There is a phrase I have used for a few decades now, and I generally use it when trying to give people advise when they are at their most indecisive.
"Sh*t or get off the pot!"
Nope, I can't take credit for the phrase. Many people my age, who liked a good double-dose of Indie movies, would know this phrase from the cult classic film, "CLERKS" by Kevin Smith.
It was a movie about people who work as clerks in what could only be seen as dead end jobs, the kind of people they have to deal with while also trying to balance their personal lives, messy as they can be, with the drudgery of working the same job day in day out.
Now, the only thing that remains important is the phrase that Randall uses when he gives his friend Dante a piece of his mind, "Sh*t or get off the pot!"
This is what I wish the government would do right now.
Make their mind up. Just either lock the entire country down, deal with the financial sh*tstorm, because it couldn't get any worse than it already is. Or just open everything up, let people go about their daily lives the way we did during SARS, possibly infecting each other until at some point it just gets to a place where it simply couldn't possibly get any worse and things will just be sh*tty new normal!
What we are seeing is that businesses are hurting, individuals are struggling to stay sane, and individual business owners must be losing their minds with stress. I can't speak for the rest of them, I know I am.
You know what its like to come in each morning to prep for service while not knowing whether any of it will be eaten? No matter how carefully you prep, trying your best to avoid buying one thing or another if it isn't entirely necessary, you cannot guarantee people will show up to eat.
Well meaning folks are always suggesting things like "why not put this on Deliveroo" or "I am sure people would kill for that if you made that to order" etc. Its all dreaming when everyone knows we are living through a nightmare.
You know how many times people have suggested, "Stay positive!" or "It will get better". And to me, its much the same as praying. We pray for someone not because they will heed our prayers, we pray because we need some reassurance ourselves.
I studied Religion Philosophy at University, that was my BA, arts degree, religion and philosophy. Yeah, you bet I had no grand plans on what I would do with that degree, I studied what I did because it interested me and it enriched my life in some small way. My professors, Jesuit priests with a love of learning, all encouraged me to go on to do a masters, and hey, you could do a PhD! Would be a shame to waste that keen sense for it all! All that talent!
Hmmm...yeah, then what? Then you hustle hard to try to get one of the limited seats at a good university and then you hustle harder to try to get tenure, all while dealing with lecture halls full of kids who are more concerned about their dating life and their alcohol budget than they are about what you are saying from that podium.
Nah, what I learned about world religion made me understand my mother better, that she converted from Buddhism to Christianity at the age of 15 because her life was in great turmoil. My grandfather had gambled everything, he was in debt to the Yakuza and so my grandmother had to sell their beautiful house and my mother moved into a small two room apartment with her parents. She was ashamed of where she was, she couldn't understand how things could have gotten as dire as they were, and so the one place she found solace was at the local Baptist Church in Kobe.
There they read the bible, all in English, so my mother looked at it as a silver lining, a chance to meet other people, communicate in English, a language she was book-smart at but had no opportunity to practice, and also, to find grace in the eyes of an all knowing, all loving God who had her back.
My mother is still religious, she still prays for me when things are going bad for me, and I know she means well, even if I don't believe anyone up there is listening. It gives her solace, and that is what matters. My mother loves me, its why she still prays for me and still believes I will head to heaven in the after life.
Right now, I understand why many people are returning to religion, big time. People are praying more than ever, those that lost faith, are coming back to the fold, and I say this in all honesty, heck, if I was ever the praying type, now would be a phenomenal time to start!
Instead of that, I deal with the reality of where I am, not just in my personal life, but with work. Work consumes so much of my daily hours that I sometimes have little else to give at home. I am wracked with the guilt of never being enough. Not for my children, not for my husband, not even for myself...because from the moment my head hits the pillow until the moment I wake, that is the only respite I get from work consuming my every thought.
I meditate, work crops up in my consciousness, and we can call those thoughts "clouds that pass" or whatever the hell we want to call them, but they are still there. From possible dishes and recipes to what more I could be doing to save us at a time when there seems to be no end in sight.
Sometimes when it gets too much, I lock myself in the bathroom, turn the shower all the way to cold, and I sit my butt down in the shower, hug my knees, and just cry my heart out. I call it my Wim Hoff Meltdown. It doesn't have to be bad. Crying is good for you. At least, that is what I read somewhere. Its important to cry, to get it out, because there is only so much you can keep leaning on the ones closest to you before you feel like you are being rather selfish for feeling this sorry for yourself.
Its not easy for anyone right now.
So why am I so different, I know I am not.
And in the hardest moments, I remind myself that although I may feel alone, I am not. Imagine those Chefs all over the world going through the same experience. Prepping without knowing if anyone will come in. I think of Chefs and restaurant owners who don't just have one restaurant hurting but several restaurants that they are running while lockdown puts most of their much loved and trusted teams on furlough.
At the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, I ran the shop with just 3 staff. Peter, my trusty first lieutenant, myself, and my eldest son, Jake. Three of us, only take away, and it was painful. We rode that out, returned with the whole "1.5m apart, no more than 4 people a table" nonsense, and things seemed to be slowly returning to normal and we became optimistic. And then came the second wave, something we thought would come in October! And here we stand, its not even October and we are riding the third wave, limited to "2 people per table", along with other bizarre requirements that somehow still allow people to sit 4 to a table as long as you put some half-assed board dividing the two halves of the one table to magically make it two tables!
Sh*t or get off the pot.
You know the place on our street that had a huge Covid19 infection spike? It was packed with diners with their tables divided with some sort of screen! Does the government think that helped? How is that acceptable practice? Are they all just winging it and praying? The virus can sit on various surfaces for lengthy periods of time, and when I mentioned this to the FEHD (Food & Environmental Hygiene) officers that came to inspect our shop with tape measure in hand, they were pretty confident that all we had to do was "disinfect the surface of the stand up board" as well.
Are they checking that places using these make shift dividers are disinfecting them?
You know what, who cares, because this is happening everywhere, I just do not see these piecemeal measures as being scientifically sound. Which leaves us right back where we sit there, limiting our seating to less than 50% capacity, two people per table or bench, all while knowing full well that by working in the service sector, we are in the "high-risk" category for exposure. Add that to the top of the pile when you consider "stressors".
So what does it feel like to be consumed by stress?
You can't sleep without help. In my case, I take high doses of CBD with melatonin.
You can't eat, you have no appetite. I try to at least take a protein shake from time to time, and if I actually feel hungry, I eat what I can when I can.
You sometimes break down crying for no reason. I have gotten used to this part, I have even stopped apologizing for it.
You struggle to get out of bed because you are so tired, but you do anyway, and you push through the day even when you feel the cortisol build up, the "Fight or Flight" response kicking in almost hourly. That is what its been like since February. Initially the stress was so bad that the rest of my team suggested I head to Holland because it was so quiet here that they were confident they could handle it.
So I took my kids to Holland and sat around for 6 weeks...I watched a tonne of post-apocalypse type TV shows, anything from a crazy virus that brought about zombies or vampires to horrible rain that could kill you. Yeah, lets just say it got so hard to tell the difference between what was fiction and the reality of how I was feeling about the world around me. As the numbers of Covid19 cases slowly began to pick up in Holland we made the call to return to Hong Kong, before the government went into mandatory quarantine for returnees.
Been back here ever since. Facing the music each day. And much like when the protests got too stressful that the whole team eventually stopped following daily updates, that time came for us with Covid19 too.
We get our information from caring customers, delayed updates from the FEHD, and it appears every newspaper outlet seems to know about what restrictions are going to be thrust upon us long before we actually hear anything from the government ourselves.
That can be pretty stressful. Having no clue whats coming, having no idea when you can bring the rest of the team back from furlough, hoping that no one on the current full-time crew gets ill because then we would be a man down at a time we simply don't have men to spare.
All of this is just work life. When I come home, I have two kids who are meant to be starting school and that too has been delayed, so it means more home schooling while paying full fees. All this while my wonderful husband, our current home-school teacher, waits to find out when he will be scheduled to work after nearly 5 months off work.
The future just cannot be planned for, that is half the anxiety here. You can wrestle with it all you want, you can even make peace with it, but that peace is short-lived. All you need is one call from home to be reminded that your parents are getting older, that you still have no idea when you will see them again, that you are no longer sure of your 5 year plan, let alone a 1 year plan.
What we are getting good at, my husband and I, is coming up with the 10-15 year plan!
I ain't kidding, but that is the only thing you can plan for right now.
Retrain, if you have to, go home to start from zero, if you have to, home school your kids until college, if you have to...all of it is possible.
First, you need to shit or get off the pot. The decision has to be made.
And sadly, no one can make a decision because no one knows whats coming. No one can make plans while we sit here in limbo.
Go big or go home.
No chance of knowing what we can do, not right now. Maybe in the 4th quarter, we will know if we are contending with a 4th wave. Maybe as soon as air travel resumes everyone packs their bags and gets the hell out of here. Maybe that exodus will be the final nail in the coffin for most businesses being propped up by government funding in this false economy.
Why the government doesn't just make a sweeping move to force all landlords to cut rents by 40%, is a good question. Why not that instead of throwing us money that only keeps us from bleeding out sooner?
Why doesn't the government force banks to cut mortgages for a year by 40% so that landlords can also pay that forward to tenants?
Why give people 10K each in the hopes they use that to spend it back into the economy at a time when you know all they want to do is save it for in case they are out of a job?
So many things that are going on right now defy logic.
People are scared, but they are also tired of feeling scared, and so it goes. You watch the news and it depresses you. Hell, I took myself off Facebook over a year ago because I felt all it did was get me depressed. I looked at Instagram as being a place where everyone pretended to be happy as all hell, I was willing to live with that "positivity". But even that is all screwed now. You get on Instagram and you end up getting into sh*tfights with random strangers from around the world.
Racist, bigoted, hateful content is everywhere!
Like, what the actual F!
When did it become ok to be so hatefully racist and venomous?
I blame the wave of elections that brought absolute fascists into power, the world over. Its amazing that some of these people actually got elected, democratically!
If I thought Presidents were puppets before, I now believe we are living in a Truman Show of Wag the Dog nonsense. If I am not getting into fights in Instagram comment sections with "science" geeks who believe the earth is flat, I am losing my sh*t at people who think vegans are all going to die from a deficiency of some kind.
Everything turns sour, no matter who you follow in the hopes to get just a few drops of positive vibes.
I ain't helping, am I.
I just...I know I can't be alone in feeling this spent.
Its tough to try to explain to people that, "just hang in there" and "you got this" or "you know if you survive this you can survive anything" are all great sayings, but they don't pay the bills.
When you have to run every scenario, from staff member death all the way to "everything gets back to normal", you know you have exhausted every possible number crunch into that excel spreadsheet.
The landlords have been pretty adamant that they themselves are struggling to pay the bank on various property loans and hence can't cut us much slack. The landlords manager even gave me the "Oh, you think you got it hard, let me tell you how hard my life is" speech, like, not sure if he was feeling more sorry for himself than I was feeling for myself, what started as a "please help us" conversation became his chance to have a pissing contest about how much more his life sucked.
I had to leave it at that, I can feel sorry for the guy without liking him or his tactic, but the reality is that they ain't gonna be feeling sorry for me anytime soon.
So whats left to do but to just grin and bare it.
I've given birth three times. One of those times was without any pain meds.
I could say that if I could manage that, maybe anything is manageable, but I also remember that because of my "incompetent cervix" that birth lasted exactly 60 mins from water breaking to birth! So hey, that was like ripping a bandaid off a gooey cut! Its painful, but quick! This here...meh, not so quick.
Not wanting to be glass half empty kinda person, but this is gonna take us months to pull our sorry asses out of, and the global economy another 3-4 years to recover from all this insanity.
Call it what we want, the government funding, as helpful as it has been, once it stops, a lot of small businesses will fold. How much more money can they inject before they say enough is enough? The truth is that they aren't dealing with the source of the problem, the over-inflated property prices, the lack of any form of proper social security for all.
A friend of mine recently had to move out of his office because they landlord decided to raise the rent.
You read that right, raise the rent.
SMMFH. These people, out of touch, and that is where I think the government ought to put a freeze in place. Rental prices are stupid. When you are forced to drop down to barely 30% of your previous earnings because of government restrictions and the run up to that was over a year of protests (let us not forget that the stress that built up in many peoples minds will be hard to recover from, as many refused to go out of their homes in the evening or on weekends), and now half a year of a pandemic.
How do you recover quickly enough without doing something careless like trying to pack people into a place with dividers that don't actually do anything other than satisfy FEHD regulations without actually protecting people from Covid19?
I don't have an answer right now. I don't.
At least I am willing to admit it. I just wish the government would too.
And until they do, I will remain hopeful for yet another bailout to help us recover from this last month of restrictions and the possible month more to come.
It is what it is. I wish it were different, but right now, I do what I can to stay hopeful without being blind.
Until the next time, I hope I have a bit more of a positive outlook by then.
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.