September 13, 2020, marked exactly six months of work-from-home. Our team has been told there won’t be a return to the office this year, and when we do return sometime next year, it will be a different experience. This news has me reflecting on all the emotional ups and downs of discovery this time has offered.
The stages of grief are real, even though you may think you are prepared and ready for the situation. Some moments tend to bend what you thought was a straight path.
Denial, Numbness, and Shock
Being sent to work from home was a moment of “Introverts unite!” I feel there was a collective sigh in the universe for those of us who might have needed a break from people. Waking up that first day and realizing I didn’t have to go into the office was delightful, refreshing, and filled with the excitement of a new adventure. I did a little dance and had an “I got this” moment. Yes, I got a bit cocky since we introverted types seem to be designed for just this event.
For the first 80 business days, I sent cards and postcards out each day. You can’t imagine how relieving it is to use the stationery I had stockpiled over the years. My office supply stash seems to have been my version of doomsday prepping because who wouldn’t want a postcard at the apocalypse? I knew I would ultimately be able to take the isolation, but I had to do something to bring cheer into someone else’s life. The occasional USPS delivery of snail mail makes me smile. It was what I had on hand to help others’ smile, too.
I found myself slowly seeing the daily card as another item on the to-do list as the days continued to tick by. One more thing to check off. One more assignment. I lost joy in the thing that brought me happiness. It had become a duty and not a gift. I had to take a break from it, which, in turn, broke me.
Bargaining, Depression, and Anger
Waking up felt like needles pressing into my skin. There were new aches, new pains, and new ways to distract me.
I invented hobbies that would make a dent in my collection of craft supplies. (I still have a long way to go to use up that stockpile.) I made masks. I taught my neighbor to sew so she could make masks. I decimated my wardrobe and reorganized my closet – then moved on to my fridge and pantry. I painted my patio furniture (almost done). I’ve pulled weeds, fertilized, and watered to the point that the yard and plants managed to survive summer for the first time.
I found new ways to avoid life in general, yet came to an understanding as to why some housewives suddenly snap. The isolation is too much.
Amid my avoidance strategies, something miraculous happened. I received cards in return. Bright moments I cherish like Golem and his Precious. These gems are my escape from the mental drudgery the unending days have become. I am reminded I am not alone.
I will openly admit I miss my family, my friends, and even my team of co-workers.
I miss the daily runs to Starbucks (even though my bank account doesn’t). Not because they make great coffee and tea, but because it was a joyful moment each day with whoever at the office would venture with me. The line may have been a little long at times, but it was my moment to feel like Norm walking into Cheers. The crew knew me. My drink was ready. There was goodness in my cup.
I miss unicorns, lots of sparkle, and nails that are totally on fleek. I share my name with one of my co-workers. Shouting, “Morning, Carrie.” does not have the same ring. I don’t hear a giggle every weekday followed by a cheery, “Morning, Carie.” in return. Now I’m only talking to myself.
I miss everyone. So much happened in the office leading up to the day we received the notice to pack up and go home. So much has happened since. We haven’t been together to talk about it. We send memes, texts, and emails about everything, including our TV binge addictions, but it feels a bit hollow since we can’t sit together at lunch or meet at the snack table to really get into the nitty-gritty and throw around some much-needed sarcasm.
I am comforted by the knowledge that these people are out there. We’re waiting in suspended animation for that moment when this is all over. We’re making plans. We’re finding hope because that’s what we truly have.
We have hope for the future. We have dreams to realize. We have love to share.