Allison here! You may have noticed we missed one of our bi-weekly updates and that this one is a bit late. Soft Chaos has been up to a lot lately: client work, fulfillment for the Cadences crowdfunding campaign (if you missed it, you can check out our pre-order store here), making a game for the Cartomancy Anthology and preparing to put on a show for the Montreal Fringe Festival (You’ll hear more about this from Squinky in a later post!). All of this is on top of cooperative logistics (we are close to finding an office space) and giving back to the community and organizations that have helped support us thus far. But all of this isn’t the main reason we missed a deadline.
From here on out this post is going to get personal. Content warning for sad pet stuff and COVID.
Growing up, my father never took a sick day from work the entire time I lived in his house. Not one. He always used to say that being sick was all in your head, and you could just power through. It was a point of pride for him. As much as I can look at this intellectually and know I don’t agree, it is something I have deeply, deeply internalized. Cooperatives are not immune from self-exploitation, and I have tied so much of my self-worth to being reliable, being able to work, and always getting things done that I have perpetuated this.
I have been working to be kinder to myself, and accept help when I need it (my therapist jokes I’m a pretty bad communist for how much I like work and how uncomfortable I am asking for support). I have been making some progress– I quit the day job that was burning me out and leaned on my partner for support, I limited the hours I could be working, and I even felt ok taking a couple of days off here or there.
But this was all based on the fact that, in my mind, I was allowed to take that time because I would be able to “make it back”. That time wouldn’t result in missed deadlines or dropped balls. I wouldn’t let other people down. It was never “you can rest until you feel better”, it was always “it is OK to take a day or two off” (with the unspoken implication that while a day or two was ok, three or four was not).
So I kept up this pace. Until, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t. Not just for a day, or even a week, but for over a month. First, my beloved pet of over a decade got very sick and within a week passed away. That last week of his life was hard and limited my ability to work. I forgave myself and gave myself time to grieve. (Pictured below is one of his last days)
Then, after two years of extreme COVID precautions, I got COVID at the veterinarian’s office. I had a fever that didn’t break for days and still have lingering symptoms. Again, I tried to be kind to myself but all I could really do was be frustrated. Why was my body letting me down like this?
Since then, there have been a series of even more unfortunate events that have led to me being exhausted. I still have many dropped balls, I’m still not at a capacity level I’m used to. And, to be completely honest, I’m still not okay with that. But I’m trying.
At Soft Chaos, I’ve been able to admit I just can’t do things and ask for support. I was able to essentially be MIA for an entire month. I’m still struggling with my own feelings about this, but it is something I absolutely could not do in my position as a contractor for a large corporation. I was only able to take this time through the support of my cooperative members.
Even if it is hard (or even sometimes frustrating) for me, seeing my colleagues assert strong boundaries about what they are able to do has been invaluable. I am constantly learning from them and it is one of the great joys of the job. Having a workplace where our wellbeing is the top priority forces me, as someone who will put my own well-being pretty low on my priority list, to re-evaluate how I am making decisions. My workplace is actually trying to get me to exploit my own labour less, which still blows my mind.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you are excited about all of the stuff we have in the works : )