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My dear friend Stewart Gilray passed away of COVID-19 a few days ago after a brave battle. Typical of Stew, he was stoical throughout. Friend to countless people across the whole industry, he and I shared our lowest lows (misery loves company) and our highest highs (the mark of true friendship).
After losing my dear friend Mikey last year, who I wrote about, and my colleague, Troy Horton, and before him Gordon Hall, it's clear that the pandemic has been a difficult time for many of us in the games industry who have made lifelong friends.
We've lost so many good souls in their prime, not necessarily to the pandemic, but it hurts so much more to lose someone when your normal support channels are so cut off.
We win together, but we lose alone.
Some of my friends are embarrassed to say they're finding it hard, after the "novelty" of the first year of the pandemic. They're embarrassed about what they see as their privilege, such a modern term, but they needn't be — because we humans, no matter how empathic we are, can only really feel, I mean viscerally feel, relative to our own experiences.
In absolute terms, many people in the United Kingdom have suffered terribly, with loved ones dying alone, with funerals unattended, some living in close quarters and in isolation with their abusers.
The mental toll in this country is without parallel, because even in war, we were never this isolated from one another.
If you're not at your best...
If you can't produce like you used to...
If you're struggling with your feelings...
If you feel like you're falling behind...
...I'm here to let you know that it's normal to feel the way you're feeling. It's normal. You hear me? We aren't supposed to be machines. For too long, that's how we've felt. It's time to feel, even if it doesn't feel good, because it's part of the human experience.
We are not meant to live like this.
We are under unimaginable stress.
We are cut off from one another, and even the most introverted of us can only take so much isolation.
Introverts aren't sociopaths, we just have a lower tolerance for social exposure, but we too need our minimum dose, or like plants in a dry summer, we wither.
And this summer has lasted almost two years.
It's normal that you're feeling grief, even if you've not lost someone, because we likely all know someone who has, and we have not been able to comfort them.
We grieve for what was, and for what has been taken, and we keep on grieving because we don't really know if it's ever coming back, and we have to live with that.
Our hearts break for our children, not just our own, all children whose adaptability we should never take for granted, because children need to play, children need to see faces, children need to feel more than just fear of the other.
We need to cut ourselves some slack. We need to let the grieving process play out. We need to do this now, because too many of us know that the promise of a tomorrow is an illusion we have seen shattered again and again in intensive care units across the country and the world.
If this means we work less, if that means we give ourselves a bit more time, a bit more patience, a bit more love, not in a narcissistic way, but because we don't have people around us like we used to, the people who gave us social nourishment, then that's what we must do.
If we have to be more forgiving, more accepting, more understanding, then that's what we should do, not just for the sake of others in similar or worse situations, but because no matter how strong we think we are, we're going to need that too, and even if we don't, we want to live in a world with more understanding and less judgment, so let's bloody well do that.
Now I'm all about the practical, so I'm going to tell you how I've cut myself some slack.
I don't obsess about exercise as much
I don't obsess about my blood sugar readings as much
I don't put myself into a peak state at the beginning of the working day, because I'm grieving for my friend, and this is not the bloody time for a peak state, and because we are all to some extent grieving, I'm going to give you permission should you need it to not be at your best
I don't hit like on every one of my friends' posts on Facebook, not because I don't like them, but because I'm just too bloody exhausted, and they're my friends, and I've given and given, and they'll understand
I eat carbs. Fuck it. That's why there's insulin
I don't wake up a couple of hours before dawn all the time. I need my sleep, and so do you
I have more naps, guilt-free
I read more. A lot more
I don't obsess about screen time on the phone
I don't obsess about my kids watching too much TV or playing too many video games because fuck it, this shit is not normal, and they need my love and my time, not my arbitrary boundaries for an age that died in early 2020 and stole their development
Cut yourself some slack.
Cut yourself some slack.
Cut yourself some slack.
I'm not ready to talk about Stew, but when I am, I'll be telling you that he embodied the best of us. He listened, he cared, he understood, he was there. And he was funny as fuck. I miss you Stew, and when your kids are a bit older, I'm going to tell them what a spectacularly wonderful friend and human being you were.