Unseen sunrises

It’s been the kind of year that you look back on and say “yeah, that was the high water mark, but we made it through” — or at least that’s what you hope to say.

All these years
Of commitments and careers
And we’re all up to our ears in fear and doubt
And water flowing
Down and out
~ Enter the Haggis, Flood

Ultimately there’s no way to know.

So we are here, and we are fighting our way through every day because when the background radiation of a global pandemic and increasing unrest never fade, it doesn’t take much of a burst of something more to get burned. And we are all giving each other the side-eye because nobody knows who can handle what they’re being asked to absorb and who’s about to melt down.

This week one of our puppies decided to try eating a dropped human medicine and the guilt and shame and horror were as terrifying as the consequences on Zoë’s ten-pound body.

Thanks to the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline and an overworked but incredibly professional team over at Metropolitan Emergency Vet, I am still the head of a pack of five terriers.

They generate their own kind of background radiation, the dogs do. When it’s not a trip to the vet, it’s demanding attention and food and walks and potty breaks and squirrels to chase.  It is all worth it. It is also hard more days than not.

And then of course there’s the work of the web, with its own background radiation of Jeff Bezos space trips and Mark Zuckerberg arrogance and npm vulnerabilities and debates over the ethics of personas (again…) and the general slog of hitting deadlines and goals set by people who wouldn’t know a quality usability test result if it bit them in the ass.

And there’s our personal workplace battles, trying to reach poorly set goals while understaffed. Trying to collaborate with the bully, the one that checked out two years ago, the one who tells you how to do your job, the one who heard a rumor about you and married it, the one who lost sight of the goals and the team.

They are all, as we say, part of the business. We tune them out or tune them in but mostly we just try not to get so caught up that we melt down.

Tonight, after news that our oldest dog first has pancreatitis and then does not, where the health diagnosis is less “this is curable” and more “we can slow the slide, we think”, my husband played for me the Orbital Sunrise episode of The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green. He also included for me a picture of the first art drawn in space.  To understand the context of those things I recommend listening to the podcast. John Green’s voice is, coincidentally, perfect for delivering John Green’s writing style and I don’t want to ruin the moment.

(The lack of a transcript — or the fact that it’s hiding spectacularly well — is ruination enough. Get off your ass, Audible. It’s 2021 and I want to share this with Deafblind colleagues.)

This isn’t a post about the podcast (though it is) and it’s not yet another self-care post (totally is) and it’s not a call out into the ether to say “hey, I’m out here, are you?” (hello!)

it is a moment to say the pandemic isn’t over just because our employers are over it. The labor shortage isn’t over just because our employers want it to be. The deadlines really are too close, the health benefits (in the US) really are that shit, the pay rates are improving but only unevenly and Jesus fuck how did the salary list a recruiter sent me today not even *include* ux writers or content strategists how the *fuck* am I supposed to do my job without one at my elbow to steer me right on voice and tone?!

It is a reminder that the radiation is building for all of us and we have small opportunities to lower it, but mostly by working together and listening to each other and trying.

it’s a reminder that fuck, we’re tired.

Sometimes that’s the best time to take something on.

It’s a reminder that you, too, deserve rest and love and support. Even if you’re not getting it. Even if you have to manufacture it for yourself. It is yours just as much as it is mine.

The holidays are coming.  The background radiation of pandemic and family and job and the foreground radiation of the emergency of the day are not going to fade.

Let us be kind to each other, and to ourselves. And where it’s warranted, let’s kick some ass for the greater good. Because we don’t know why art or matter or music or thought exist, but we know how to use them, and sometimes that’s enough.

Author: Anne Gibson

anne gibson is a Senior Staff Product Designer and General Troublemaker working on design systems from outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She's an editor and writer at The Interconnected. She is also published at A List Apart and The Pastry Box, and publishes short fiction when she's not persuading the terriers to stop wrecking things. (The terriers are winning.)