Relief When I’m Gone

Good morning and Happy Saturday. It’s raining again here in Mercyburg so I am once again sitting in the same room I have occupied all week. As opposed to being outdoors, I mean. This week I was sent home to work remotely so this creative space also became a work space. I am now part of a virtual work force. Grateful to still be part of a work force; let’s go ahead and make sure the Universe is aware of that before we go any further. Just last month I mentioned Occupational Wellness wasn’t getting much press around here lately. Now look at us with O-Well taking center stage.

I resisted working from home as long as possible but eventually I was ordered to go. Now that I’m here and settled in I have found it to be far less of a problem than I imagined. My concerns were rooted in the effects upon mental wellness. I was loathe to bring certain kinds of stress and triggers into my sanctuary. It’s early in the experiment, of course, but overall my stress level is down compared to being in the office. And oddly, I eat less. And the minute the clock strikes quitting time, the first place I want to be is outside, even if it is just on the porch.

However, I am still trying to keep a few boundaries in place by ritualizing each type of work. For instance, I don’t sit at the desk to do creative writing or blogging. I sit in the overstuffed chair previously described as my throne. I light the candles, plug in the fairy lights, add scent, wear different clothing. The idea is to clearly delineate this is as a separate kind of work so my brain shifts away from the pressures of productivity and toward the flow of creativity. The rituals help highlight and support the difference.

For my employer’s work on Monday through Friday I practice the opposite rituals. I move to the desk, sit in the office chair, use the lamps, appear presentable for video conferencing, remove anything which might compromise my focus. I even put on shoes. I had to. I figured this out on Day 2. Who knew simply putting on shoes would have such a powerful effect on the brain? It does. They are still comfortable shoes but their presence upon my feet signals the body it’s time to get down to business. The brain follows suit.

Coworkers (in the office, obviously) have found it curious for years now that I don’t add photos of loved ones to my work space. No family. No pets. No BFFs. No significant other. No photos of anyone. I decorate and beautify (minimally) but no personal photos. First, I have nothing to prove so there is no need to display proof that I am loved or that I love people. I also don’t need to prove anyone associated with me is cute, fun, interesting, or that they exist. But also, how could I work if I had this staring out at me?

Heart swells, work withers. Every inch of him is a visual vortex of yearning and wonder; an instant work killer. So no family photos in the home office either. They certainly make me smile/melt/die in different spaces; just not where I work. Since it is even more critical to stay focused when working from home, rituals which support focus are more critical too. Put on shoes and don’t gaze at anything with elbow dimples — tools for success, y’all.

This is still the honeymoon phase though. I’m aware. But I cannot overstate how right it feels to curb complaining right now. My instincts are to squelch the urge to bitch. Since we all insist upon a myopic view, let’s blow the smallest advantage drastically out of proportion rather than the smallest nuisance. If you have a home and a job right now, stuff a sock in your petty bitching too. If your inconveniences are not true hardships, suck it up. We should be behaving better in light of how fortunate we are; not whining like spoiled brats. When true hardship comes we will beg to go back to being merely inconvenienced.

Yes, we are all aware things are going to get worse but perspective matters. We don’t have to handle it worse, so let’s check our language. For instance, anyone out there (you know who you are) describing the inability to eat a sandwich in a cafe as horrific can meet me behind the woodshed. Folks, stop. Just stop. Our bellyaching is not helping anyone feel better or cope better. Use the energy spent complaining to make something easier for someone, even if that someone is you. Or people who have to listen to you.

A week away from the office makes me realize how the people in the office stress me out far more than the work. I brought the work home and my stress level dropped. Plummeted. Same work, same workload; less stress. It was the constant complaining and criticism and NOT the work. And I am part of The People so I was probably doing it too. I was probably contributing to the stress of others as well. They are now refreshingly free of me too. That’s incredible. I would have sworn it was the work.

Now that I see this I think I would rather other people not find it a relief when I’m gone. I would rather not be the type of person who makes hard things worse. For anyone. Not even me. If or when we all go back to the office, I’d like to go back better than I left. And consider how I might be a source of stress for others regardless of whether or not I’m in the office. There are a dozen other things I’d prefer people to feel around me other than stressed. I could start with less complaining. During a global crisis. Radical thought, indeed.

Care to join me in some radical soothing? First we’ll have to shut up. Then we’ll have to step up and offer something else instead. If people can’t feel inspired around us, at the very least we can let people rest around us.

— Mercy

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