It began shortly after hanging my new calendar. Just after the holidays, we were filled with the spirit of new beginnings and rearranged our home office. My husband and I did not know it would soon become my “new normal” workplace. For several years, ever since the great recession of 2008, my workplace has closed down one day each week to save on utility expenses. As a result, most employees work a 4-10s schedule now, starting at 7:00 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
With Lupus, mornings were already an incredible challenge, so the idea of 10-hour days starting that early was unthinkable, especially since the CNS involvement of my lupus is most symptomatic in the early mornings. Always grateful for the incredible support of my employer, the accommodation of staying with a 5-8s schedule and telecommute on Fridays was worked out. About half the employees in our local government law department had been working from home on Fridays for years.
In recent weeks (that have turned into months) every day is now a telecommute day. When offices shut down almost entirely in mid March, a good number of our employees stayed home, or took turns working to cover the most essential functions of our office.
Right now, the role of the role of the general counsel attorneys to local government is especially important. They advise elected and appointed officials as they make legal and thoughtful choices that have profound impacts on their organizations, employees, and citizens. Even now, many employees are returning to work after some initial fears and waiting periods have passed. However, our state is not yet out of the woods, nor have we seen the end of our community escalation of COVID-19.
So, this is my workplace, at the desk in my home office, telecommuting eight or more hours each day. I have successfully participated in some phone and teleconferences with co-workers and peers in other legal offices, and have attended webinars to obtain required legal certification education credits.
This year, there are no legal conferences to attend, or travel to visit friends and family. It is a great endeavor just to brave the pathogens in the local Walmart or Walgreens Pharmacy every couple of weeks, to pick up essential groceries or medications. These outings have me wearing a cloth mask, and returning home to change clothes and shower as an extra precaution. As the pandemic got worse, the groceries were ordered online from Costco or Fry’s and delivered or picked up curb side.
The higher risk that COVID-19 presents to people with compromised immune systems is something to take seriously and soberly. Those of us with additional chronic health issues are at even higher risk, as are those in the 65+ age group. With Lupus, Asthma, and being well into my 6th decade of life, these risks are not taken lightly. Yet, I will trust God’s borrowed strength and presence in my life are enough to face this challenge.
Still, more important reminders surface to resist the temptations to be afraid. While appropriate caution is in order, so is an optimistic outlook! Doing all the things that the government and medical experts suggest, I can only trust that the outcome will be okay. If I were prone to folly, and were to throw caution to the wind to my own detriment, then perhaps I should be afraid. But, there is no cause for undue fear.
Instead, while striving to find the pluses in the new normal, the view outside refreshes me. A blooming yard of purple, pink, and yellow, and the song of birds and buzzing of bees in the garden nearby were my coworkers. Sounds of rustling leaves were their accompaniment. Our spring was especially long and beautiful, becoming our welcome office guest.
We enjoyed a delayed Arizona summer and spent a little more time outside. This meant coffee breaks in the garden, sometimes with a mug in one hand and a hose in the other, sometimes sipping my first cup on the porch swing. My participation in a couple of web conferences even took place sitting in the shade of the back patio! A few free moments are found here and there to quench the thirsty salad greens sprouting in the garden, and often refreshed me, too.
Back again at my desk, the divide between outside and inside blurs. For the first few months, the open window freely invited fragrant breezes into the office. Crossing over my desk, rustling papers, toying with hair, and brushing past my cheeks, it carries subtle hints of outdoors further into the other rooms of the house. Closing my eyes, a deep sigh of relaxation gives quiet pause and briefly interrupts the clicking rhythm of my computer keyboard.
My thoughts become prayers of gratefulness for these momentary blessings, sprinkled through recent days. Despite the challenges of this present health emergency, there came a clear realization that so many longed-for moments of rest and peace had arrived! They were mixed right into my everyday telecommuting work world. There is no other memory of any time quite like this. It is a blessing to be at home while basically healthy, Lupus notwithstanding. This is a rare opportunity to feel good enough to savor and absorb the simple wonder moments of a beautiful spring.
Working at home has helped prevent fatigue — the two-minute commute down the hall seriously shortens my day. My retired husband brings me coffee and lunch at my desk. Occasionally, iced-tea and coffee breaks include a hug of encouragement from him whenever most needed. We take the time to pray together more these days, interceding often before God’s throne of grace for those we know and love who have been affected by the coronavirus.
These dearest ones include my husband’s mother and brother. As I write this, she is back in a hospital battling still for her strength, and possibly for life itself. She is in God’s able hands and arms.
Recently, the blistering Arizona heat made us shut our windows up tight and start up our air conditioners. From Memorial Day to Labor Day we hide inside from the persistent dragon’s breath of summer, and eagerly await fall’s spring like return. Temperatures rise well into triple digits, everything is parched and hot. Now, our summer has finally turned to mid August, and summer’s blistering heat will soon yield to dusty monsoon and thunderstorms. This is the harbinger of Arizona’s second spring, autumn.
We have been under isolation orders and siege for almost six months, now, while homebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My cherished memory crosses my thoughts throughout my telecommute work days. Sitting the desk, eye lids closed, I experience a vivid memory of delightful spring breezes gracing my daily business activities. Even the moving air from an overhead fan can easily evoke this potent recollection!
I think briefly on those precious weeks of spring. Air swirling across my face and flowing gently over my work space, as it delivered welcome touches of rest and peace. In all the stresses of the current emergent events, recalling the simple blessings of spring lifts my burdens with a quiet joy. I close my eyes and sigh deeply, say a quiet prayer of deep gratitude, and resume my work with a full and joyous heart.