Just a month ago, those freaking out about COVID-19/coronavirus in Australia looked like a fringe group, conspiracy theorists buying too much toilet paper and ruining things for everyone else. Fast forward a month and everything has changed.
Even two and a half weeks ago when I got the first email from work suggesting that those in an at-risk group (defined at those with chronic illness) should work from home, it hit hard. After having just got back to work after a ME/CFS crash I was really sad about it, especially at the indefinite nature of it. But just a few days after I decided to start to work from home, nearly everyone I knew was made to work from home as well. So it all became inevitable with everyone in the same boat, and every day since things have ramped up.
It’s strange how quickly standing apart from people has become normal, along with washing your hands so frequently and scheming for how to get household items with minimal contact and risk. The days and weeks seem long and short at the same time.
We are doing OK here. It is a small apartment to have two adults working at home with an excitable puppy, but we are finding routines. A last minute purchase of a desk at Officeworks so we each have our own space was definitely a good idea. I went part-time after my latest ME/CFS crash just as work from home began, which has been strange — my coworker (aka my sister) in my tiny space works full-time, and I’m often having to do a mental check to remind myself that I work part-time and am not just bad at working from home or lazy for not doing the same hours. My day off a week is spent mostly in my room, which was never my plan for it, but that is how it is. My 30% pay cut was a fairly clear reminder of the decision to go part-time though…. why is chronic illness self-care so financially punishing?
But compared to so many others we are just fine. Incomes, a roof over our head. It’s strange to think we are living through something that history students will need to study in the future. Everything is impacted by this.
Once I got my head around the working from home, and the inevitable long stint of it, I have started to see there might be some positives for me (of course acknowledging my privilege here). Before this, I was completely burnt out. I felt like I had no space to think or be creative in my role, or to even catch up. This might give me some space on that front. And give my body some time to heal from the latest fatigue flare up, though I am still quite exhausted.
It has put on hold any making of big decisions, precisely because we have no idea how long it will go for, or what type of economy we’ll be encountering at the end. So instead of constant angst about what I should be doing or what is coming up next, I am just in the moment, which is rare.
Of course there are things I beat myself up on — I should be more productive, write more, sew more, read more. But I just need to remind myself there’s at least three more months of this, if not many more. We’re two weeks in to the current arrangements. There’s still time to do some things, and it takes time to adjust. And I’ve cooked some delicious meals, which I often don’t have the energy to do after being in the office.
One thing I am so thankful for is my funny puppy. Sure, he chews things to get our attention while we’re trying to work, but I can’t imagine how depressing this would be without him to break things up. Plus taking him for walks is an ‘essential activity’. He truly doesn’t understand social distancing though, or why he doesn’t get as many pats, but he is still so happy most of the time. The other night I gave him a dehydrated sweet potato treat and he put it down and looked at it, and did a little gallop of glee at having this special treasure, parading it around the living room before tucking in.
I’m trying to find the hidden treasures in this strange situation. None of us expected to be living through a pandemic this year, but here we are. All we can do is hope to stay safe, and be kind to ourselves and one another. It’s not easy for anyone.