Five Things We Can Do Even as We Hunker Down

by Dan Billingsley, vice president external affairs, OKCNP

I don’t know about you, but several people in our office are obsessed with Leslie Jordan and his social media posts about “hunkering down” during COVID-19. The Will and Grace star and southern comedian has been a welcome voice of humor over the past few months. We all look forward to his dry Southern wit coming through his drawl as he reports on the most mundane of activities.

I have bemoaned my rather “bleak” life at the moment. It is pretty much home – office – get gas – occasional grocery run – home. Every day. Every week. Pretty mundane. I do go into the office (we have a great way to social distance and few people are in our building at Legacy Plaza). Every day. I prefer it to working from home simply because it gives me the impetus to get up, get dressed and stay in a routine. Other friends have mastered working from my home very well. My friend, Jeff, is a high school and community college Spanish teacher. He has dedicated a room just for teaching online to normalize work. Last week, Gracen Johnsen, an HR consultant with Summit Benefits recommended that the home office should be just as safe, ergonomic and comfortable as being at work.

I also pick up take-out food. I’m a foodie, and want to support local restaurants. When necessary, grocery runs happen. However, they are planned for time and efficiency and to limit interactions. I am a dutiful mask wearer and hand washer. It still is painful not to be able to shake hands or hug, but when I do have an opportunity to interact with human beings we always do something “in the air” to greet one another. I have ventured out to have breakfast with a few colleagues. The routine is simple: we go to Wildfork at Utica Square in Tulsa where we can distance and sit outside.

All this said, none of our lives feel normal. My friend, Wendy Thomas, at Leadership Tulsa, posted a funny meme last week that likened the end of COVID-19 to winning the lottery. It would be our wish come true. So how do we find some normality in a time of “this is not normal.” Here are a few things that I’ve noticed others doing that seem to make sense.

Learning Something New or Practicing a Skill
If you’ve been on social media the last six months, you have probably noticed several serious trends. The first one I noticed were the unbelievable loaves of bread people were baking. In the days of gluten-free everything, how refreshing to see all kinds of people take to the ovens with their own wild blends of yeast and sourdough starters. You can practically smell it through your iPhone. I was talking with Kari Blakley with Foundation Management last week. She also owns a spice shop in OKC. She said business was great. People are cooking more at home, and a number of people are using the home time to hone in their own cooking skills. What once was a chore is now a “normalizing” comfort in a time when we aren’t heading to restaurants in droves. I also thought I’d mention my friend and colleague Jamie Lopp. She has been busy on fiber art projects that are pretty mesmerizing.

Feeding our Minds and Souls
If anything the Pandemic is doing is driving all of us to read more, watch documentaries, learn and grow. I know that my friends are reading a lot of books that are very timely. White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo is a staple for those looking to expand understanding of race equity, bias and white privilege. At the beginning of COVID-19, Tiger King was the perfect outlet for those seeking the ridiculous and obscene, but that has given way to a host of documentaries that have come out. For people of faith, congregating to worship and share has been a challenge. However, most faith leaders have moved the message online. I have personally had the opportunity to hear spiritual messages from a diverse group of leaders, including hearing Imam Imad Enchassi’s reflections on a famous story of Abraham (Ibrahim) and Isaac from the Islamic point of view. The Pandemic is offering us a moment to read and reflect.

I’m going to admit that I’m the worst at this. I broke some toes a few months ago and they weren’t really healing. I finally went to the Ortho doc and he said, “You must have a very high pain tolerance.” When you see me, I’ll be in a boot for a while. Honestly, nonprofit folks tend to be martyrs. Our feet may hurt, but our hearts and our empathy tell us to take care of others and worry about ourselves later. Now is a time to challenge that thought process. It’s the oxygen mask analogy. Put yours on before helping someone else. We need it to survive. Self-care is about exercise, eating better. Maybe it’s about stopping a bad habit. Maybe it’s about having a spa day once a week. It’s seeing your doctor for preventive care, despite COVID-19. I know that last week, my good friend John Wilguess was perturbed by the WHO telling people to put off dental care. He is with the Oklahoma Dental Foundation and knows all too well the outcomes of putting care off until later. Take care of yourself and don’t think twice about it.

Reaching Out
This has been a terrible time for the extroverts among us. I, included. I long for the days when we could have people over to dinner, meet for lunch, attend an event or party or simply gather together. But do take the time to reach out to our friends, colleagues and families. I have noticed that I do get to see people on ZOOM calls which is great. ZOOM has allowed us to see the faces of the people we care for. I’ve also noticed that the phone has become a more robust tool. Why bother emailing if you can call a friend or colleague and catch up? Another thing I’ve seen is that when we do have conversation, there is more personal touch to that chat. We need to remember to check in on the health and well-being of our colleagues. As many people are aware, my mother passed away at the end of December. COVID-19 has not been the best atmosphere for grieving and having support from family and friends. However, my friends such as Lou Carmichael, Bob Spinks and Shannon Fleck have been listening ears and offered kind words even using ZOOM or the phone.

Just Being
At the end of the day, none of us need to be heroes. Just being means that no one expects you to read that book, lose those ten pounds, organize that closet, cook a Beef Wellington or change the world. Just being Is good enough. Sometimes we punish ourselves for needing to sleep in an extra hour, sit on our couch and watch mindless Hallmark or Lifetime movies, eat junk food and pet our dogs for hours on end. Just being means we are coping with the trauma of a Pandemic. Just being also means that if we do find ourselves down, anxious, depressed … take a moment to reach out to a friend or loved one. It’s very okay to admit it. As my colleague Janetta said in a recent blog post – it may be a little more than the weather. We are all having to react to something that is out of our control. We have talked a lot about our mental health recently. If we feel like we need it, there are helping hands all over our sector. Programs such as Sunbeam, Calm Waters, Family and Children’s Services in Tulsa, and so many more are available to help us just be and feel healthy doing it.

When people need help, our nonprofits are there. When our nonprofits need help, the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits is there. But OKCNP is also here for our friends, colleagues and fellow “do-gooders.” We’re cheering you on. We believe in you. And our “virtual” arms are extended for that air hug when you need it.

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