor hadn’t seemed to be taking this situation as serious as her northern counterparts.
“They just closed the malls yesterday,” she said. I am having Passover here.” She then proceeded to list the couples of friends coming to her house.

O.M.G. I thought. My mother is an intelligent woman. She is as liberal as they come, despite the fact she lives in a very conservative state with many ultra conservative friends. Yet, in just two weeks, in her mind anyway, she is forging ahead with a Passover seder. We are never going to recover from this pandemic if this is what is happening in the homes across America. Passover and Easter right around the corner, are people really digging their heels in and not heeding the severity of the warnings?

I have gone outside on some bike rides and walks, keeping my distance, or at least trying to, and I have noticed hundreds of people out, some attempting the distancing like my partner and me, and others lying in the grass making out, having family picnics, playing frisbee like it is a summer vacation.

We have missed our two week window to help flatten the curve and despite the warnings, despite the obvious problems in Europe reported daily, not enough people chose to #stayhome. Intelligent people who read the news who see what is going on have decided that because our government has not said the magic words, Shelter in, perhaps it isn’t that bad. The irony of this is that these are likely the same people who would dig their heels in if the government did say to stay home, refusing to be told to do anything. The live free or die mentality that is America is never more true than it is right now.

Die. We may. Especially if you are over seventy like my mother and all of her retired friends.

It has been two weeks since I closed my business and decided, after a Friday night out of dancing and partying before this new world started, that I would self impose a two week quarantine. Two weeks today. Though my self quarantine has ended in theory, it really has just begun as our world and our country spins out of control

Bored is not a word that enters my vocabulary. Ever. I am an active and energetic woman. On the go, thousands of ideas, mover and shaker, perpetual motion. Bored is not really a word that comes to my mind. There is so much life to live- even during this During Covid. time. — D.C.
I find myself with more time than I could have ever dreamed I would have. In all fairness, I have no little ones, I have no husband, I don’t even have a pet. My son is safely at his home this last semester of his senior college life with plenty of food and not too far away. I have a partner, but we don’t live together. My work is closed, my team is safe. I am not an essential worker.

I have a lot of time. I have a lot of time alone, but I am never alone. The irony of social distancing is that I have felt more social than ever. And I am an incredibly social person. The obvious lack during this time is the face to face close talking, lots of hugging contact I am used to, but taking this off the table there is a unique consciousness that has been happening. A deliberate charge to connect.

There have been the usual phone or texts and this has remained a constant, but now, added to it, are the face time calls, the Zoom get togethers and team meetings, the creation of Facebook groups that just a month ago I would have never considered. Connection during this time of unprecedented forced social distancing has turned out to be fuller than I could have ever anticipated.

Just in the time I have been writing this, I have been invited to a virtual surprise party for a ten year old girl I would have never been asked to just a month ago. I taught my 102 year old grandfather how to get on Zoom and we have had two cocktail parties with some of my favorite friends along for the ride. I have been asked to teach a virtual writing class and a virtual expressive arts class. The amount of exercise I have added to my daily routine is unprecedented because there is so much time during the day. Social distancing has brought many friends and families closer together in ways no one could have predicted.

I have written endlessly about my struggle with social media over the years, but in this unique situation, I have found it to be a helpful experience. I am not suggesting that I want this to continue endlessly, but connecting with people I care about, being a voice in the community of good, taking a stand on #stayhome and saying it aloud as often as possible.

Besides this fake social connecting, the real life nature connecting has been a surprise addition. My grandmother had two neighbors, sisters, who lived together for their entire lives. When they were well into their eighties, I went to visit them and noticed many bird feeders in their yard. When I asked them about them, Ethel, one of the sisters, said she sits in the yard and watches them. At the time, my son couldn’t have been more than six years old; the notion of sitting outside and just watching birds feed at the feeders was a foreign idea to this busy thirty something.

Now with all of this time, I find myself sitting by the window and watching the magic unfold. A fox family, cardinals singing, and as I was writing this piece this morning, I watched two ducks fly by my window and land in my yard for a spell. I have never seen ducks in my yard. Maybe they are discombobulated too.

I know this life I speak of is not the same for many, domestic abuse is on the rise, the elderly are in even a more vulnerable situation and the health care workers and first responders do not have this luxury I speak of. But even for my mama friends and team members who have little ones, each time I speak with them, they are outside with their kids playing, building forts, cooking and baking together, making the best out of this bizarre situation. The irony seems that the best is some of what is coming out of this.

We are in the midst of what I am calling a global course correction and it is invoking time together in a way we had previously forgotten in our quest for more. And our failure to notice how much disconnection there has been.

As I write this, it it two weeks today that I closed my company. My signage and my emails said, Closing for two weeks until March 28th. I changed the signs yesterday to Closed until it is safe to reopen. I have no idea when this will be. Some of my salon counterparts are giving dates. I am not willing to do this right now because frankly, I can’t imagine that we will be open anytime soon. I am in the business of touch and though I know we will all crave physical touch beyond belief, will we ever feel one hundred percent safe with this type of touch again?

A strange predicament, but without feeling overwhelmed I instead will choose to stay present to the moment, looking out my window staring at the nature that the divine provides on a moment to moment basis.
This is a curious experience in our lives and our children’s lives. We will never be the same for sure, but I would like to think that words like appreciation, love, connection and gratitude our words that will become our go to words for generations to come.

We may be past the point of new return, but as March comes to a close, so does the mixed weather. As bouts of warm weather approach with April, so do the vast numbers of people choosing not to listen to the warnings and heading outside like it is a perpetual vacation.

We have a long strange trip ahead of us as a country. I hope the country comes together and pays attention as a nationwide community. We may have separate states, but they are not separate countries. Now more than ever we must remember that we are called THE UNITED STATES for a reason.

Watch the birds. Bake some cakes, Have a virtual Easter and Passover and PLEASE #STAYHOME. #tellallyourfriends.