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Grin and Bear It

Grin and Bear It

by Angie Ash, Executive Vice President

“Grin and bear it” were words my Dad sometimes said as I was growing up. Certainly, I’ve thought about those four words more in the past few months. My Dad is 88 years old this year, and he certainly has been through his share of hardship in his life thus far. It has been interesting and enlightening to witness his calm conversations and remarks in the storm of the Covid-19 fallout, but he is a member of that silent generation that has to be prodded to tell stories of the past. He doesn’t believe in visually showing the world a face that is struggling. He’d rather bury it in the past and never dredge it back up. Bygones are bygones and all that.

As a member of a different generation, though, my perspective on emotions is a little different. Sure, I can grin and bear it with the best of them, and I do. But I am also allowing myself to feel the vast and varying emotions so many of us are experiencing right now, even if they're done in private. I bet you are too.

I am sad that my oldest daughter won’t experience her graduation from The Ohio State University in “The Shoe”. She’s worked her butt off for that degree in Mechanical Engineering and graduating with honors. Instead, I’m supposed to take heart that her class will experience virtual graduation and will be a part of “a historic event.” I have cried real tears for that loss - and for the literal spilled milk shown on the news when so many desperate, hungry people are standing in food lines. I’ve let my heart feel heavy by the cancellation of the many events that have been looked forward to by high school students and their parents, missing their milestone proms and graduations; the senior college basketball players who had prepared so well for March Madness, and all the engaged couples who had to reschedule their weddings.

I felt real anxiety the first time I had to visit our local grocery stores. The grim faces (now masked and behind plastic guards at the checkout counter) told of workers’ fears, too. They are also on the front lines. I’ve prayed for my youngest daughter working in a children’s hospital, and the many friends and family members in the health care industry who are also going to hospitals and clinics to work each day. I’ve heard their stories of working with the elderly in nursing homes, where they’re given little to no PPE; where the residents are even more lonely and greatly missing their families they can’t see or hug.

I’ve felt anger and disgust at those who didn’t take heed of the health warnings, celebrating their spring breaks on the beaches in crowds as if the pandemic was just a made-up joke; calling it the “Boomer remover” of all things - completely oblivious to the fact that they could come back home and silently infect their grandparents with a killer virus.

I’ve griped with my friends about my very visible roots as we’ve witnessed box hair color and hair cutting kits surge in online sales. Our manicures and pedicures are long overdue, and frankly, my feet look a little terrifying. We’ve joked about keeping safe social distance with our refrigerators in our efforts to not gain the “Quarantine Nineteen”. We’ve texted each other before our daily 2:00 PM briefing from our governor (Wine with DeWine is a thing!) We’ve encouraged each other to walk, run and bike outside or stream fitness videos to stay healthy. We wonder if our gym will ever re-open and what that experience will be like when it finally happens. We’re ready to kick about twenty COVID-19 “buzzwords” to the curb, hoping to never hear them again.

However, in light of all the anxiety, stress, and angst, I’ve also been grateful to be be employed and to be able to work at home, even though I am really sick of sitting at my kitchen table day after day. I can spend time every day with my daughter before she moves for her new job. We were fortunate enough to have already installed a remote working day. Transitioning to it every day wasn’t that hard for us. We have been working harder for our clients than ever before and helping them weather what we could never have anticipated.

Right now, I look at the bright side of not needing to race out the door and get on a highway, only to arrive at the office annoyed by the latest traffic holdup or cut-off. We’ve been able to effectively get rid of our paper folder system, saving countless paper waste. We all have mastered Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts calls, despite shoddy internet connections and bad camera angles.

I’ve also taken note of things that don’t typically get more than a passing glance because I’m too busy and preoccupied, like the trees seemingly going from budding to full-on leaves. The fact that my daffodils have kept their blooms for weeks when last year, I could swear it was just for a few days. The earlier sunrise, the longer days, and the arrival of the spring season remind us that time and life goes on, even when each day that passes feels just like the last.

My family is enjoying the fact that I’m cooking more. I’m saving some significant wear and tear on my car since there’s nowhere really to go beyond the grocery store. Completing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle isn’t quite so daunting. I’ve surpassed my goal of reading a book a week. My kitchen is completely organized. There are still little victories to be had!

Psychologically, it’s not going to be an easy transition for businesses as they start to reopen. We all know there will be many people who won’t be comfortable to venture out so soon. Sales won’t be bouncing back so fast. Some restaurants won’t make it, despite our takeout support. Flying in an airplane will be a different experience. We'll need to continue to focus on things like private appointments, messages on safety, and curbside delivery.

I’m optimistic that many jewelers can make it through these turbulent times, though, especially those who have spent their time out of their stores to focus on strengthening their clienteling and working on a model that supports more online sales. If there was a single takeaway in all this, it would be that we must continue to evolve and adapt to how business needs to be done. For sure, the industry as a whole got the kick in the pants it needed to start making it happen, And realistically, we all have to adapt now, in case this all happens again.

But, we can take heart that as humans, we’re infinitely and amazingly adaptable. We’ve shown the world that virtual award shows and football drafts can still happen, just experienced in a different way. We can still celebrate those we love, and we also recognize that we need to do that more now than ever before. We’ll come around like we always do, because as my Dad also always says, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

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