I got one of those emails so full of ALL-CAPS, it had to either be from someone who doesn’t know how to unclick the caps lock key, or from someone really yelling for help.
It was the latter.
They needed a special “Coronavirus Edition” of their donor newsletter.
And they needed me to write the whole thing in 24 hours.
I already had a full inbox of other tight deadlines, almost all connected to the pandemic.
I sometimes get dumb requests that are bad ideas and projects that are urgent only because someone hasn’t been thinking. It’s not so hard saying no to those. But this wasn’t like that. I always want to say yes to quality organizations doing projects that are strategically smart. That’s my mission, my duty, and my main source of income.
I sat there looking at the email, and a strange combination of panic and weariness swept over me.
That was Tuesday. You know, just about any Tuesday.
It’s been like that for about 13 weeks. With no change in sight.
I’m not sure how much longer I can keep up this pace.
And I know I’m not the only one. I’m hearing from fundraisers all over the world, and they’re saying the same thing: “I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.”
There’s a discussion about this going on at The Fundraisingology Lab members-only Facebook group, where the word “exhausted” shows up again and again.
Smart fundraisers have been raising a lot of money since the pandemic hit. They’ve done it by working hard.
It’s not just the raw workload that’s getting us. We can’t do so many of the things that give our lives shape, meaning, variation. I can’t go down to the café. Or the pub. Or to church. And there’s no live music to make or to listen to. Without those things, life has a hard edge.
We’re also afraid. For our health. For the health of our loved ones. For our own economic wellbeing. Many of us in the US are further stressed and saddened by a wave of police brutality, reminding us just how far we are from living up to the values and ideals of our nation. Throw on that the antics of leaders who seem to be planning to have our own military take up arms against us … it just takes your energy away.
The way you’re feeling right now? It’s real. These are not normal times.
So let me give you three facts I hope you’ll consider:
Fact #1: You are not alone
Those other people in Zoom meetings who look relaxed and happy — they’re going through all of it too. You just can’t read the anxiety in their heads or the fear in their hearts. Or the chaos in the room just outside camera range. They probably think you have it all together.
None of us do. We’re all freaked out and wondering how much longer we can take it. Remember that.
Take advantage of any community you can right now. It’s more important than you know.
Fact #2: You have a responsibility to take care of yourself
You’re no good to yourself or anyone else if you burn out. And you are going to burn out if you don’t take care of yourself.
So make it a priority.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Say “no” now and then to things you’re asked to do. (This may be the most difficult item on this list!)
- Take off one day every week. Really take it off. No projects, no checking email, no quick phone calls. Make the day different.
- Take time for music.
- Practice some kind of meditation every day.
- Talk to people you like. (See above: You are not alone!)
Self-care is not easy. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us.
But you have to do it.
Fact #3: This could be a turning point in your life
The coronavirus pandemic — along with economic, political, and social things surrounding it is a very big deal.
Possibly the biggest deal since World War II.
What does that mean for your future? Just look at those who went through the war. Millions of people died, but those who survived were transformed by it.
That generation faced things no one ever wants to face. They served in the military. They supported the war effort at huge personal sacrifice. They lived in cities that were bombed, from London to Hiroshima and everywhere in-between. They faced attempts to exterminate them.
The survivors carried the pain and sorrow of it for the rest of their lives, but they also grew.
They became giants — because they faced giant challenges.
What we’re facing today doesn’t really compare to a world war. But the impact may be big, nevertheless. The struggles you face will transform you. Make you stronger, more resilient, more capable than you ever thought possible. In the years to come, you may look back at 2020 as the year you became.
The younger you are now, the bigger the impact. Old farts like me are pretty much fully formed, for good or for ill. But if you’re under 30 (or so), you are laying a foundation right now that you will build on for decades to come.
You probably know at least one person who has survived cancer. Who went through chemo or other difficult treatments. Who faced the possibility that they might not make it.
Every person I know who has been through a serious battle with cancer looks back on it with gratitude. Because it made them stronger, better, deeper. And they value the difference it made for them.
Big challenges make big people.
Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier now. But it can give even more purpose to hard times.
Please remember these three facts when you feel overwhelmed. You’ll make it.
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