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the occasions lady and

Surviving 2020
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest Osborn

Like many small businesses, Occasions has had its share of hurdles along the way. Overcoming many of those obstacles during the past 17 years made us stronger, while others nearly took our legs out from under us. Surviving 2020, however, has been more like running a marathon in a field of land mines. No one had a playbook for that.

When the spread of the pandemic resulted in business closures last March, many of us believed if we could hold on for a month or two, the worst of it would be behind us. We cut our expenses, began having employees work remotely to protect staff and transitioned to survival mode. Nearly nine months later, like other small businesses, we are still attempting to tread water.

While operating in survival mode is exhausting and creates a lot of anxiety for everyone, I am thankful for every month that we have been able to survive during the pandemic. You don’t have to go far to find locally-owned businesses that had no choice but to close their doors permanently this year. Without loyal readers and advertisers who support us each month, we would not have survived 2020.

Last month, as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 12 million, survival became a more personal journey. After experiencing fever and chills on Nov. 1, I tested positive for the coronavirus the following day.

Between the fever and fatigue, I spent much of November in a fog. On bad days, I would get up long enough to drink Gatorade, eat a few blueberries and go back to bed. On good days, I would sit outside on the back deck in a T-shirt, shorts and house shoes and attempt to focus on work long enough to keep the December issue moving forward. Thankfully, our small but mighty staff was able to take the lead.

Rodney and I are also blessed to have friends and family who checked on us, dropped off food and supplies and offered to help in any way. From an extra thermometer and plastic gloves to blueberries, flowers and pie, the frequent deliveries to our front porch allowed us to isolate. It also gave us some much-appreciated virtual contact with the outside world.

I am also fortunate to have a husband who is a natural caregiver. While I was recovering, Rodney kept up with my medicine schedule, organized the recommended vitamins and supplements, reminded me to check my heart rate and oxygen levels, and did his best to take care of me while we attempted to live separately in the same house for two weeks. After I lost my sense of smell and taste, he would try to find something that might appeal to me, only for me to realize that it all tasted like salt at the time. He helped keep me calm when I wasn’t sure what toll the virus would take early on and helped me survive it.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the many healthcare heroes who have helped me and countless others survive this past year. From hospital workers and family physicians to mental health counselors, thank you for continuing to show up every day to save lives during the worst pandemic in more than 100 years.

For me, surviving 2020 was a group effort. There were many times when I was inclined to withdraw from others during difficult times, because, realistically, who isn’t having a rough year? What this year has taught me, however, is that whether it’s work, family or health-related, sometimes just knowing that you are not alone in the middle of a crisis can help get you to the other side.