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Trapped In The Endless Loop
I was really hoping I wouldn’t be writing more lockdown stories in 2021. Yet from a rough check of my reader data, that’s where about 70% of us currently are.
Here in the last country on earth in that position. Literally nothing to look forward to, an endless loop of hopes and plans cancelled.
The major irritations are too big to cope with, so you dwell on the small ones instead. Like the one first noted 65 years ago in Parkinson’s Law: work expands to fit the time available.
You start thinking about what’s for dinner at 10am, because it’s the only nice thing you can control in your future. That decision takes up an hour.
Even though I love cooking, I realise: this is how it must feel to be retired.
There’s the hair situation. Remember titrations from school chemistry? When you add clear liquid, drop by drop, into a different clear liquid. Nothing happens for ages, then just one extra drop and boom! The whole thing turns pink.
So it is with lockdown hair. A couple of months of looking normal. Then one morning last week, a look in the mirror revealed that overnight, I’d grown a volume of hair unseen on a man since the Lethal Weapon movies.
It’s baseball cap Zoom for me now.
Lockdowns 4EVA, Say Comfortable Salaried Experts
No annoyance is too small, like the inner grimace I feel time each time I read the words “nice to e-meet you”.
Swamped in these minor bugs, it’s easy to just kick back and scroll the socials, and there’s so much to piss you off.
Top of my list is comfy home-office opinionators who get undeserved media airtime with their calls for more, sooner, bigger, tougher lockdowns forever.
It’s like when you read those stories of 23 year-old property investment wizards, “sharing their secrets” of owning ten investment properties when everybody else in the country under 35 will be renting for life.
Then, every single time, there it is in paragraph 12. “Bonathan’s deposit came from his parents, both orthodontists.”
Same with the lockdown enthusiasts and their opinion pieces*. You check their job and yep, it’s always a secure gig on a sizeable salary that is in no way interrupted by lockdowns.
They are 100% happy to throw small businesses into the volcano as a sacrificial offering EVERY FUCKING TIME.
I’m not suggesting lockdowns aren’t necessary right now. But when you’re one of the people with a yet-again shuttered business, you don’t want to hear from people for whom no shutdown can be harsh or long enough.
You can feel their palpable horniness for universal home detention as they drop militaristic words like curfew and ring of steel. To show that we are “serious”.
While brown people catch the Delta variant packing and delivering essential supplies to these smug, cocooned blowhards.
A Few Ideas On How To Feel Happier
Lately I’ve spent a lot of time on phone and Zoom talking to industry comrades who are really down this time, more so than in 2020. Nobody has much left in the tank after last time.
I’m not a psychologist and I’m not going to trivialise serious mental health issues with perky clickbait tips. If that’s you, this page has a list of ways and places to get help.
If you’re generally OK but just feeling flat or sad, here are some ideas that usually cheer me up. Everyone’s different, but there’s no harm in seeing if they work for you.
They all share the general theme of doing something nice for people who deserve it, or are suffering much more than you. It reminds you that boredom isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Some of them involve small amounts of money. If you don’t have that, do what you can.
1. Help Sikhs Help Everyone Else
If there can be a good side to the bushfire and virus ordeals of the last few years, it’s been mainstream awareness that Sikhs are absolute champions. It’s their #1 rule: Giving to others elevates one’s self**. And they are right.
Wherever there are bad things happening, there’s a vanload of cheerful Sikhs making it better.
If you can’t be a Sikh, the next best thing is to help a Sikh out. Take whatever you were planning to spend on order-in takeaway food this Friday and send it to them instead.
Then, on Friday night when you’re eating something ordinary you found at the back of the pantry instead, look at this picture and think: I helped out good people.
I’ve tested it for you. Conclusion: it makes you happier.
2. Pay Freelancers Right Away
If your business has cash flow, and you use freelancers for anything, pay them as soon as their invoice lands. They are burning out there.
There’s little practical difference between waiting 30 days and paying them now. Overriding your standard bureaucracy will make a massive difference in their lives.
Also from your own self-interest perspective, they’ll drop everything to do your work forever because you were looking out for them when the chips were down.
3. Call A Commercial Competitor And Check They’re OK
A nice thing about this Olympics was the general camaraderie and support you saw between competitors who should be mortal enemies.
Likewise your industry competitors. Call them up and see if they’re OK. They’re just as stressed as you are. Talking to them will not diminish your winning edge or whatever macho bullshit you read in The Art Of The Deal.
It’s usually quite rewarding, and makes you a bigger person.
4. Don’t Claim The Ticket Refund
Got a ticket to a show that got cancelled? Don’t claim the refund. Performing arts people have been thrust down to deeper levels of hell than most. They barely make money at the best of times.
In 2021, they take on all the advance expense of putting a show together – rehearsals, travel, promotion – then get smashed with all the cost and none of the revenue.
If you want that artist to still be there when things return, let them have your ticket money.
Think of yourself as a Medici-style medieval patron of the arts. How classy is that?
5. Shop Small, Shop Local
I’ll keep this short because you can just read this essential story in Smart Company.
You spending money at small businesses locally will keep your area the way you like it, assuming you like character.
If you don’t, say hello to a future where every local store is a Subway, Michel’s Patisserie or Coffee Club.
6. Take Someone Outside
We all know people who have disappeared off the radar.
Sometimes it’s OK, but often it’s a sign they could use some help, or at least attention. Draw up a list. Ask them if they want to go for a walk or whatever.
That simple act can be quite major for them. And if you get them out and they’re doing alright, it’s great to tick them off the list of people you’re worried about.
I haven’t surfed for months with the travel limits. A mate has a couple of surf skis and has been quite persistent about getting me out of my writing/business cave and onto the water near here.
We’re paddling weekly now and the combo of salt air, exercise and talking random shit for 90 minutes makes everything better. He is a top mate doing valuable work. Thanks Chris!
7. Random Acts Of Kindness
The main point of all the tips above is to put you in the mindset of thinking about other people.
If your business is doing well right now, or your salary is uninterrupted, be aware that your current good fortune is underwritten by the sacrifices of others.
Plenty of people are living on a few hundred dollars a week in government support while trying to homeschool kids and other nightmares.
Yes, it’s difficult for everyone.
It’s a lot harder when your brain is filled with the white noise of nonstop financial fear.
So many of these people are no less skilled or hard-working than you.
They just happened to be in the wrong game when the bad luck hammer fell, and their businesses had to be closed for the good of society.
If you know someone in that position, do something that shows you get it. Send flowers. Or a voucher for one of the many excellent 3-course take-home dinners your local restaurants are offering. Both options bring the bonus of helping the local shop situation.
For your friend, it’s nice to get the thing.
But it’s nicer to know that someone out there sees their situation, and gives a fuck about it.
If you can afford it, be that person.
If you know someone this story might help, why not forward it to them? That would be another thoughtful thing to do.
* The worst is this clown, with a bio designed to imply greater expertise than his arts degree from the 70s. He would love the government to weld your front door shut.
** Here are some Sikhs for your consideration: Sikh Volunteers Australia in Victoria or Turbans 4 Australia elsewhere. They all have the kind of old-school website that reassures me they’re spending all their donor money on charity work, not overheads.
Up for more reading? I put this down here to avoid a long story tangent, but there’s a lot to like here. I’m not a religious guy, but I challenge you to find a better codification of how to be a good person:
“Seva means “selfless service,” meaning service that is done with no thought for one’s personal gain.
“There are three types of Seva in Sikhism:
“Taan – service through physical action. A crucial example of this is the work Sikhs do participating in langar, the community kitchen. Guru Nanak initiated the concept of langar and offering free food to people of every caste, background and age in the community. This tradition is central to the Sikh faith and continues today.
“Maan – service through application of the mind. This can mean providing one’s talents, be they intellectual, creative, etc., to others, but it can also mean expressing empathy for others and sharing in their joy and pain.
“Dhan – service through material resources, such as charity or philanthropy. Again, charity is not meant to bring personal gain or praise to the giver; charity is made to be selfless and lacking in ego.”
Deep down, you know this will make you happier than a new 8K home entertainment system.
Something else that makes people happy in a less-spiritual way is my new book. Of all the thousands of business books you can buy on Booktopia, guess which one has the #1 Customer Review rating? Why, it’s plucky little Undisruptable, the business book for people who don’t really like business books.
Also if you’re new round here, I put out a story like this every Tuesday, drop your email here to get it in your inbox each week.