I lost my sense of humor almost four weeks ago. It disappeared suddenly when I learned that someone who works for me, someone I cared a lot about, was hanging onto his life in a near-fatal car crash. What became immensely clear was that someone in our little family at TAG! The Creative Source was in trouble, and for the first time in seventeen years, “doing business” suddenly felt trivial and lacked significance. I felt guilty picking up the phone. Smiling or laughing was out of the question. And, like any mother; I worried that this young; twenty-three-year-old man wouldn’t pull through, after learning that he had something like a five per cent chance of surviving.
Catastrophic events in small businesses create snowball effects that you can’t even begin to imagine unless you work for one or own one that has been through one. People don’t deal with crisis well in general and they cease to function when they are traumatized. Traumatized people think and behave differently, and character becomes unbalanced. Add work to the mix and projects get shifted, pushed off and even delayed. Traumatized people at work look out the window and the sky seems darker than it would on an ordinary day when life was normal and everyone was sitting in their respective chairs.
Small businesses are like families that lack only a dinner table. You get to know each other intimately. When one family member is missing; it’s different, altered and maybe never the same again. After the token, single day a small business owner “gets” to feel the pain that everyone else is feeling, the owner has to rise to the challenge, react and keep things moving along. Any good leader will tell you; even in crisis mode, the small business owner has to pick themselves up, stand tall and no matter what, they have to remember that the business is a living, breathing entity of its own. It has to go on. Pushing the business back into forward momentum can be perceived as selfish, and the business owner walks a tightrope for awhile. But, if the business owner doesn’t react, people could be out of jobs if clients reassemble and land elsewhere.
So, as a small business owner, I had no other choice but to keep things progressing along, shuffling duties, taking on extra responsibilities, listening and trying to keep people focused on the tasks at hand. We had some fallout. But, four weeks later; we’re better and stronger because of it. We’ll know better how to handle chaos and confusion next time. Next time; I’ll know what to do.
So, as I mentioned; I completely displaced my sense of humor. It was gone, forever, I thought. (You lose perspective when you are overwhelmed and fatigued). But, I finally found it again, although it took a couple of important events for me to locate it. Last Saturday night, I ended-up at a small industry party in Dana Point, CA. Somewhere around 1:00 AM; I phoned for a cab to get me back to my hotel while a friend was listening to the conversation nearby. The operator at Yellow Cab asked me for my street name. I said, “Camino Capistrano.” The operator said, “Can you spell Camino?” I spelled it, “C-A-M-I-N-O”. He said, “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch that.” I spelled it once more and again he said, “I’m sorry, I still didn’t catch that.” Frustrated and ready to give up, I said, “Let me try it this way. Candy. Apple. Mary. Isotope.” As soon as I said isotope, my friend and I started laughing so hard that I couldn’t finish the call. Even the operator was laughing. Tears were streaming down our faces. We couldn’t stop; we were literally possessed by laughter. For me, this otherwise, non-momentous occasion signified the first time in four weeks that I had really smiled or laughed at all.
Yesterday, I finally heard from my employee and friend who almost died. His voice was as clear and confident as if he were sitting in the office next to me. “Hi Tonia,” he said, and inwardly, I started to cry. After ten minutes of talking to him and learning from him, in his own words, that he was going to be just fine; I hung up the phone and laughed and laughed and laughed. Laughter really is the best medicine, and now, finally, Baby’s got her humor back.
“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”