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Spilling the Secrets of the Shelter-in-Place Joneses

The Joneses. 

They’re at home.  (I hope you are too.)

Are you still trying to chase them? 

Your attempts to catch up have put a big dent in your bank account in the past.  Now in the bizarre pandemic-Peloton version of the road race, your psyche is starting to suffer. 

What you are telling yourself about what Mr. & Mrs. Jones and their two sweet littles are doing, likely does not match up to what is going on behind closed doors.

Here’s what you are seeing in your mind’s eye: 

Mr. Jones has risen as an esteemed example of how to successfully pivot a Fortune 500 company in the midst of a pandemic. His leadership during this time of crisis has done little more than to strengthen his position and garner him great respect.  Can he share his secrets with the Harvard Business Review between meetings and podcast interviews scheduled for today? He’s started two online courses that turned six figures in the last two weeks of March alone.  The first is called, “Executive Leadership Masterclass: Driving Impact through Zoom.”  The second is on how to make sprouted sourdough bread. 

Mrs. Jones has added an organic Pandemic Garden to their perfectly manicured yard.  She somehow secured two chickens that are scurrying around on their grass, laying eggs like golden geese at Easter.  Animal control is not an essential business, so what is anyone going to do?  She gets up and puts on jeans on the days she is not wearing her sheath dress for shooting video for her blog.  It was a good thing she started that baby back in 2008.  She now makes cash in her sleep.  Speaking of shut-eye, she’s been getting a lot more of that. Naps and Netflix are a regular part of her routine.  You aren’t sure how, but her roots aren’t showing.  You are certain that girl must have managed to get her last Botox injections on the 29th of February.  She’s wearing makeup every time you see her.  You’re pretty sure she’s dropped 10 pounds as a result of finding the miracle at-home workout that she does judiciously.  Good news: she just launched her own fitness app. She will teach you her proven method so that you, too, can be beach body ready in the next thirty days.

Little Atticus and Apel Jones have activity stations set up throughout the house.  They follow the rotating, picture-based scheduled posted on the refrigerator without hesitation each day.  They are sharing.  They know exactly where the self-service snack station of seaweed and sunflower seeds is and access it without reminders.  They understand that it is not appropriate to barge into the home office or scream at the top of their lungs while their parents are “at work” in the new version of the corner office.  Their teachers have sent glowing reports of their Zoom classroom participation.  Homeschooling is going so smoothly, Mrs. Jones is considering trying it next year.

Their circle light is shining bright, and the family of four has started a YouTube channel so that you can subscribe to seeing how they are managing to do it all so successfully.

Let me do you a favor.  Allow me to pull back the curtain.  I’m spilling the secrets on what is really happening with the shelter-in-place Jones Family. 

Here is a peek into what is actually happening behind their designer Roman shades:

Mr. Jones is panicked. He has already laid off half of his employees.  Each of them has a dining room table that they will now be scrambling to set.    The runway of capital for the business is growing really short, really quickly.  His Zoom keeps freezing.  He’s tired of looking at the Brady Bunch all day.  His Jack and Coke habit is heavier than ever before, but it’s doing nothing to help his abysmal sleep.  Last night his head was spinning about whether or not he needs to update his will.  His mother continues to thinks it is okay to go out and play bridge with her friends. 

Mrs. Jones is exhausted. She is buried by simultaneously being a mother, business owner, chef, school teacher, and housekeeper.  What day is it again?  The last time she wore something other than her Lulus was back in February.  She just ordered the next size up of the high-waisted spandex.  “S” was getting snug and she was spilling over the sides.  Samoas are her sanity.  Praise the Lord for Girl Scouts.  She has noticed that she randomly bursts out in tears every four to five days for no specific reason. She wishes she could watch the shows everyone seems to be talking about. Her final precious minutes at the end of the day are for scrolling IG, disappointed by the number of her likes.  Also, if everyone is online why are they not using her affiliate links? She has decided that when this mess is in the rearview mirror, she is going to start marching on the Mall for an increase to all teacher salaries. 

Atticus and Apel Jones are going out of their minds.  Spring break was fun, but this is a bit much.  It may be hard to believe, but even they have reached a screen saturation point.  They whine.  They press each other’s buttons simply for something to do.  They now subsist entirely off of goldfish, pizza, and juice.  They haven’t eaten anything green since mom’s January Whole30.  Sharing a laptop so that they can each take turns attending class is not going so well.  Their quarantine wardrobe choices have become nothing if not entertaining.  “You want to wear your brother’s pajamas all day?  Go for it, girl.”  They are hungry.  What can they eat?  They are bored.  What can they do?

Here’s the thing:  comparison, particularly to the imagined highlight reel, is always going to cost you big.  It will take your cash.  It will rob you of your joy.  It will drain every last ounce of energy you give it (and right now, who has any to spare?). 

Everyone is making this up as they go.  Everyone. 

No one is doing it seamlessly.  No one.

We’re six feet apart in socially-distanced boats.  And we’re all just trying to stay afloat in this sea of bizarre amidst a storm the likes of which we have never before seen. 

What if–as a part of your pandemic existential reflection–you considered what impact it would have to start letting the Joneses do their thing while you stay in your lane and focus on doing yours? 

We will eventually be living in the light of the after.  The Joneses will be still be there with us.  While we are in the tunnel together, carefully consider choosing self-compassion and grace.  Whatever you are doing is enough.  It is admirable.  You are surviving, and right now, that alone is thriving. 

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April 20, 2020

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