• 45°

Finding a new normal

I’ve got the COVID-19 blues. Working from home is not ideal for me, but it’s necessary for the good of the community.

I thrive on being with people. I get my energy and motivation from the presence of others. It doesn’t matter if I’m having direct interaction with others. I find that being in the same location, hearing the mumbles of conversation, laughter from others or simply seeing others walk by my office door feeds my spirit.

I have found a few new rules to live by while spending so much time in my house. First, I have to have a regular routine. I have a need to know what happens next, and so I set my alarm for the same time each morning and go through my “getting ready” behaviors just as I would if I were going to drive to my office.

A temporary office is set up in our front room. This is a room we reserve for company, meaning it’s the only room we keep neat just in case someone drops in for a visit. I have my desk (a plastic adjustable table) facing the natural light of the windows. My files are neatly arranged nearby, my phone is charged and the laptop is beckoning me to begin. After checking emails and other notifications, I dig into my projects.

It’s important for me to predetermine three or four tasks I want to complete each day as a goal to work toward.

Since there is no one here to spur me on, my “goal sheet” is my inspiration. I have just enough competitive spirit to require me to work until I’ve completed these objectives. After reaching a milestone in one of my goals, I reward myself with special treats I couldn’t have if I were in the office: take the dog for a walk, sitting on the porch swing drinking an extra cup of coffee and playing the Beatles greatest hits while doing stretch exercises.

Working from home is not horrible. There are many perks. I am able to dress professionally from the waist up for virtual meetings and keep my sweat pants on all day. My dog Felix, a West Highland terrier, lies next to me with his head on my lap, giving constant reassurance that I’m doing a wonderful job.

On sunny days, I can take a walk during my lunch break and watch the neighbor children play in their yards. I can even throw another load of laundry in the dryer without missing a beat from my work.

We are fortunate to live in this age of technology. The team of professionals I work with are the most amazing people ever. I miss them terribly.

But in this great age of technology, we are able to ‘meet’ every morning. I can see them face-to-face on my computer screen and hear their voices. Our supervisor briefs us on the latest news, shares with us special needs and we get to collaborate on ways of meeting those needs.

At the same time, we get to check in on each other to learn how each of us is dealing with this social change. Every now and then, a child’s face pops up on the screen or we see a cat in someone’s windowsill or hear a dog bark.

These are all wonderful reminders that, though what we are going through is unusual, life is continuing.

We remain productive and active. We are resilient. This COVID-19 thing will pass. We will return to our old lives and be even stronger because we learned valuable lessons from this national shut down.

If nothing else, we will have learned how dependent we are on each other.

Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at norastanger@gmail.com