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#WFH Day 16

Home office diary followed by tips and tricks for making it through yet another day.

April 6, 2020
 
 

7:45 Hit snooze. Weight of the hour lost to Daylight Savings sits on eyelids, impossible to open. Reburrow under blanket.

8:00 Wake in panic. It’s Monday. Monday means rise and shine and get to work. Open one eye. Remember you won’t go to office today, that your all-day writing workshop has been canceled. Close eye.

8:15 Wake again to sound of roommate preparing coffee. Mmm, coffee. Peer pressure and caffeine lure you out from bed. Sit silently at kitchen table, nursing mug of coffee, scrolling through Twitter.

8:40 Look at you! Managing to get in front of a laptop at the start of normal business hours! Amazing. You reward yourself by watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother (something to calm the nerves).

9:02 Look at emails. Feel sad that you don’t have more. Long for the busyness of times B(efore)C(orona). Feel overwhelmed by those you do have. Calm nerves by tracking Amazon order of T.I.M.E. Stories board game.

9:14-12:30-something Start writing email, check Twitter. Look up updated numbers of cases locally, regionally, worldwide, in the town where your parents live, in the state where your sister lives, in the areas where friends are. Resume email, check New York Times. Fret over election. Finalize email, send.

Lunch break Walk partner to doctor’s office. Stand outside (read: outdoors), waiting. Look around, notice CBD shop is still open. Sit on parking lot pavement. Try to focus on sunshine. Smile. Partner returns -- just an infection. Relief.

1:30ish or maybe 2? Back at home, wash hands. Read essay on archival politics in Iraq and Kuwait. Take copious notes. Escape into the moral ambivalence of a highly complicated and deeply politicized situation that has nothing to do with global pandemic. Shit, you remember the pandemic. Check Twitter. Reminded that your position is one of privilege. Why didn’t you become a nurse? Why isn’t there universal health care?

Afternoon heavy with the disappointment of all that which you did not accomplish so far Open document for current chapter. Refresh local news website. Google translate: "Der Rechtsstaat leidet unter Corona." Mom calls. They are still fine. Exchange information on changes in our local grocery stores. Return to chapter. Close eyes, practice breathing techniques from Yoga with Adriene. Write.

5:00, not a moment later Close computer.

5:15 Press start on iPod shuffle, run down to the river. Smile and wave at other runners. Steer clear of novice in-line skaters. Envy speed of cyclists. Look out for rabbits on the side of the path. Sing out loud, “It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight.” Spring buds and evening sun. Egyptian geese feeding on still-wet-from-yesterday’s-rain fields. Slow down.

8:00 Showered, you cook with your roommate. The radio runs through the day’s news cycle. You exchange on what you’ve learned that day -- viruswise. You cautiously say, “I actually didn’t get as much done today as I thought I would.” Another Ph.D. student, she looks at you sympathetically.

9:30 Race through the end of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. My, how satisfying is a dystopia different from your own.

***************************

There are a lot of very helpful posts on "GradHacker" and elsewhere that I have read about adjusting to academic life during the spread of corona. What it means to “go digital,” how to support undergraduate students throughout much uncertainty and insecurity, how to maintain a structured day and therefore your sanity. As you can see, I’m trying with mixed success. If you’re struggling to integrate all of the readily available advice into your own #WFH life, this view into the rhythm of my own days can hopefully provide you a sense of relief. I’m not getting much done. I’m worried. I feel a sense of impending doom as this virus and the disease it causes narrows in on my sphere of friends and family.

The optimal conditions for anxiety are currently met on an enormous scale: a sense of uncertainty, lack of control and something of value held at stake. I go between forgetting, panicking, rationalizing and savoring joyful moments at an unprecedented pace. It’s dizzying. I can’t quickly recover from the vertigo, unscramble my brain and construct coherent academic writing on command. But I know that to stop trying is not a good move, at least not for me. I found comfort in the back-and-forth on Twitter about productivity in the times of corona. There was the “OMG-Shakespeare-wrote-King-Lear-in-quarantine” camp, which was quickly stomped out by the “we-are-in-the-middle-of-a-global-pandemic-maybe-chill-out-on-creativity-expectations-and-be-kind-to-yourself-while-we-try-to-survive” camp. The duration of the new “shelter in place” norms is unknown. Obviously, I can’t/don’t want to maintain the same level of anxiety throughout an undetermined time frame as I have in crisis mode. I need to find ways to live and work and focus, and in turn learn how to support others, while our worlds continue to transform.

I’d like to share with you some things that in the last weeks brought me corona relief, meaning genuinely quieted the part of my brain where panic now lives. There are so many levels to this crisis; most are more tragic and painful than those I’ve felt myself. For those of us who have the time and health to explore new indoor activities, I suggest the following.

Books

As mentioned, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel, The Testaments, is an enthralling and fast-paced escape. In an unoriginal move, I’ve started 2019’s other Booker Prize-winning novel, by Bernadine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other, and have spent the last evenings captivated by the characters and worlds therein. I love FaceTime as much as the next 20-something, but I’m a little bit lonely, and Evaristo’s well-developed characters bring me a comfort I’ve not yet felt over Zoom.

Games

T.I.M.E. Stories: Players (two to four) assume the role of time-travelling special agents, transported in time and space to solve mysteries together. The storylines, complexity and graphics consume you, bringing you as close as possible to the realities the game creates. I would recommend this game in the best of times, but I’ve only played it in the last weeks. Through the avatar of a young cannibal (what!), my team and I (formed out of members of my household!!) cracked the case of a gruesome conspiracy at a 1920s French asylum. Watching the country’s leadership fumble time and time again, the game offers you precious, if fleeting, authority over an imaginary crisis.

Meal

Oreo-vanilla milkshakes topped with whipped cream. What’s unique to my special recipe is refilling the whipped cream every few slurps.

Activity

You know that stack of The New Yorker that grows weekly in some corner of your home, the one that fills you with equal parts dread and guilt? It’s time to let go of the misguided intention to read through all their marvelous prose and grab a pair of scissors -- it’s collage time!

At-Home Dance Party Tune

Earth, Wind & Fire -- "September"

On repeat, until September.

What’s raised your spirits recently?

Riley Linebaugh is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. Follow her @rileysline.

[Opening photo by Unsplash user Lenin Estrada]

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