I was going to start this by saying how long we have been in stage four lockdown but honestly I can’t remember, could be three weeks or three months. Time and dates seem to have no meaning anymore. Instead I count time by Dan Andrew’s presser and the cats miaowing for their dinner.
I’ve been crying a lot this week. I’m ok, well, as well as you can be during a global pandemic but sometimes the requirement to be alright and stoic through massive upheaval in our lives is too much.
The issues this week were around my work. Before the global pandemic hit, we started working on a project to replace our institutional repository. It’s one of those projects that is meant to be a highlight of your career. I expected it to be challenging and rewarding but I did not expect to be doing it at home in my trackies, anxious about the state of the world and away from my team and my friends.
I’m coping with the workload and loving the many paths it has taken us down. I have no doubt the project will be successful, my team are resilient and always just finds a way. But it feels like we climbing Mount Everest we should taking a gentle walk by a stream – that is to say, it feels like it’s too much of a challenge when we should just being less hard things right now.
Working remotely has its good points but your work becomes really siloed. Online meetings are exhausting. I find engaging for anything longer than 30 minutes difficult, my mind wanders and I’ve developed some bad habits, which you would not do if you were face-to-face. .
Impromptu conversations both within and across teams don’t happen. Everything has be organised into meetings or phone calls. You can’t just talk to colleagues to get their input . It feels like this key ingredient is missing and it worries me.
Mostly, I’m just massive disappointed that I’m doing something so brilliant and exciting under these circumstances. When I got this job nearly a year ago it was one of the things I was most looking forward too, now it just feels like it’s nothing special and we won’t be able to celebrate this achievement.
There been lots of information about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how our response to the pandemic is just to have our most basic needs met right now – that is food, water and the safety of a home. With normal life so disrupted, fear and uncertainty everywhere, doing these basic things is stressful, the emotional energy needed to do a large and complex project takes a toll.
And you think you are ok because you’re resilient and you have everything you need and are safe at home. So you turn up to work, contribute and do your absolute best. But then all your emotions come out doing something as normal as meeting with a colleague and it makes no sense.
Other friends too are reporting that they frequently find themselves in tears. They also say it makes them feel better – not so much for me because I’m not even sure what I’m crying about. It feels selfish when I’ve got everything I need to be upset because I miss my friends or not getting to do the special project in the way I wanted.
When I started at MPOW I was pretty crushed by previous library experience. But my colleagues embraced me and made me feel like I mattered. They are my support network for work stuff but more importantly just a great group of people who want to make the world a better place.
So I miss them, and it hurts my heart that we aren’t having Monday first home owners lunch, or one of them isn’t dropping by my desk for coffee, or we aren’t all sitting together in the sun on fake grass mountain or gathering around a table in the lunch room, or talking marxist theory while eating snacks from a vending machine.
Early on in the pandemic people were publishing lots of articles about grief and loss like this one. And yes I do feel a sense of loss of normality, not seeing my friends, family, or doing things I like. Going out is also really stressful – mask up, keep your distance; the disconcerting experience of seeing empty streets, where once they were bustling.
It’s tough. I’m both ok and not ok in equal measure. And yes, there are a whole bunch of people who are worse off than me. But that does not make this any less hard, just makes me ache more for the world I can’t fix.