The culture depends on the sensitivity of a few, because nothing can be healed if it’s not sensed first. ~Glennon Doyle
Yesterday I spent some energy trying to help a few people because I’m still employed. The inner-service worker in me who likes to tip well feels the pain of many right now. I ordered books from a bookstore and the owner of the store delivered them to my house. I paid for housecleaning that I’ll never use from a writer friend who has suddenly lost her income while people shelter in place. People are living with the reality of no longer being considered “an essential service.” Her tears of gratitude were almost too much for me to bare. I ordered lunch from a restaurant and told them to donate the food to somebody or keep the money. My company’s leadership has been so generous to us that I feel compelled to share what I can.
After work yesterday, my dog scratched at the garage door while I tried a new yoga app, who is offering their courses for free. A gesture by many businesses that will win my business forever if I like the product. Target tho? You’re dead to me. I mean, didn’t we watch the captains of industry tell us they were united with their customers? Such bullshit as they all took turns shaking hands. No words.
Back to my pupper. My little guy woke up from a nap and couldn’t find me. As I tried to do Warrior pose (shit, I’ve lost some flexibility, very alarming), I could hear him sniffing at the door, so I walked over and let him in. He likes my yoga mat, so he laid down on it. Dog down. So I paused the class and I laid on the floor with my little elderly dog. I laid there petting him. We breathed together.
Also during the work hours yesterday, I waved from my office window at my elderly neighbor as she walked to get her mail. My friends sent me funny things from the internet, and my coworkers continued to slay me with their thoughts and Interwebz funnies. I helped write a letter to my mayor and the city council. I stared out the window at a trail I no longer feel is safe to walk because it’s not six feet wide. I learned that somebody I know has a father who has tested positive. I exchanged hilarious jokes with my nurse friend whom I have recently reconnected with after almost a year of not talking. We were once fierce friends. Sisters.
These days are strange yet oddly the same for me. I’m lucky and grateful.
Life indeed goes on even when things are terrifying, unknown, and constantly changing. My Mister reminded me that we’re not built to be in constant fight-or-flight, so it’s no wonder I’m so tired. That I don’t feel that great. And I have to work on forgiving the people who went to bars, the beach, and to the safe illusion that this is life and spring break as usual. That there are assholes in the world who thought a “Corona Party” was a good idea. My anger at them does me no good. My rage at the monstrously inept president who cares more about the stock market and his Twitter statistics than human lives does me no good. My frustration with educators who want to split hairs about whether we are teaching “online” or “remote” or “whatever academic term here” feels meaningless. But they’re academics, and that’s what academics like to do. They name and define things. So I’ve limited my Twitter exposure to twenty minutes a day. It’s helping.
We’re in a crisis moment. This is a crisis where everyone retreats to what is comfortable and safe to take a break from the fight-or-flight. All you can do is your best.
So I’ll do the same here. I’ll give a bit more advice about working from home. A few of you shared that it was helpful to you.
So here goes.
One Hot Tip of Something to Avoid: Don’t fall into “I’ll Just Do X Real Quick” in between meetings. Believe me, it can be so tempting to do dishes, laundry, cut the grass, whatever in between work meetings and deadlines. It can feel good to multi-task, but really what you’re doing is taxing your work brain more than you need to right now. The thing is, you can’t do those things “real quick” and they eat up time in your day. Save those for the after-work-hours. Your before work hours are booked, right? I talked about this in my last post. Again, for those of you with children, I don’t have advice, but I do know many people are struggling with this new reality of the workplace.
One Hot Tip of Something Nice: Put something on your desk that makes you happy. I bought this little Buddha during a time when I leading faculty through an LMS transition which is like a vacation compared to this new reality we’re living. Good times! I stared at this Buddha when faculty called with their Strong Opinions About Canvas and during acute times of their stress. I like this fat little Buddha. And that’s a tiny purple flower from my yard that the deer didn’t eat. Those bastards. And that Ikea light just hits a nice glow at the corner of my desk.
Create a little work nest shrine.
Question: “How do you separate the end of the workday when you’re at home all day? How do you stop working?”
Most people have a commute that services this space, and that time which provides a buffer between your work life and home life. That space is suddenly gone. And for many of you who are also faced with homeschooling your children while your spouse is at home as well, that space has evaporated and collapsed. I may not have good advice for parents here, but I can address the worker in you. And may all the gods–old and new–bless you.
Here’s how you end the day: Create a ritual.
Something you do at the end of each day to signify that you’re ending work and you’re transitioning to your home life. Which is like every hour these days, but if you’ve gotten dressed for work you can make the transition from hard pants to soft pants as my friend Andrea likes to say. (That always makes me laugh, by the way). Maybe you’re treating yourself by working in soft pants all day, so that’s cool, but do change something you’re wearing. Mr. Rogers had it right. You need a small way to tell your body: Work is done.
Write a short note to yourself: Write what you accomplished, what you need to do tomorrow, and write a list of things you want to accomplish this week. Everyday.
Check your calendar for the next day while you do this, so you can be realistic. One of my colleagues shared that she uses a little white board to make a list. Some people use post-it notes. I use a work journal and I write by hand. There are more digital tools that you can shake a stick at, so you do you, but find something and do it everyday. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes and it shouldn’t feel like work. And you should feel completely okay if you don’t meet any of those goals. This is small-scale change management. Very local.
Move Your Body: Go for a walk, exercise, move. Put some music on and dance. I like to play this song when it’s time to feed my dog. Maybe take a pause and watch this lovely moment of beautiful men in beautiful places. Why not? My dog knows this song means food and treats! Fuck yes!
It might be super tempting to hop into happy hour or start making dinner, but I recommend moving your body in some way first. Then do happy hour and the dinner. Do yoga with your cat. Walk your dog. Try a meditation class. Do something. Clean your bathtub. Run the vacuum. Something for at least 30 minutes. A friend of mine introduced her son to some 90s hiphop and recorded him dancing and then shared it on Instagram. Legend. Be silly with somebody you love. You have to move your body to process all the feelings that are just too much right now. This I know because I failed at this last week.
When To Call It: Many of you have been on a strict 8-5 schedule for years, and you’re now entering into the world of Flex-time, which I’ve had most of my career. Welcome! It’s amazing, on the one hand, because you can be flexible (see what I did) with how you spend your hours. It’s awful, on the other hand, because you can work all the time. All the time.
And believe me, I know this space. I am the Queen of Work All The Time Land. Especially in moments of trauma, work can be a solace. These are not normal times, so don’t fall into this comfort zone of being productive. Take a moment to connect with a friend. Call them. Post fun photos of times that were merrier in your life. Do something creative.
But you have to call it. You have to call it, friend. You have to call it.
Do you know this reference?
If not, you need to watch No Country for Old Men. And there you go, you have a movie recommendation for tonight too. Ah, but if you want a real treat, read the book first.
Let me leave you with a bit of Cormac McCarthy genius:
“I think sometimes people would rather have a bad answer about things than no answer at all.“
RIP Chris Cornell. Going HUUUUUUNGRY will always make me remember a magical night in a fire lookout with you, friend. Yup, when this is over we’re gonna walk all the miles, climb all the peaks, and find all the best sandy river camps.
We sang that song at Mt. Rainier, but we did hoot it up at the fire lookout too. Lots of howling. Cannot wait for all the hikes.