Questions or Answers

There are years that ask questions and years that answer. Zora Neale Hurston

Most of us have a story from a year ago when the virus we kept hearing about in the background of our busy lives made us stop and say, “Oh, okay. This is a big deal.” My moment came after having a lovely lunch with a friend on a Thursday. During that hour of not looking at my phone, my inbox had filled with event cancellation emails. My calendar had been literally cleared. 

Of course, we didn’t know then that the year would hold so much uncertainty, unrest, and unpredictability. As I think about Zora Neale Hurston’s quote and reflect on the year, I wonder if it asked or answered questions. Or because of the sheer intensity of it, did it force us to do both? Did it accelerate the questioning and push us to find answers? Or at least look harder for them.

For example, when our calendar cleared last spring, we asked ourselves “where is there a need or opportunity?” People are stuck working and schooling from home. So we decided to make “Flop Break” videos that we posted at 3pm every day to encourage people to take brain and body breaks. We did it for two weeks then switched to every Monday to keep it sustainable.

Did they go viral? Nope. Our only regular viewer was my brother who watched for comic relief! The unintended opportunity for us turned out that for over a month we created regular content and got much better on camera. This comfort in the studio served us well as we began to accept virtual events and a few video projects from clients.

Another big question I’m guessing many of you have faced this year is “where are the boundaries?” Having your kids “at school” in the next room, delivery people ringing the bell, and pets whimpering to go out while you work has fried a lot of nerves. Creating work from home habits takes time and lots of trial and error. We’ve worked from home for years so we had a head start. But we have always left on a regular basis for meetings and gigs. At least one or both of us typically travelled out of state at least once a month. So that lack of variety in the schedule and space from each other threw us off. 

When you are a husband-wife business with no kids, it’s easy to say, “Let’s get that done on Saturday - we don’t have any meetings scheduled so there won’t be any interruptions.” Or for work conversations to run into dinner, then continue on after dinner, and still linger at bedtime. Really anytime we’re together a thought about work could pop up and then possibly lead to a stressful conversation. Not looking for sympathy here because I know that managing remote schooling and working from home has been rough! Just explaining our boundary issues which often led us to ask “what day of the week is it?” They all blurred together leading to a bit of burnout and exhaustion. 

I’m not sure that I have a clear answer on how to draw boundaries yet other than I want to be more mindful moving forward even as we come out of restricted living. I started to institute silly, but fun things like “Friday Funnies” where we watch stand up comedy on Friday nights just to change things up (and so we know what day of the week it is!) For a few months, we also were being tourists in our own community and exploring outdoor places one day of the weekend to force ourselves to take a day off. It’s so easy to slip into making the business the center of all of our conversations and days as I imagine for parents the kids become the anchor for many of yours. The one main takeaway that I gained this year though was recognizing the need to have a diversity of interests and other connections for our individual well-being and a thriving partnership.

As these and other questions came up throughout the year, we tried to employ two of our Flop-osophy strategies. First observe, don’t judge. In both of the examples above, it would have been easy to make assumptions about the situations and layer in stories. “We’ll never be able to get work in a pandemic. There’s nothing we can do.” Instead, we made an effort to just look at the facts of the situation and what could help inform us about opportunities. 

The other strategy that has been super helpful this past year has been play with variables. There’s no “right way” to do this pandemic thing. We’re all figuring it out as we go along. That doesn’t mean we need to keep doing the same thing the whole time. Especially if what we’re doing doesn’t feel right. Try different things and then reflect on how it feels. It took meeting someone for an outdoor coffee for me to realize that I needed to get out of my house more. If we keep doing the same thing over and over, we won’t get any new answers.

I took this image last month at the Brooklyn Bridge on my first road trip of 2021. It felt good to travel again although different. I’m not sure how this upcoming year will play out. There’s lots of hope in the air as things open up and people get vaccinated, but still lots of questions. My wish is that it's just a little less intense as we try to explore possible answers.