The decision came two weeks ago that my company “should work from home if you can.” We packed materials we expected to need in the next month. Desks had already been emptying; I washed my tea mug and took my food from the communal fridge. We all left for the evening with a “See you when I see you,” a sentiment that reminded me far too much of leaving previous jobs.
We worked from home for one day before I had to go into the office. There was one package we couldn’t reroute, and we needed it. So I braved the elements that Friday morning, walking from Penn Station to my office in the rain. Outside, people wheezed behind N95 masks; electronics ads told me to wash my hands for 20 seconds with soap. Even the office was dark, mostly abandoned, with a neglected flickering light in the corner. The communal fridge was still packed with milk, as if everyone would be arriving for their morning coffee.
I wanted to go home. But when the following week came, and the office officially closed down, I wanted to go back. I’d developed a cough, probably related to seasonal allergies, but checked my temperature anyway (it was always normal). I couldn’t take a deep breath, but I’d been having trouble doing that the past few months, anyway. I knew it was anxiety-driven, but it still made me dizzy and irritable. I alternated between yelling and crying. I was stressed over work that I could normally think about logically.
I had to calm down.
I haven’t, really; I’m just too tired anymore. I can’t go to CVS without people glaring at me; I picked up lunch, and the paper bag was handed to me by a woman in surgical gloves. While searching emails, I find things that occurred while I was still in the city, life divided between pre– and post–distancing.
But in the midst, we still reach out to others. Parishes are effectively closed, but we have Livestream and virtual prayer time; concerts have been canceled, but musicians offer free performances online. I want to complain about working from home, but limit the time I even talk about it online. Because we’re all doing it, and highlighting the bad only makes it worse. Instead I share my baking and prayers; I encourage others who are doing the same, making the most of a terrible situation. It’s not easy. I’m not exactly being positive, but I’m trying not to spread negativity like… well, a virus.
It’s a hard time for us all. But last week I prayed the rosary along with a Livestream from the Vatican, with countless others around the world. Their prayers were in Italian, which I began to mostly understand, and I replied in English. It’s strange to feel completely separated, but know we’re all together. There’s no telling how long this will last. Some say weeks, but some say months. I say I can’t do it, but I have to. I’ll keep to my usual schedule. I’ll exercise daily. I’ll do my reading, talk to God, and appreciate others’ good efforts. I’ll do my best.