You’ve probably heard Johnny Mercer tell you to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive and e-lim-inate the negative. I’m here to say, sometimes, it’s okay to mess with Mr. In-Between.
We’re all facing some uncertain circumstances right now – around jobs, finances, food. People have lost jobs. People have watched loved ones suffer or die because of the Coronavirus. There is a great deal of fear and anger and frustration everywhere.
I find many news reports and articles urging people to focus on gratitude in these times to prevent ourselves from fixating on the fears and negativity. That’s a wonderful idea, and it’s often not difficult once we begin. For most of us, we can find many things we are thankful for. Perhaps we don’t have what we want. But we have what we need, and that is more important.
I am fortunate to work in an industry that is still needed in this time when so many other businesses have had to close. I have a job which I can do mostly from home. I have worked hard throughout my life to ensure I had a stable living situation, I had contingency plans in place, I had ‘enough.’ I lived through times when there wasn’t always enough in my life and therefore pushed myself in the things I had control over in order to never be back in that position. I’m not living a life of extras, but I do not live in a scarcity mind-set. Despite these securities surrounding me, I am still struggling now. The more I try to shake it off and remind myself that, in the grand scheme of things, I am far ahead of so many people…the more I struggle.
This is where I’ve chosen to welcome Mr. In-Between. I am thankful for the positive things in my life at this time. But, as someone who battles with anxiety, I need acknowledge the negative or it overwhelms me. I can not ignore the trials. I have decided to work on naming them, listing them, sorting them – whatever I need to do to take the power away from the anxious thoughts.
I am lucky to have a job I can do from home, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t have an adequate work space. I am using the dining room table and moving things on and off several times a day to also use it for meals for my son and I. My work space is too high and I am sitting in a hard, straight-backed chair. Although I try to get up several times a day to stand or walk around and I take a 2 mile walk at lunch, by the end of the day my back and shoulders ache like I’ve been hauling bricks all day. I don’t have a working printer at home. I did not pair my scanner with my laptop when I replaced it. I don’t have a coffee maker for an easy afternoon pick-me-up. I am working – I am fortunate. But I am physically uncomfortable and lacking proper supplies to do my job well. This matters.
My son is also home since his school shut down a week before my work. He is bored, frustrated, worried about how school will progress, and a teen-ager. I am still working. We’ve talked about this and he’s old enough to understand and care for himself. I am lucky to not be going through this with an infant or toddler. But I still see my child hurting and am torn between the work I am supposed to be doing and comforting him. He sees me sitting 10 feet away from him. Ignoring him. It feels unfair – to both of us. He is a good kid and a good student. I know he’ll come out of this okay. Even more than when working from the office, though, I feel like every day is a choice between my family and my job. And here I sit, choosing my job. That hurts. Sometimes that hurts a lot.
My ‘office’ is now where I live. When I go to the kitchen first thing in the morning to put on the kettle for tea, there’s my work station and I sit down and start working. It’s an hour and a half before my scheduled start time! But it’s there, so I feel like I should be working. I close up my work laptop every night. I clean up my table of all the notepads and folders and paperclips. I take the sticky notes off the window where I’ve placed them as reminders during the day. I stack it all neatly off to the side, hoping it will look more like my home again until the next day. In this short time, however, it always looks like my workstation. It looks like unfinished files and unsent emails. It looks like notes from a meeting that I didn’t transcribe and links from a webinar that I didn’t follow up with. My work life and personal life have overlapped too much when I wasn’t ready and I’m struggling to find my way in either place.
I sit at my computer and start my regular daily tasks. Then I hear my neighbor’s car alarm. When I’m on a conference call there are fire trucks racing down my street. As I try to update policy documents I hear the dryer buzz. I sit at my computer and see the dirty dishes in the sink, I hear my son ask for help with a snack, I have cats walking across my lap. I have home life interjected into my work life over and over and random times. It’s unsettling. It’s confusing. It’s difficult.
I’m trying to make lists and schedules and find order in my chaos. I have not yet managed to do this. I’m not giving up. I am acknowledging my continued failure and difficulty in getting to a better place. I think this is important for many of us. Be thankful for the things that make your life pretty okay, even in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. The simple things can mean everything – like not having to honestly fear where your next meal will come from; like being secure in where you are living today and for tomorrow; like not being physically ill.
But the new challenges being thrown at us as we try to adjust to a different way of life are upsetting and we need to allow ourselves and each other to feel all that discomfort. It’s emotionally exhausting. It’s mentally draining. It’s physically disparaging. It’s okay to be unsure. It’s okay to not fully understand why you feel things right now. This is new for all of us. By expecting ourselves or anyone else to be ‘okay’ with the constant changes and questions in our lives right now is unfair.
Today I’d like you to give kindness.
Today I’d like you to give courtesy.
Today I’d like you to give grace.
I’d like you to start with you.
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