Tiny buds with the colors of spring are popping out on the tops of the hundred-year-old twisted oaks. A view of the distant mountain shows dark patches of trees with bright new growth creating a patchwork pattern. The air is balmy and fresh, the songbirds are loudly celebrating the arrival of spring, and the distant cattle are munching on tasty new wildflowers. Life is good.
Spring comes after a harsh winter or a mild winter. But it always comes. The cycles continue and always will. And when spring comes, we get out and enjoy it and rapidly forget just how harsh the winter has been. Instead, we enjoy life a little more once we get outside after being cooped up.
Patterns of Downturns
Amazingly, there have been about 47 economic downturns in the history of America, and after each of these winters, spring always came. Sometimes it roars in like a lion, other times it creeps in like a lamb, but it always comes.
Clearly I don’t want to make light of the absolutely frightening moment in history we, the residents of the world, are living through. This virus has already touched my life, in the sense that I actually know a couple of people who have had it. One recovered fully, one did not. And it has impacted all of our lives.
The Great Depression?
Growing up, my father often told us stories of growing up in the Great Depression. He has both fond memories and some that cause pain to think about. The hard ones were the humiliation of having to move out of their house and rent it out in order to pay the mortgage, and having to move in with family members, being treated badly and subjected to hard labor on the farm. No matter how much I try to envision this, I cannot relate, because I grew up in a time where my parents sheltered us from whatever was going on at the moment. Though there were some bad recessions, and I’m sure some difficult financial challenges, we kids never really knew. There was always food on the table, a smile on their faces, and encouragement.
Marked by This Moment
Everyone alive on this earth today will be marked by this moment in time, a time that will be part of our stories for the lifetime ahead. Some of us have been severely wounded financially, others wounded by tragic losses of family, and all of us wounded by fear of the unknown. At this moment in time, none of us knows what happens next. While some predict the worst, others predict the best. We have to choose who and what we want to believe. Being the optimist, I’m hoping for the best, but ready to step up as needed for the worst, knowing I, or someone I love or care about, could be the next victim.
So how are we to process all this? Hundreds of pop psychologists and self-help specialists are all over the media telling us how to cope. “We’re in a state of shock,” says one. “You’re experiencing PTSD,” says another, while someone else says, “If you’re down, you’re grieving.”
I’m sure each of us is seeing it differently. I’m certainly not expert enough to offer psychological advice.
My wife created a meme that went viral. It said, “Our grandparents were asked to send their children to war. We’re being asked to stay home for a few weeks. Let’s keep things in perspective.”
I thought it was good advice.
Again, not to make light of the businesses that lost their incomes (my own included), those who had to lay off people (we did), and those who have been laid off — or worse, who can’t get unemployment because of what they do for a living. Artists, for instance, can’t get unemployment, though they make their living from selling art. Maybe they can get SBA loans. Let’s hope.
Flipping a Switch
Like many of you, I found myself down, worried, and wondering how I was going to feed my kids and even send them to college. I was ruminating about the worst, and I noticed it was driving me into a deeper funk. I was getting more and more depressed, I wanted to sleep later and later, and it was impacting how I felt. If this kept up, I feared I’d not be able to recover, that I’d worry myself into a frenzy, possibly destroying my health with my state of mind.
But that was not acceptable.
Then I had a moment of clarity (stimulated by a nice brisk walk) … I can’t rely on anyone but myself to pull myself out of the ashes of fear, and fear isn’t serving me well. So I just told myself to “stop it.”
It actually was that simple. My resolve overcame my self-pity.
Then I recorded a call with Jay Abraham about what artists need to do to survive.
When I finished with that call, my physiology was completely changed.
Because of Jay’s perspective, and because of a talk I had with my dad, I realized that this downturn, this quarantine, this disruption of the world could be the best thing that ever happened to me.
How can that be?
I had to call on my inner self and realize that I have a responsibility to lift others up, to help them change their physiology, and to help them see the opportunity in this. So I started stepping up. I gathered the remaining staff who had not been laid off and redeployed them on things we could do to help … like daily videos with art instruction to help people make good use of their time, like articles to help draw attention to our advertisers even more, like videos to help give advice on how to make this into a profitable time.
Like the Song… a New Attitude
Suddenly, I was on fire with energy. In fact, knowing I had been down, my caring friend and assistant Ali phoned me “just to see how you’re doing.” My response was “Fantastic!” — and I meant it.
I had a shift of thinking. Instead of being woeful, I am hopeful. Instead of worrying, I’m taking action. Instead of being down, I’m more up than I’ve been in a long time. It happened instantly by changing my perspective.
I can’t do it for you or those you love. But anyone can do it for themselves. Even if it’s not real. There is an old saying, “Fake it till you make it.” And a funny thing happens when you pretend to be upbeat … you actually become upbeat.
Evidence Does Exist
I’m told there is evidence that mindset changes our cells and impacts our health. I’ve always believed it. I’ve never seen the evidence, but I’ve lived it. Our minds control 85 percent of everything in our lives — especially our responses to things, how we look at things.
Pour Out Your Brain on Paper
What if you took a big yellow pad and wrote numbers 1 through 50 on it and forced yourself to come up with 50 ways you could benefit from what is going on now. It won’t happen fast, you’ll have to really stretch, but write down everything. Don’t judge your ideas, just get them down. And chances are, you’ll hit a gold nugget when you review your notes.
I’m Not Buying In
There is no doubt this is a frightening time, but I refuse to allow myself to be frightened. I refuse to allow my days to be ruined by being down. What if they are my last days? Do I want to live them badly? No way. Nor do I want to be remembered as a Negative Nelly. Most important, my brain needs me to focus on hope and the great things that will come out of this time. I can tell you my family is a lot closer and my kids are doing things they’ve not done in years because of their boredom. It does my heart good to see it.
You and I are defined not by how we are when things are perfect. We’re defined by our actions when things are awful. I’ve seen some pretty upset, frightened people who have allowed this time to turn them into brave social media monsters. I’m sure they are nice people, but fear is getting the best of them. I refuse to let it get the best of me. Remember, the only thing to fear is fear itself. Finally I understand that.
On the other side of this, our world will be different. I don’t know how, but I suspect we will all have to adjust to some new ways of thinking about things. And, chances are, things will be better in some ways and maybe worse in others. We will adapt.
Just know it’s OK…
It’s OK to be scared.
It’s OK to be worried.
It’s OK to be concerned.
But it’s not OK to let it destroy you.
One day soon … maybe by Easter, maybe by summer, maybe by fall … no one knows … the window will close and this virus will no longer be a threat and our economy will ramp up again. Maybe fast, maybe slow. But winter will be over and spring will be here, and in spite of all this, we’ll all be better on the other side.
Think about how many times you wished you could just take a few weeks off to do nothing. Your wish came true. Make good use of it, because the pace will increase and we may not get this opportunity again.
Yes, it is an opportunity. It just depends on the lens you’re looking through.
Stay well. Be strong. And know that winter will be over soon.
PS: I’m a small-business guy. I’ve owned my small business for almost three decades. I’ve had periods where I’ve gone seven years without a paycheck, eating peanut butter to survive. I’ve had moments where I actually made enough money to buy a used car, or get a nicer apartment, and even some times when I was able to put some money away for a rainy day.
Being a business owner, big or small, has its pros and cons. The cons are always that there are times when you have to make decisions that disrupt people’s lives. Maybe someone had to go because they were doing a bad job, or sometimes it was because we could not afford to pay them. But each time we have to make a decision about the lives of the people we work with, it’s met with lots of sleepless nights, often some tears, and a lot of discussion to figure out a better way.
It’s popular to beat up on people who own businesses for the decisions they make. Sometimes for good reason, but other times because we have not walked in their shoes. I am convinced that there are some big evil companies and executives in the world, but most are just people who got sick of working for a jerk and started their own business, putting everything at risk.
Today, we’re hearing the stories. We’re realizing that the lady who owns the fancy restaurant down the road is in debt up to her waist and won’t survive. We’re finding out that the companies we’ve been doing business with are barely making it anyway and now cannot go on. We will see thousands of businesses go away — many we don’t want to see go away. People you thought had big bank accounts and big images are living week to week or deeply in debt.
Watch for the stories. Do what you can to aid these people by throwing them a takeout order or buying a gift card if you can. Don’t think it won’t make a difference, and don’t worry about whether you’ll lose your investment if they don’t make it. Our local smoothie chain had to close 12 of 14 stores and is begging for people to order smoothies and pick them up. These are people who have put their lives into their businesses so they can serve us. Sure, they want to make a profit and live in a nice house and drive a nice car, but customers are what keeps them going. And if you can help out the workers in any way — people may not have had enough to get through the week, let alone the month — do something, anything. You don’t need anything in return. It could be you (maybe it is you).
We’re trying to bring income in our own doors and commissions to our artists by making people aware of our videos that train people to draw and paint (we have over 400 of them). Each day at 3 p.m. Eastern, we’re putting up at least an hour of training and interviews with artists. It’s our way of helping, but thankfully a few people like the samples and buy them. It’s my way of keeping people employed. If you want to see the videos, click this link to the Streamline Art Video Facebook page and hit “follow.” You’ll find them there, and you’ll see the live ones each afternoon at 3.
Stay strong. Winter is almost over.
It’s been several weeks now that I have not received your Sunday Blog. Bummer! I really enjoy reading the Blogs & then forward to my sons. Have you quit writing the Sunday Blog or has my email been delivered to someone else? I surely trust you are still writing them because they are greatly uplifting, encouraging and a big boost to our week!
God Bless You,
Linda S. McRay
Thank you for the encouragement that you continuously send each week. Especially now, when we all need a boost. We truly are all in this together. I firmly believe we will come out of this stronger than ever thanks to our faith and to people like you.
Shelby Keefe’s interview was terrific; what a natural gem she is as a person as well as being a great artist.
Thank you so much for providing the learning videos each day. I haven’t purchased any yet, but I am keeping my eye on a couple of them. This hour each day helps to fill my days as I am single and live alone.I still feel connected to an art community. These hold tremendous information and seem to answer a lot of questions about how to do something I am presently working on. A BIG thank you for helping me in furthering my art learning experience in these strange times. I will be at the convention if all goes well.
Great upbeat message Eric. Thank you, Moira
Thank you Eric, I read out loud this week until I couldn’t (choked up, tears falling). God less you, God bless us all 😌
Thank you Eric. I enjoy reading your ‘coffee with Eric on Sundays. I always find your musings interesting and often inspirational. Today I appreciated the effort you made to address the world crisis we are in and the impact it is having on so many lives. And yes there are so many things we can do with our time while we stay at home and wait out this terrible virus.
I am often in awe of all your art involvements . . .right now, I appreciate and look forward to the daily art lessons.
I wish you, your family, and everyone else good days ahead.
All the best,
Thank you so much Eric, I totally agree with you and really needed the reminder. Now off for a brisk walk and painting!
Thank you, Eric,
For the streaming videos — so wonderful of you to share them.
In fact, I bought one — Paul Kratter on painting trees. VERY enjoyable and helpful.
This terrible time has given me so many uninterrupted, blissful hours of painting.
(It’s helpful that I’m a bit of a social introvert.)
With prayers and appreciation,
Jean Requa Lubin
Eric, thank you for your thoughtful and inspiring words. We have rental income property, and will not be eligible for any stimulus money, mortgage relief more than a 90 day delay, and of course property taxes, insurance and expenses carry on as usual.Who knows how long our loss of income will continue when tenants stop paying rent. We have savings to weather this for a while, but the loss will be felt because we are retired. I live in Santa Fe, and I am truly worried for the artists and gallery owners, jewelers and ” makers” who stand to be profoundly affected by the shutdowns and loss of tourist traffic. I have a friend who sells Harvey House and other Native jewelry in the Museo at the Railyard (of course shut now), and if there is a positive side to this, she is finally motivated to develope an online presence, branding and marketing strategy. I am looking forward to PACE returning in August. The weather will be glorious, not with hurricane-force like wind like before. I pray we are in the clear by then.
Thank you……That was a VERY GOOD word. How many times over the years have I heard……If I could only have a business like yours,…….You don’t understand because you have a business already,…… You have a nice house….car….job…family….education…..because …. Or..If I only had the money….or the time I would (do this or that). No one saw the months when we took no salary or as you said “had to let someone go”. Everyone of us has background or situations that no one but family know about……a hopefully we are able to deal with them with vision. Vision, yes, but also reality. A few times we had to stop and say …..”O.K. Lord, have you a new direction or vision for us?” A word from me…….don’t have tunnel vision, there is spring coming if we open our eyes and look around with hope.
THANK YOU FOR WRITING A WONDERFUL NEWSLETTER ! I GREATLY APPRECIATE YOUR REACHING OUT TO ME, AN ARTIST TRYING TO SURVIVE THIS TERRIBLE SITUATION THE WORLD IS IN !! I AM USING MY TIME AT HOME, TO PAINT AND POSSIBLY WRITE AN ARTICLE ON THE NEW TECHNIQUE I DEVELOPED FOR CREATING TEXTURES IN MY ART WORK !! (please excuse my typing in capital)
Thank you for your heartfelt and inspiring column today and every week- but especially now. It’s just what we all need to hear.
Thank you for your positive words of support! I too believe our attitude and mindset have a lot of impact on our physical well being. Stay healthy and keep writing your encouraging Sunday Coffee!
I know exactly what you are talking about. I have lived through the Great depression and through the 2. WW in in Europe. I have enough material on hand to write a book. Let me just express myself concerning both the present and future outlook on the global destiny. I have learned to be very sober as far as my views of world conditions are concerned. Past experiences have taught me to evaluate present situations in the context of history. Take the Roman empire e.g. Students of history and even past leaders have compared both the Roman Empire with the United States. They have seen an alarming parallel. In short, It is easy to observe phenomena which write their own history. Climate change, the increase in nuclear weapons, the dehumanization of the human race and the decline of moral stability. There is an increase in human population and the inability feed the masses. All of this and more points to the end,
but I believe that the destiny as well as of the entire universe is under the control of the most powerful being we address as God
Way to go, Eric! Enjoying the read with my wake up coffee. Be safe and be well!
I am not a figure drawing person usually but yesterdays lesson was superb. I think you for showing these 3pm videos. Your discussion with Michael Mentler was so enlightening. And truly, as with all the nationally /internationally famous artist with whom I have studied, they are all so humble. It lifts me up that they have the same self doubts and self critical feelings. but also, he is so very logical in his lessons. Truly thank you. As I walk each morning, i greet my neighbors…one said she was so bored. I was so sorry for her, and when I saw an artist friend, I said to her.. we are so fortunate, …there is no need for an artist to be bored. We are the creators. no boredom . only joy. at the uninterrupted time we can spend in our studios, or outside painting. I am just waiting for a little bit of warmth here in Michigan to have more consistent time to set up outside.. just in my yard, to paint.
Our pair of loons has joined us on the lake, signaling Spring has arrived, that and the cacophony of redwing blackbirds. Thanks for the words of encouragement. I’m learning much from my 90 yr old mother over numerous phone calls. Everyone needs to contact someone during this event.
Wonderful article ! Thank you for taking the time to write this uplifting email.
Sending best wishes for good health and comfort during this trying time.
Thank you for your efforts and your attitude. I wanted to let you know that your comments and the videos are indeed appreciated. As a medical worker, hobby painter and possibly a little bit of an art video addict – this distraction in the evening certainly helps me let go of the days stress. Some days I am so tired all I can do is watch, others I step into another world and paint along. Spring IS coming, better days are ahead! Keep up the good work and stay safe!
Eric, deep down I hoped to have some time off in order to produce more art and vlog content for a future website, now it came and I’m making use of it. The best was discovering more online art education that is serious.
Thanks for the wonderful post and all thw best.
Thank You, am sending this to a few Artist friends that need a lift.
I love this time of year “Spring a time to renew” . The wildflowers are blooming I live in the desert in AZ. every were you look is yellow, bright and up lifting.
This a time to be aware of the things to come, and the help you can give maybe just a call to see how someone is doing.
All I can say is THANK YOU Eric for your encouraging words. We need to be hopeful at these times and make the best of a bad experience. We will get through this. I used to teach 7th grade World History. I now have an inkling of what it must have felt like during the plague during the Middle Ages. But we have many more advantages today than our ancestors had. We have the internet to help teach us how to survive and encourage us to find ways to be productive during these times. Thank you for staying strong for us.
I always enjoy reading whatever you write Eric. Thank You
Thanks Eric. I’ve read your Sunday words of encouragement and of wisdom since spending the week in Banff with you in the snow a couple of years ago! What a great trip! Hope I can get to the one in NH this fall. I’ve taken advantage of this time to take a 5 day painting challenge with Mary Gilkerson, clean out some cupboards and visit with friends, that I don’t see often, on the phone or computer. Take care and look forward to your next post.
This helps so much!!! The mind is an incredible thing to waste on being consumed with worry, you’ve motivated me to uplift my sole with what I Can control!
Thanks for always thinking outside of the box, Stay Well!
Everyone is grieving right now and no one’s grief looks the same. We can have empathy for those outside our inner circle, across the political divide, and beyond. 💚
Loved this post, Eric, and found it very inspiring.
Yes, we are all affected by this pandemic and we will get through it together!!!
My mindset was changed since a health event . Seven jolts to get me back a couple years ago. Now it doesn’t matter to me while before I would have been worried. Was rewired somehow and know It’s easy to die. Plan on painting more and try to help settle others thru this.
It will be OK.
See your picking up and moving to Santa Fe !
Learned the lesson of putting a smile on my face, even if it wasn’t real, when I went through a divorce. Taught me to change my attitude and my life was so much better. Deep thanks for helping me remeber that lesson.
Well written Eric! Yes, it’s our mindset that will get us through. I did not realize Laurie sent out that post. It was fabulous!
You r amassing Eric and I look forward to your post & videos, yes mindset is powerful and mine is back in place thank you
Thank you, Erick for what you are doing each day to help artists that may be having a difficult time working through sheltering. As you would know, artists need to stand up for breaks, turn on the radio, take out the dog, stretch our legs! Your videos help to keep us inspired and when all this is over, you will be remembered for the contributions you made for us. Your stories each Sunday …… well, I look forward to them. Today, I especially loved your PS ending. We all need healing. Art has it’s own way with each of us in this healing of mind, body and soul. I will be 74 years old at the end of this year. Painting gives me purpose deep within my spirit.
All the best to you,
PS: I paint people. I loved Ceasar’s drawing and interview. Would love to see more of that genre.
I read your column religiously and always find it uplifting and informative. As for those live streaming lessons? I am already using the info I learned from Michele Byrne about underpainting using water with water-soluble oils.
Thank you Eric for your perspective & transparency. We were all caught off guard a little & maybe let fear be our first reaction, but you are so right in saying we have the choice & only we ourselves can make that shift in thinking & outlook for ourselves. Thank you for putting it out there for all to read & reread when needed!
Thank you so much 😊 for putting this smile on me! I forwarded your beautiful and uplifting article to everyone I know.
I’m a fan of Sunday Coffee and especially appreciate what you have to say in this week’s column. Some years ago I worked for a woman who had a sign on the wall of her office: “Attitude is everything. Pick a good one.” Thank you for your column, for the free hour of training and the interviews online, for the encouragement, and for all that you do to encourage artists. I pray you and your loved ones stay well during this time.
Great words Eric, winter is indeed almost over. Thanks for the uplift today!
Stay positive, happy and healthy!
Great odds today Eric! Winter is indeed almost over. Stay positive, happy and healthy! Best wishes!
Everyones perspective is so important to hear right now.
We can learn a lot from each other. II appreciate hearing your perspective, and how it’s shifted throughout the weeks. I also appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable in this difficult time. It takes a lot of courage. I don’t think the end of the COVID19 outbreak is near, Easter is a stretch, but when we eventually find our new normal, we will be stronger. We will all go through the stages of grief in our own ways. Going through the stages of grief help us heal. Financial grief will be easier to heal from than loss of life. Admitting mistakes and communicating respectfully with people who hold different perspectives from our own helps us see beyond our own “fear bubble” and become wiser. For the artists and independent contractors who are worried they are not eligible for unemployment, I’ve heard that the government is shifting the rules on unemployment, allowing for “gig workers,” like Uber Drivers, to access unemployment benefits. I’m not sure if artists qualify, but I’m almost certain independent contractors would.
Secondly, our local arts community is providing artist relief grants. I recommend people look at what’s available in their own communities.
I forgive you,
The original 5 stages of grief include denial (this won’t affect me…), anger, bargaining (it will all be over by Easter…), depression, and acceptance. There has since been a 6th stage of grief added, finding meaning. We don’t go through these stages in order, but it’s important that we go through all of them, fully, in order to heal.