Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned Amid a Pandemic

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Some lessons the Trueline staff is learning throughout the pandemic.
The Trueline staff share some lessons they’ve learned throughout the pandemic.

Our household has co-opted a saying: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain. The quote is attributed to British author Vivian Green who died in 2003 at the age of 99. I wonder if she could have imagined the storm the world is presently weathering as a result of COVID-19. Are there lessons to be learned amid a pandemic?

Present events may elicit feelings of frustration, fear and anxiety. But amidst all of the negativity, it’s important to note that not all of the news is bad. Day after day, we’ve heard stories of sacrifice, generosity and love that transcend social distancing, illness and even death.

For example:

Retired World War II veteran, Tom Moore showed us all how one person can make a difference. Having raised over $39 million for England’s healthcare workers, he was knighted by the Queen.

We’ve seen improvements in both air and water quality as a result of people staying home. The Punjab region of India has experienced a drastic reduction in air pollution during the lockdown. So much so, they’re experiencing gorgeous views the Himalayas for the first time in decades.

And after being particularly hard hit by COVID-19, New York City experienced a double rainbow-shaped wave of optimism.

Closer to Home

Here at Trueline, a few of us have been trying to find a silver lining amongst the heartache of this pandemic. It can be hard to maintain focus on digital marketing and branding with everything going on. We’re all feeling varying degrees of loneliness, isolation and general stir craziness. But when asked if anyone had experienced anything positive through all of this, several folks stepped forward. Here are some stories of how our staff has adapted in the months since we shared an office. Everyone who responded spoke to how they’ve had to change their habits to fit this new world. What’s funny is, most of us feel changed for the better.

Building Community, One Shop at a Time

As for myself, when the realities of “shelter in place” started to hit, my mind went to our pantry. With our supplies dwindling, I joined the line outside of our local grocery store. Yes, the line that wrapped around the building.  I spent the hour suspiciously judging everyone around me (was that a cough or did just clear his throat?). Finally, the line moved, and I was able to enter the store—only to be greeted with empty shelves.

We then turned to delivery. By this point we were just grateful to have any food. So, when they gave us 2 pounds of jalapeños instead of 2 jalapeños, we didn’t complain. We pickled them. And yes, they’re delicious.

Soon, we started to hear about companies that were changing the way they were doing business. A farm that used to cater exclusively to restaurants, was now selling weekly shares of fresh produce and dairy. A local restaurant had started selling groceries. And many other businesses were offering curbside pickup.

Signs on the door of Woodford F&B.
Curbside instructions and messages of solidarity from the community mix at Woodford F&B.

I used to go to one store for all my grocery shopping. It was quick, easy and convenient. What used to take an hour, now takes up the better part of my Saturday morning. As more places have started offering curbside pick-up, I’ve realized there are more places I want to support.

So, am I mourning the time I’ve lost? Not at all. I now know to wave at the window at Local 188. Even though I can’t see in, they can see me, and they’ll be out within minutes with my order. I can now detect when Will is smiling beneath his mask at the Cheese Shop of Portland. And I’ve been inspired by the dedication of Woodford F&B as they continue to serve the community—while providing free meals to frontline workers—through both laughter and tears.

Knowing where our food comes from has always been important to us. But it’s been getting to know the people who provide it, that has truly been a gift.

A Tree Grows in Portland

Our senior search marketing specialist, Erich Pobatschnig, has cultivated a new hobby during his time at home. He’s planted a garden.

As someone who’s never kept a plant alive longer than the run time of an episode of Friends, I’m impressed.

What started with green peppers has morphed into a menagerie of summer squash, zucchini, snap peas, hot peppers, oregano and broccoli.

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“I grew up on a farm and I’m loving getting back to my roots (pun intended),” Erich says. “Nurturing life for the purpose of consumption is sacred. I don’t think I would have done this if the pandemic wasn’t a thing.”

The stay at home order has allowed Americans to discover what it means to focus on quality of life. Trueline has always encouraged our team to take mental health breaks when needed. We can all benefit by devoting time each day to things like pets and kids (or plants). Maybe you just need a bike ride to clear your head.

Senior search marketing specialist, Erich with his new raised bed.

The work-life balance has always been difficult to manage. Now that our workspace is literally our living space, it’s more important than ever to establish boundaries.

“Happy employees are productive employees. This is a fact,” Erich continues, “I feel more productive having run my hands through the soil. I feel more grounded. That may be one of the most important lessons I learned amid this pandemic. Frankly, some of my best work ideas come to me while I have my hands in the dirt.”

Maybe we all should start a garden.

Feeling the Burn

When Erica Berry, Trueline’s Director of Marketing isn’t saving the world from disastrous marketing decisions, she’s at the gym. I’ve seen her walk right past a box of free donuts on her way out of the office before a workout. Who does that? While will power like that is something to be admired, has she exhibited the same mental fortitude during quarantine?

“I had never gotten into working out at home,” Erica says, “but with gyms closed I’ve learned to adapt. I actually really enjoy it!”

As their doors remain shuttered, some gyms have gotten creative.

“I follow LivFit Athletics’ Facebook page. They post a daily workout that’s fast and I can fit it into my day at any time. I don’t have to wait for a class to start or work around anyone else’s schedule.”

LivFit also hosts Zoom classes twice a week so Erica can connect with her fellow gym rats.

“I really enjoy being at home, but socializing is important too. Online classes give me the opportunity to connect with others who share my passion and motivations. So what has always felt great physically, now feels good for my mental health, too. It’s just so convenient. I plan to continue working out online even after my gym reopens.”

Pass the donuts.

Sticking to a Schedule and Checking in

Haj Carr, founder and CEO of Trueline, has always been very hands-on. If he needed to know what someone was up to, he’d just get up from his desk and go ask. He’d often poke his head into someone’s office for a quick project update or meeting recap. My last in-person one-on-one was socially distanced by the length of a ping pong table. And I lost. Big time. I was curious to see how Haj would adjust to working from home.

A few months ago, balancing his calendar with video conferencing, client calls and virtual town halls was unthinkable.

“I’ve gotten so good at managing my time and honestly, I’m so much more proficient with technology since this all started. We’re experiencing something truly unique and it’s really intense. I think our team has reacted amazingly well to the change. We’re poised to come out of this stronger, more flexible and with a renewed sense of who we are as a company.”

It’s safe to say that Haj is just as approachable now as he was pre-pandemic. Maybe even more so. But it’s not just the Trueline staff that Haj is connecting with.

“Now, when I see a slot in my calendar, I’ll take that time to call my brother, or connect with an old friend. It’s crazy how often someone would come to mind, and I’d think, ‘I really should call them’ but I never seemed to have the time. Now I can look at my schedule and say, ‘Right, I’ll call them at 1:30.’”

I asked Haj if he imagines that his commitment to his daily planner will continue post-COVID-19. He just smiled. “Yeah, totally. But somethings are still going to have to be settled on the ping pong table.”

Of course.