Choosing an Attitude

One of the elements of my new job that was most appealing – working from home – is also revealing itself to be a challenge in ways I did not experience the last time I had a similar employment. Just a few changes in external circumstances are making a significant difference in how I relate to my obligations.

The first time I worked from home was more than 20 years ago, when I had just moved to Sapello. I lived alone, and was hired to manage and build up the clientele of a home health agency. I enjoyed being able to spread my work over the seven day week, scheduling my leisure activities intermittently with travel to clients’ homes and with the inevitable administrative work required. While I was never “off duty”, I did have a lot of choice about what I did when. I was flexibly able to fit my personal obligations and desires around work demands, rarely feeling pressured because there seemed to be enough time for everything.

Eventually the agency grew to the point that we established an office, and I became subject to a more consistent and common work schedule. I left briefly, for personal reasons, and spent eighteen months self-employed. I completed several contracts and saw clients privately for counselling sessions. When I returned to the agency, again as its branch manager, I was subject to the standard “8-5 in the office” schedule, to which I adhered for fourteen years. Eighteen months of semi-retirement and job search brought me to my present full time, salaried and home-based position.

I do not now live alone. I share my very small house with my disabled former husband, for whom I am guardian and with whom I remain friends. His health is slowly and steadily declining. A sequence of aides come to the house, to help him during the day and to see that he gets supper. The schedule is meant to assure his safety when I am away. In consequence, there are several different people added to our small space, to whom I must accommodate when I am at home. While I am, mostly, relieved of responsibility for my housemate’s care, I do have to step in, unpredictably, when an aide is unavailable. And I am responsible to assure that the schedule of services is established and maintained.

Over time, our home has become divided into “my” room, which is also the living room that contains the day bed where I sleep, and the rest of the space – sleeping area for my housemate, dining area with the table covered with items he uses for his craft projects, kitchen and bath which we share. While I was still employed at the agency, the aides were scheduled during my work hours. In the eighteen months since, I find my necessary privacy and quiet time at night, often writing (as at this moment) or reading. My housemate watches TV with earphones on, allowing me valued silence for contemplation and creation.

Embarked on my new job, I have been away from home for extended periods of orientation and training. Shortly, I expect to be scheduled for long, busy days traveling to clients’ homes, interspersed with long and demanding days at home entering information into the complex computer systems my employer has been training us to use. I’ve had just a few weeks at home, to set up my “office” and establish those systems as functional in my rural, no-cell-service area. The systems are only partially in place so far. I do not yet have a land-based work phone, and I continue to uncover wide areas from within which I have no connection to the Internet. For clients who live in those areas, I will have to take notes and then enter data later at night, after I get back home.

My office is now in a corner of the dining area where my housemate – and his aide – spend most of the day. I’m having to learn to shut out their conversation in order to concentrate on the tasks that come to me by computer. On a recent visit to a building in Albuquerque newly occupied by some of the staff of my company, I walked through a huge room of employees in cubicles, thinking how grateful I am not to be similarly situated. I only have to shut off two voices, not hundreds.

I’m realizing that one of the serious sources of stress over the last years of my former employment came from the lack of doors on offices in the various buildings that agency occupied. As a manager, I relied on knowing (hearing) what was going on throughout the office. As a person, my need for silence around me, for auditory privacy, was consistently challenged. Personal validation and social support, also important to well-being, came from co-workers and from those engaged in the various volunteer activities I’ve pursued. For recuperation, reflection, and privacy I could count on quiet at home.

Changes in my housemate’s health, including recent medical emergencies disrupting my work day plans, new aides requiring instruction that he does not provide, and the expectation from my present employer that I be available on an 8-5 Monday to Friday schedule, have combined to eliminate my control over how and when I do what needs to be done. As a result, work is not staying in balance. It is seeping into my sleep time, rousing me at 5 am to try yet another way to solve a computer problem that proves not to be solvable by me. I begin to feel encroached upon by lack of quiet personal time – and by the necessity of at least temporarily giving up almost all of my volunteer activities.

During a recent two nights alone at home, while my housemate was in hospital, I was jolted to realize that many years have elapsed since the last time I had this space to myself for more than two hours! There is already so much activity filling the house, can I actually bring work here too, without losing the last bits of “me” space?

+++++

Yes, I recognize my issue is a matter of mental attitude. My spiritual Path teaches that “the mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master.” Private, quiet, contemplative space for myself will exist wherever I am, if I make it a priority – and “set my mind”  (no, actually not my mind, but my attention) to assuring it occurs.

I may not be able to go strictly by the clock, dividing work time from private time, especially while I’m still learning how to accomplish work tasks in an efficient manner. I cannot force my work computer to move through its paces more quickly. I cannot fix my situation of intermittent Internet connectivity, which disrupts the intended work flow process and requires me to “do double work” entering data already recorded on paper.

On a Recent Misty Morning

On a Recent Misty Morning

I can teach myself not to be frustrated by the computer’s slowness, and I can line up tasks to do during the waits (like creating a  card file of important numbers and contacts). I can “take time to smell the roses” or, in this winter season watch the birds. I can revel in my ability to look up from my computer to see snow dappled fields inviting to deer, doves perched in a row on the fence beside the feeder, a squirrel gorging himself on seeds, and little birds on the ground waiting to collect what the doves and the squirrel shove over the side of the dish.

Yum!

Yum!

I may need to extend work hours into the evenings and weekends – but I can still define times when I turn off all electronics and soak up the natural sounds of wind, dogs chasing rabbits, birds arguing over priority at their feeder, and snow dripping from the eaves.

Serenity surrounds me. I need only put myself within it. I am blessed.

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2 Responses to “Choosing an Attitude”

  1. Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

    The life you have presently chosen and the responsibilities you have taken on, seem overwhelming and yet you can end on such a positive thought. That is to be admired. While I no longer worker out of the home, my spouse still drives nearly two hours a day, back and forth to employment.

    We chose years ago to move out into the country and are still quite happy here, but it remains a task for him and long periods of empty space for me. Each winter grows longer and becomes more difficult to occupy the time and maintain a positive attitude. But I kick myself in the bottom and note how fortunate I am to have much better health than many my age. With a very special friends and some newer acquaintances, I still have that important social contact.

    Our internet services are always dependable, even in this rural area, so that has become a crucial part of my attitude and day.

    I always appreciate your blog as you allow for a bit of rambling in the comments. On my site, everyone just wants pictures, instructions and no gibber-jabber. Most of my readers are younger and not patient with long posts. I’m not complaining as I love working with them.

    But at this age, I often have other musings and topics I would like to discuss and share. As always, I’ve found your post contemplative for some of those.

    Thanks and hope the remainder of your weekend is peaceful.

    • chelawriter Says:

      The weekend includes a half day retreat at a Buddhist center in Santa Fe, and so I’m assure it will be peaceful. I too put up with extra time in the car in order to live in rural peace; wouldn’t have it any other way. Rambling commentary seems to me to be the most effective way to get in tune with oneself – I therefore also wouldn’t have my site be any other way. Thanks for connecting and commenting; I value the interaction.

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