Chronicles of a grant writer in the time of social distancing — Week 2

March 23

It’s the start of a new work week. When I went to bed last night, I was full of anxiety and unsure if I would be able to sleep. Fortunately, I drifted off without too much difficulty and woke up feeling calmer and ready to face the day. While I’m falling short of sleeping the recommended eight hours a night, I find that going to bed and getting up at regular times is helping me to manage my emotions. As a bonus, I can sleep a bit later than I would when I had to take my kids to school each morning.

On typical workdays, I often write a to-do list for the day, and I am continuing this at home. The list is especially helpful when one of my family members interrupts what I am doing, and I lose my focus. The list is in some ways an anchor to my work.

Previously, when I needed a mental break at work, I often checked news websites to learn what was going on in the world, but in recent days, I have found the news greatly increases my anxiety and makes me feel less able to work. Instead, I am avoiding the news, except when absolutely necessary, and instead focusing on the positive benefits of being busy with work. It’s truly a sign that things are turned upside down when work is the escape we seek, rather than the responsibility we seek to escape from. I am also thankful, daily, that my job is intact, at least for now, as I hear of friends being furloughed or laid off.

March 24

One of the heartening things about this crisis is that friends, relatives, and colleagues all seem to be genuinely concerned about each other. In addition to asking about me, my coworkers ask me all the time how my kids are doing, and how I am handling things. Overall, I am happy to say, we are all doing fine, but I realize I have neglected to mention a very important person in these posts: my husband. He is also working from home now, with the added challenge of working non-traditional hours because his employer doesn’t have capacity for everyone to work on the remote network at the same time. So, he’s supervising and distracting the kids when I am working, then logging on later to do his own work. I know that many parents like us are working “shifts” so that someone is constantly available to supervise the children.

There’s no perfect formula for working and schooling at home, and inevitably, my husband and I both have our work interrupted, and our kids periodically slack off or misbehave on their video chats (my apologies to the parents of my kids’ classmates). Sometimes I feel really stressed and exasperated. Today I am just thankful for the things that are going right, and hoping they continue.

March 25

For the last couple of days, my family members have been more hyper/edgy. My husband and kids all popped into my various video calls with work today. Fortunately, I work with people who were amused by the distractions rather than being annoyed with them. It was validating that on the same call, another coworker’s kids could be heard in the background and another’s cat kept walking in front of the camera. Such is life in the age of working from home.

It’s getting harder to be home all the time, and it’s hard knowing that this may go on for many weeks or even months. When I dwell on how long this could last, I start to feel paralyzed. Instead, I focus on one day at a time. Today, I can see my kids mastering their new routines and becoming a bit more independent. Today I can continue my work for an agency that is needed more than ever by the community.

I am thankful to live in an age when technology enables us to continue so many of our activities remotely. My boss pointed out a few days ago that even five years ago, we didn’t have access to all of the tools that we are using now. Even though this time is incredibly difficult, the challenges of being away from other people are significantly alleviated by video conferencing, online ordering, and other tools.

March 26

Stay home. That’s the message we’ve been getting, and that is what I have been doing, except for walks outside and necessary trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, or post office. And yet, I still feel guilty. I keep my distance from others, avoid touching my face, and wash my hands as soon as I get home, but, like just about everyone I know, I worry about whether this is enough. 

I try to balance this anxiety out with more reasonable thoughts: I am following the recommendations of experts, I am doing my part. We are living in scary times.

I am inspired by my fellow citizens who truly have an “all of us are in this together” attitude. They’re choosing to stay distant for their own health and that of others. I am too.

But it’s hard to come to terms with the reality that we have to be so much more careful than we’ve ever been before, and at the same time to recognize that we still have to be human and to acknowledge that if we are following the official recommendations, we shouldn’t blame ourselves for the things we can’t control.

That’s what I’m struggling with today.

On a more positive note, when I haven’t been dwelling on the morbidity of this situation, I’ve made some real progress on work projects, soaked in the sunshine, and enjoyed the quiet blooming of spring. The renewal of nature gives me energy and hope, and helps me continue moving forward in this dark and strange time.


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Susan Jablow, Free-lance Writer

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