Today I found myself sobbing over the bowl of pasta I made for Amanda, my partner/gf, and me for lunch. I had just read an email from my insurance agent and told Amanda about the news. La Botanica finally caught a break from the harsh and crashing waves of stress brought on by this relentless pandemic. I started to sob.
Not tears of sadness but of relief. Although I appreciated her comforting me, I told her I was ok and to just let me continue crying because I knew that I had a lot of pressure to release. It was the first time I sobbed over all of this, and it felt good. I hadn’t realized how much pressure and weight I was carrying until the seal of tears was broken. I didn’t realize I was tirelessly treading water, still so far from the shore of safety.
The email contained the first good news I had received about La Botanica since mid-March when COVID-19 turned this city and the USA upside down. 70% of small businesses in this country operate with a two-week budget, most of us–and by “us” I am referring to the other small business owners I know in this town– who don’t have a large reserve to dip into if shit hits the fan. We aren’t trust fund babies and we don’t come from generational wealth. Actually that’s what we are trying to do, create jobs and avenues of income and build something we can live off of and pass those along to future generations.
Running a restaurant as a QWOC (queer women of color) already comes with a long list of uphill battles and learning to stay on your toes. So when the state and city governments started to make changes to how businesses could operate, I felt like I was asked to make a hard and unexpected pivot. Don’t get me wrong, I am a dancer so for me pivoting is fun and an essential part of dance, but I am also human so it can be exhausting especially when asked to do it continuously. Over the past couple of weeks, I keep thinking to myself, “We aren’t just gonna need money to keep our businesses going. We are also gonna need funds to pay for a therapist.” What we are going through is definitely going to result in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
I think it’s important to emphasize when I refer to small businesses, I am not talking about the government’s version of “small.” According to the government, if you have 499 employees you are small. La Botanica currently has 6 employees so I guess you can say we are a micro business by the government’s criteria. Yet that doesn’t matter. I have to apply for the same funds that businesses whose CFO’s are filling out the applications while the owners are at their lake houses staying safe and far away from the public. I, on the other hand, don’t have the privilege and am ethically bound to working alongside the workers of La B throughout this pandemic.
The good news doesn’t mean we’ve made it to shore, but it served as a quick trip up for air, and it was definitely what I needed to keep swimming.