May 052020
 
Photo courtesy of Agnieszka Boeske on Unsplash

Working from home . . . again

Before I returned to the traditional workforce, working from home was as natural to me as breathing. I was a stay-at-home parent who stayed home long after our son became a young adult. Why? I was pursuing part-time entrepreneurial and nearly full-time volunteer opportunities. But almost five years ago, when my husband and I faced financial challenges, I returned to the traditional workforce, working full-time in an office. I felt I had made the transition comfortably in every way. But change is inevitable. Fast forward to today, the world of COVID-19 . . . and you’ll find many office employees working from home (WFH), practicing social distancing in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

This time WFH feels different. I still sit at a desk, but my interactions with human beings are limited to email, phone calls and video conferences. With the click of a button, I switch from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams or Zoom, sharing screens with data or live images. My desk is a four-foot utility table in my living room, instead of three other desks in three other rooms, already piled high with creative projects. My office-away-from-the-office faces the street, connecting me at least peripherally with the outside world. On my lunch hour, I might walk to the end of the cul-de-sac and cross the street to the path that winds behind the houses, parallel to the creek and woodsy growth on either side. If I pass someone, we each smile in greeting, but stay at least six feet away from each other. There are so few cars on the road that you have time to describe them by color and size. If I paid any attention to models, I suppose I could share those details, too. Periodically messages scroll across my cell phone screen, telling me how many more people have contracted the virus, how many have died, how many packages of meat you’re allowed to buy at the grocery store, and which stores require you to wear masks to shop there.

Masks

Instead of marking time by hours and minutes, I mark time by stages of mask-making: laundering, drying and pressing fabric; cutting fabric into rectangles; sewing top-and-bottom seams; turning rectangles inside out and pressing them; pinning pleats and sewing them into place; cutting fabric strip ties; folding, pressing and attaching ties to pleated rectangles; and then the process concludes with laundering, pressing and delivery. Instead of writing, crocheting and producing handmade journals, I sew hundreds of masks. During the daytime, I hear the clicking of keys on my keyboard. During the evening, I hear the staccato up-and-down tut-tut-tut of my sewing machine’s needle bar as it shoves a needle in and out of the fabric beneath the presser foot. 

There is light

Despite the death-inspired darkness that prevails during this pandemic, there is light, too. New York’s governor is touched by thousands of masks that complete strangers send him to show support for frontline workers. A national news broadcast features a story about a father and son who build plastic models–and memories–together. Families and friends share meals, card games and conversation via Zoom. Co-workers gather in Power Circles and share uplifting quotations to support each other. Distance learning opportunities triumph over closed school buildings. People donate their stimulus checks to feed the hungry.

I don’t know when life will return to normal, or even how normal will be defined. But one thing I know is that when normal returns, many of us will have learned a few lessons. I hope we’ll be wiser about what’s important, more appreciative of each other, and more focused on solving problems creatively. What are your hopes when normal returns?

© 2020 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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