The Reflection Pool

My Secret: Adjusting to New

I wish I’d brought my ball chair home from the office. It’s pleasantly bouncy, keeps my posture upright and my core engaged. I like it a lot. It may seem like a small, insignificant wish in the global pandemic, nonetheless, I miss my chair.

My “home office” is set up on a collapsible table we usually use for picnics, covered with a beautiful blue tablecloth that my mom made. It’s wedged in a small upstairs room, alongside bookcases and phys.ed equipment and one of my collections of shoes (don’t ask). I’ve added my “I’m not Bossy, I’m the Boss” sign and important office supplies like my staple free stapler and the particular black Sharpie pens I like best. I brought up a dining chair from downstairs. All in all, it’s pretty comfortable. And yet, after two weeks of working from home, my lower back is killing me. Oh for my ball chair.

Of course, I’m very happy to still have a job, especially a meaningful, interesting one. The work I’m doing every day supports others in this truly challenging and extraordinary time. Even so, there have been surprising adjustments I’ve had to make working from home.

In Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin writes that one of the keys to happiness is knowing yourself. I’m using my hard won self knowledge to decide what to do when so many things are new. I know that to be happy, I need a regular routine that structures my time so I can be productive. That means I’m getting up at the usual time, doing some exercise, having a shower, doing my hair (so important!) and getting dressed. I’m “shopping my closet” and putting together outfits. I even cleaned off the soles of some of my shoes so I can wear them inside and feel more put together. These actions may seem trivial, but they’re more than that. They let me take a little control over the only thing I can control. I feel more like myself.

Once I’m at “the office” in my little room upstairs, working equals most of the day spent online and on screen. Figuring out virtual meetings and a new workflow is more exhausting that I thought possible, and even though it’s going well, my brain is drained. Articles about working from home advise people to take regular breaks and lunch, with a walk or something active to recharge. In the last two weeks, that’s become very important. I’m telling colleagues that I’m on lunch and encouraging them to do the same. Setting boundaries ensures that no one part of my life takes over another.

And here’s the secret: what’s really getting me through this new world we’re living in are all these small things. These strategies I use and other little celebrations like a happy wave in a virtual meeting, the sight of encouraging words chalked on a sidewalk or a friend sending me a wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert quote. Not to mention the comfort of a good book that lifts me above the everyday.

I think I’ll be OK without my chair.