Chameleon / rollercoaster.
In this bonus edition of weeknotes you get two weeks for the price of one. Those weeks are pretty different in tone because honestly folks, what a rollercoaster we are on right now, Week 1 feels like a very long time ago.
I wrote Week 1 over the course of the week, day by day, because that’s how I’m taking things at the moment. And I’m writing Week 2 today, Friday 20 March 2020 when so much has changed.
So week 1 will be called Chameleons, and week 2 will be called rollercoasters. Gifs will (obviously) be picked accordingly.
Week 1 (Week beginning 9/3/20)
Content warning: contains puking and details of puke.
I had a rare Monday off as I worked from a puke inducing Azuma train rattling itself through the country on Friday as I headed back from SDinGov so swapped my non-working day.
I didn’t know what to do with myself so walked to look at the new exhibition in Letchworth’s excellent Broadway Gallery, only to discover that it was closed. So I went to Cambridge, ate Ramen slowly and in peace while reading the Economist, and wandered around the shops. I succumbed to the flattery of two very nice ladies in Toast and bought myself a very nice dress. I thought it would make me feel better but in reality I had developed a bit of a gloom that took several days to lift.
Afterwards I went to see Jenny for a cuppa. I got to meet new bunny Miriam, who did not want to be met by me, and Bob who was more interested in his kale, before taking my grumpy ass home.
On Tuesday, I was up and ready to go into the office when my husband started puking. So I had to quickly change my plans and get the little man out of the door to school. I had two options, try and go into work (but be travelling at the time of our team meeting) or head home and attend virtually. Based on the level of puking and worry about husband, I decided on the latter, which it turned out was for the best.
Husband puked all day, and when he wasn’t puking he was moaning in bed with a temperature. His final puke, at 4.30pm, was black. Now, I don’t know much about puke but even I can tell that this is a bad sign. My husband has another chronic illness, is taking steroids, and is due to have a pretty serious operation soon, so I was quite worried.
We ended up rushing to A&E (which is exactly where you want to be in the case of a pandemic outbreak, right? Right?)
There were some people there being quarantined and extra precautions being taken, and the waiting area did not allow for adequate social distancing, which was a strange and worrying situation to be in. But thankfully, a couple of drips, some anti sickness drugs and painkillers, and they let us leave at about midnight.
On Wednesday husband had to go back to the hospital for another test, and although much better still wasn’t quite right, so I had to take little one to school and then tried to work from home. This was approximately 60% successful. I was exhausted and worried. Thankfully the test showed no problems and he has continued to get better (with no further puking, thankfully).
On Thursday he seemed to be a little better, so I headed into London for the first time in over a week to attend a Personal Impact training session with NLC team at the National Theatre. With actors, doing fancy actor stuff.
I was still pretty tired and emotional but didn’t want to waste taxpayers money by not attending training that we had paid for, and also because I knew another member of the team was feeling particularly anxious about it and I didn’t want to let her down.
It was a small group, and there was a lot of space, but I did feel unsure about whether it was really ok for me to be there. Either way, I got a free lunch and got to hang out with Morgan too, so that was good.
Husband had a pre-op assessment at a different hospital on Thursday and was taken there by his dad, so I worried about that throughout the day. His op was due to be on the 24th March, and has since been cancelled. I’m glad and relieved because I didn’t really want him to end up in isolation in hospital and unable to see him.
In the evening husband received an email saying that his office would be closing and not to come back in until told.
Despite it being a short week, with everything going on I was really tired and in need of a rest by Friday. I had a call with May-N about my end of year review, it turns out MHCLG have scrapped this approach but as I’m at Cabinet Office at the moment I need to have it. So I needed some feedback and pointers for what I should do. I genuinely have not had time to think about this before now, so I started trying to write something but couldn’t really concentrate.
On Saturday, we decided not to head to a family lunch for fear of infecting and being infected, and took ourselves for a lovely socially distanced walk in Wrest Park which was soul nourishing, and in the afternoon I baked a cake and played Mario Kart. It was what I needed.
On Sunday I woke up with a splitting headache and felt as though I had eaten a bowl of concrete. I think this was a version of the bug that husband had, except without all the puking and panic. I think my body just decided it could probably deal with it if only I had enough sleep. Which is a metaphor for my life generally I think.
So I didn’t get dressed, stayed in bed for most of the day, watched Monsters University from the sofa and missed my nephew’s 1st birthday lunch, and the cake, which sucked.
Week 2 (Week beginning 16/3/20)
Here’s my trello board for this week (https://trello.com/b/BBJ726mr/progress-bookmarks)
On Monday I still wasn’t feeling 100% (probably more like 60% at my best). And the increasing levels of pandemic anxiety, on top of everything else, really tired me out. I felt very strongly like I needed a holiday.
Given that husband’s office had closed and that I wasn’t quite right still I decided to work from home because I didn’t want to put my family at undue risk by bringing something back. Work were thankfully really lovely about it, and at this point the government hadn’t officially advised us to stay at home yet. I guess this was really the start of our social distancing, despite never calling it that outright.
One of the hardest things about being away from the office is feeling productive, and on Monday I was struggling with a feeling of not doing enough, even though I know that this is a totally non-standard situation we find ourselves in. But that feeling stayed with me well into Tuesday. I did however get an inkling that our work may be drastically pivoted as a result of coronavirus and started thinking about that in a bit more detail.
One good thing that happened on Monday was that my neighbours started self-organising with a WhatsApp group and it was really lovely. Jenny set up a standing hangout meeting at 2pm every day for our team to get together and chat with a cup of tea, it’s so great that people are looking out for each other in that way.
My husband bought me a Nintendo switch, because when boys panic about being isolated everything will be ok if there are computer games.
Wednesday morning was One Team Gov breakfast which went remote and was shared (successfully I think) with the York meetup. It basically made my week. I was so pumped up afterwards that it took most of the day for my adrenaline to settle down again. I’ve missed breakfasts in person for a few weeks now and was feeling a little sad about missing it again so when James and DavidBuck said they would run it virtually I was so happy.
There were something like 28 people on the call and loads of brilliant discussions and support. We’ve had many more people sign up for next week and it’s so exciting to see that happening.
One of the key things for me was talking about the change curve and about how change affects productivity. There will always be a drop in productivity while people get used to a new way of working, Keela explained this brilliantly and took a lot of weight off of me by talking about how leaders should know this. It doesn’t last forever. I think this had a big impact on me as I was able to work a lot more on Wednesday as I wasn’t crippled with the pressure of being productive.
On Wednesday I did a lot of product-y work, and it felt good to get back to a sense of normalcy, with sprint planning and reviewing journey flows and chatting about plans for some new functionality. I felt productive and useful again for a little while.
On Thursday we had some news that our work will be changing to support Covid-19 response, so after a couple of slow days I felt everything start to kick into action. In those days of feeling unproductive, I guess the ripple out reached me, because by Thursday things seemed to be moving, bureaucracy was being moved out of the way and additional resources (people) were being found to help. It was, honestly, a pleasure to see it.
I started feeling really lucky to be able to play a small part in something important and its really hard to state just how important purpose is at times like this. I know it’s going to be hard work, but I’m up for it.
And now what? I’m still on the rollercoaster; days of anxiety and days of feeling ok come and go in waves. Ups and downs. I’m going to keep moving forward though. I know lots of others are feeling this way. So all I can say is keep talking, keep working in the open, keep going.
Finally, here are a few nice things and bits of inspiration for you
This lovely thread by Janet Hughes
This lovely list of lovely things by Amanda
Simon’s guinea pigs
If you manage to get all the way to the bottom of this post I want to say some thank you’s to all of the people who I’ve seen being there for one another this week and that have been there for me too, sending gifs, jokes, virtual hugs, whatsapp messages, just generally being top humans. Thank you.