When I was younger, I had a recurring dream in which I showed up at work without any pants. Today, thanks to work-from-home orders, that nightmare is a reality that I call Tuesday. Or Thursday. Or Blursday. Honestly, I’m not really sure what day it is. Or when I last showered.
‘Blursday,’ by the way, is the latest portmanteau in a long list of Covid-related vocabulary. This includes ‘Covidiots,’ ‘Zoombombing,’ and ‘Maskhole,’ among others. It all makes me want to turn off the video camera for a second and mix up a fresh ‘Quarantini.’ Shaken, not stirred.
Drinking before 5? Without pants? On a ‘Whensday?’ If you had told me about all this last Christmas, I would’ve called you crazy. But crazy has a whole new address these days. Since I hung up the stockings in 2019, I’ve done a lot of things I never would have thought myself capable. Cut my own hair. Baked bread from scratch, kind of. Fought a bare-knuckles battle with an elderly woman who was trying to squeeze the last 4-pack of Charmin off the shelf at Costco. It’s been a very strange year.
I think my dog is the only one who really enjoyed 2020. It took a little while for her to get used to me being home all the time. But now she’s appeared in so many Zoom meetings people think she’s a member of the department, and a few are convinced she has management potential.
Managing around the kids has been more challenging. We set up their school in the kitchen. In the beginning, they opened the refrigerator door ten times more often than they opened the lid on their laptops. Seriously, I was worried they’d get a sunburn from the fridge bulb. But either the novelty wore off or we ran out of food, because it’s no longer an issue. We still fight over the “better headset” sometimes. I have to remember that they’re in the next room and can hear my conversations. And I never would have thought that I’d have to work as a scheduling assistant for my kids to make sure they’re signed into their classes, while simultaneously juggling my own meetings. Being a full-time parent is very rewarding. So is being a working professional. Doing both is exhausting.
Working from home has its perks, though. Getting dressed in the morning is as easy as reading a Dr. Suess book. “Black sweats, blue sweats, gray sweats, no sweat.” I’m not sure why I still have dress pants hanging in the closet. My commute is a fraction of what it used to be, and when I stop for coffee there’s almost never a line. My office is as quiet as I want it to be, and I can change the view with a click of a mouse: Outer space background; pyramids at Giza; Wrigley Field; abstract geometric shapes; or the floral bedsheet I used as curtains in my first apartment, now covering a pile of laundry.
I actually find myself taking for granted how much more casual the workday has become. I did some remote work before the pandemic, and if my dog barked or my kids walked through the video I was terrified people would see me as less than professional. Now that everyone is virtual, the mix of work and personal lives seems normal. Makeup is optional, internet freezes happen to everyone, dogs bark, and kids and partners stroll through the video frame. No big deal. I’m even getting used to seeing colleagues wearing hoodies. And bathrobes.
Plus, I’m grateful for the added flexibility that working from home allows. I enjoy seeing my new “pint-sized co-workers” throughout the day. Sharing them with clients and colleagues makes us all a little more human. I enjoy the freedom of taking a short 10- or 15-minute break to water plants, walk the dog, or open Amazon packages. And we’ve had more family meals together this past year than ever.
Am I looking forward to seeing my son perform in a Zoom version of “The Christmas Carol?” Not particularly. But I’m truly grateful that we have this technology available. Had the pandemic hit even a few years earlier, this wouldn’t have been an option. We all talk about Zoom fatigue, and yes, it’s a real thing. But I’m so thankful that we have the option to see our colleagues’ faces, and to wave to them over the camera when meetings end. By the way, why do we wave when meetings end? We never waved at each other when we met in conference rooms. Chalk it up to another example of the humanity this pandemic has uncovered.
Not only am I waving to my coworkers, I’m waving more to my neighbors, many of whom I didn’t know before the pandemic. Last March, one of these neighbors started a spontaneous celebration that lasted for months. Each night, like clockwork, the sounds of whooping and hollering, pots and pans, air horns, and visions of apartment lightshows drowned out the fear, bringing us together for a few moments and lifting up frontline workers. My favorite memory was seeing the older couple in the townhouse across the street excitedly clap along every night from their balcony.
So, as we enter into what will be an unprecedented Christmas and New Year, I hereby resolve to ignore my usual skepticism, sarcasm, and pessimism, and tap a hidden reserve of optimism and cheer. I’ll cherish the time with immediate family members, knowing that someday my kids will look back at this time with fondness when they’re adults – assuming we’re still speaking to each other, of course! I’ll also give thanks that I can spend time virtually with older and more-susceptible friends and family members. It’s not as good as face-to-face, but it’s a whole lot better than not seeing them at all.
And, more than anything else, I’ll thank God for many blessings. For health. For family and friends. For front-line heroes. For a vaccine. And for strength to those who have lost loved ones this past year.
It’s been a weird and often frightening year, and there’s no question in my mind that 2021 will be better. But I hope that you can take a moment to pause and reflect on the blessings in your lives as we all turn the page on a year that none of us will ever forget.