No Fooling!

Mei-Ling’s Attention Is Split

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of emphasis on the idea that people should “make the most” of their enforced stay at home time to read or do art or write that novel they’ve been meaning to write.  While this is presented as a positive message, I see it as creating extra pressure at a time when we just don’t need it.

First of all, “Stay At Home” does not immediately mean “staycation.”  For many people staying at home means trying to work from home while dealing with kids who, in turn, are trying to learn how to do their lessons on-line and discipline themselves when they’re used to being kept in order by others.

Whether you’re an adult or a kid, working from home is not easy, especially if you’re used to thinking of your home as your “play space,” rather than your work space.  This is one reason why Jim and I have a dedicated office—so it’s possible to walk away from work at the workday’s end.

Further, I really feel for those people who are in jobs that have been deemed “essential.”  At a time when the refrain is some variation of “stay and home and stay safe,” they’re walking out the door every day, haunted by the awareness that if they want to stay employed, they can’t “stay safe.”  Worse, this is going on with “make the most of your stay at home” providing the sense that everyone who is staying home is whooping it up, binge watching shows, cooking fancy meals, leveling up on the computer game of their choice or whatever…

As someone who has worked from home since mid-1994, my work life has not really been changed…  Except that it has been.

Many years ago, I learned that uncertainty can take over my writer brain.  Instead of my subconscious playing out scenarios for the characters in whatever story I’m working on, it’s busy spinning scenarios large and small.  Should we keep that dinner date for Saturday?  (No.)  Will the vet have Kwahe’e’s prescription? (Maybe.)  If not, can we get what he needs somewhere else?  What do we do if any of our elderly (and in our case, non-local) family suddenly get sick?  Will the small businesses survive?

I’ve been a writer for a long time, so I’ve learned tricks for easing myself into my writing space, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s been easy or automatic.  Making it harder is that I’m transitioning into a new project (Star Kingdom novel 4) while waiting on the proofs of Wolf’s Soul, so I’d be a bit off-balance anyhow.

I’m more or less fine during the day, but when I sleep the nightmares get hitched to a variety of elaborate carriages, some often so real that I need to do a reality check come morning.

Despite my overactive imagination, I feel as if I’m a lot better equipped to deal with forced isolation (as of this post, I haven’t been away from my house and yard in two weeks) than many.  I’m an introvert by nature, so while I miss seeing my friends, having my weekly RPG, and the like, having my social life restricted to Jim, the cats, the guinea pigs, and the fish isn’t all that different from normal.

I think that’s where my dislike of the “make the most of” refrain is coming from.  I already am doing that.  I do that every day.  And I sympathize with those people who, on top of dealing with the cascade effect of a pandemic, now feel they should be on holiday or becoming great artists or authors or whatever.

Take care, folks.  Be well.  Do what you can.  Don’t feel pressured to do one iota more!

11 Responses to “No Fooling!”

  1. James Mendur Says:

    I have fought tooth and nail to keep my homespace from becoming my workspace, to the point of now taking a three month leave of absence from work rather than work from home. (And I know how lucky I am to be able to do that.) I have a one-bedroom apartment so there is no piece I can carve out as “workspace” … which means if I work from home, I have no refuge.

    As for that “[famous writer] did [famous work] during isolation from a plague” business, you’re right. People need to remember that yes, Shakespeare wrote ‘King Lear’ in isolation, but that was his job. He was working from home. And Newton worked on his ideas in isolation, but he was frickin’ Isaac Newton, super genius. Unless you’re a writer by trade or a super genius, don’t put pressure on yourself to suddenly produce masterworks.

  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    With the schools being closed, we were wondering what we could do for Ben? Would his school send work?
    His teacher called and basically decided that there was no way to offer any kind of ‘education’ remotely. We are just going to ride it out and keep teaching him stuff as it comes up naturally. I taught him how to open a bag of chips and considered that a win! He needs to learn how to do basic activities of daily life too.
    His Mama is a nurse and she said people give her dirty looks when she’s walking home from work in her scrubs. Like she’s spreading plague. I don’t get it…

  3. Harried Harry Says:

    I do understand the challenge. Two of my sons are now working from home, which means they are still tied to the deadlines of their respective organizations while being home. Both are engineers (one is a computer engineer, the other mechanical) working for large firms. One has a two bedroom house, the other a one bedroom. Both are challenged to work effectively while staying home.

    I work at home all the time (I’m retired, sort of) but accomplishing the things my wife wants me to do is a challenge. I do read some, but doing other things takes mental energy which the COVID 19 information has sucked out.

    I think the real challenge for all of us is to figure out is how to best look on the bright side of things. Both my parents survived the Depression, which taught them to do a lot with what is available around them. Playing games if great, even if you play a mind game with a friend(s) on the computer.

    Best wishes to all and remember, we’ll get through this challenge; we’ll read a few more books, write a few things, do taxes (UGG), and shop for stuff which has already disappeared from the stores.

    I finished reading a new book titled “The Unwilling” by Kelly Braffet. Great story with some very grizzly sections. At times, I had to put the book down and do something different, but I went back and finished the story. Great story and an unexpected ending. Not predictable at all. If you like fantasy, this is a good one to read.

    • janelindskold Says:

      I’m trying to balance wanting to know (especially if there are new guidelines etc) against what one of my friends called “looking at the statistics while counting the minutes in isolation.” That last is just courting misery.


    Very thoughtful and true. Just got off the phone with the church Deacon, whose wife is having some of those issues you mentioned. So will second your recommendation about not putting pressure on

  5. Dawn Barela Says:

    As of tomorrow(Friday April 3) I will have been working from home for two weeks. I am a contractor for a Federal government agency. I am thankful that I am able to do this and get paid.. (Unlike the month long furlough I had to deal with last year. Thank goodness for GoFundMe!) Last year my office desktop computer was replaced by a laptop and docking station, which I thought was unnecessary. I am glad for it no.

    As an Admin Assistant, most of what I would usually do is in the office. Sending documents via Fed Ex,first class or certified mail-with the postage meter. Copying, scanning and faxing assorted documents. Receiving and distributing mail.

    One of the things I do is monitor the email that sends us new cases for the attorneys,I forward the emails to the division heads whio assign them to an attorney. I then enter the assignments into a sharepoint program. -with minor adjustments I can still do this.
    The attorneys are finding other things things I can do online. I am also trying to figure out other things to do.

    As far as a workspace-I have an old hand me down drafting table as a computer desk. This was the only option I had.The laptop and work keyboard (with a card reader) are in front of my main monitor. I had to remove a mini crate of blank cd’s from behind it to push the monitor back. When i am working, my own keyboard sits on top of a mini crate of office supplies. After I finish my workday I close my laptop and put the work keyboard on top.and bring mine down in front of both..
    I am logging in, taking lunch and logging out at the same times I do in the office to at least keep that habit.

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