I am not big on New Year’s resolutions during the best of times. Not that I don’t have plenty to improve upon. It’s just that smaller, simpler and more frequent plans have always worked better for me than annual goal setting. This approach seems particularly well-suited for 2021. Big plans and complex personal ambitions have never seemed more inappropriate. We absorbed an uncomfortable amount of change and reinvention in our personal and professional lives during the past year and our hands remain full with the ongoing challenges of this pandemic crisis.
The way I see it, 2021 should and will be about sticking to the knitting. Staying with what we know and what we can see is already working in order to shelter from this storm. Breaking this fight into more manageable chunks with shorter time horizons.
With the euphoria of vaccine approvals and initial rollouts subsiding, we are now left with some very stark realities for 2021. The pandemic worsened substantially during December. COVID-19 infections sky-rocketed. Here in Southern Ontario, hospitalizations increased 72% over the past two weeks and we have entered wide local lockdown again. Vaccines are rolling out slowly as governments struggle with the logistical and political challenges of this massive, urgent undertaking. We have witnessed a new, more contagious variant of the SARS-CoV2 virus emerge on the scene, compounding the urgency of vaccine deployment and re-emphasizing the ongoing criticality of our protection protocols in our homes, workplaces and communities.
Within our B&M ranks, we continue to experience more cases than ever before. We have had 45 new cases since December 1 bringing our total to 110 since the pandemic began. 24 of those remain active today, 13 in the United States and 11 in Canada. It is clearly getting more challenging to avoid exposure and infection. While the business health of our company is strong again, I remain very concerned about the well-being of all B&Mers.
Sticking to our knitting in 2021 means we will continue to confront the pandemic together, applying the same discipline, caution and common sense.
Personally, this means sustaining and amplifying the most important new habits that I learned last year to protect myself and people around me. Wearing a mask, washing my hands, keeping my distance from others, monitoring myself for signs of illness, and generally being cautious about human interactions and indoor gatherings of any kind beyond my home. Those are the easy ones. The physical actions. The rules of engagement. These behaviours are almost hard-wired now.
Buttressing and defending mental health is an equally important protection that I seek for myself and others. It is maddeningly more elusive and complicated. Stay positive. Guard your mind. These are wonderful rallying cries, likely as important and relevant to the success of our company right now as any of WJ’s tenets. But just like “do the job right regardless”, these statements are easier to say than they are to do. It isn’t easy to be consistently positive in spite of all the menace and disruption that swirls around us.
Everyone feels stress. But the causes and consequences blend into a uniquely personal experience for each of us. I would never profess to understand precisely what others are going through. But the COVID-19 crisis has made many stories strikingly similar. We all now have an appreciation of the emotional and psychological grind that everyone else is enduring. The ambiguity, and the fear, anxiety and frustration that come with it, is particularly vexing. What if? What then? What now? What next? It is debilitating and exhausting.
I believe I have good mental health but I have never worked as consciously and deliberately to keep it that way. For me, paying attention to the little wins helps me maintain an optimistic mindset. At home, I harvest energy from the things I enjoy and try to make a mental note to acknowledge even the tiniest moments of good feeling. I can’t remember ever loving my Christmas tree as much as I did this year. Family meals. Shoveling snow. A pair of cardinals that visit my yard regularly. Playing vinyl records and old cassettes. There is satisfaction and comfort in all of it.
Writing these regular updates has helped me immensely, obliging me to ledger good news as judiciously as I track the setbacks. I have received support and encouragement from people in all corners of our company. It has been a great reminder that my mental well-being is not be a one-person job. We all need the love of others. We all need support and social connection. We all need a hand now and again. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed or off-kilter. It’s ok to ask for help. I urge you to. We all struggle.
2021 may be disturbingly familiar so far – the risks, the restrictions, the isolation, the uncertainty – but we will continue figure it out just as we have since it all began. The next two months will be particularly tough and discouraging while we ride out the dark days of winter and cases rise precipitously and vaccinations precede slowly. But we will figure it out.
We are doing well. It is not always easy to recognize it but it is a fact. We don’t need a new resolution or a new plan. We know what works. And when the game changes, we will too. We have proved that we are a very agile and determined bunch. This will all get better eventually. For now, let’s focus on the small steps and little wins and we will get through this winter together.