It’s now been more than five months since anyone in my circle has been in their office. Since anyone has been face–to–face with their colleagues and clients, other than via a screen. Since anyone has been close enough to another, other than their immediate bubble dwellers, to feel their body heat, see their smile, sense their energy. By anyone, I mean me. And I am edgy, irritable, and discontent. I feel a lack of emotional and energetic connection. I bristle at phrases like “the new norm.” I am agitated with the in-between. We are allowed to socialize, but only a little and outside as much as possible. We are allowed to shop, but at a distance, wheezing through our masks, and don’t touch anything unless you intend to buy it. That’s after we’ve lined up to get in. So many line ups. We are allowed to dine out, in half-empty restaurants with masks on, or patios oozing onto busy roadways. And we live with the ever-present double threats: a second wave and colder weather.
I am blessed with minimal on-line meeting responsibilities. Not so for some of my family and friends. Their screen fatigue is evident. They are working in a two-dimensional world. Because they have no commute, no walk to a meeting room, no hallway banter, or elevator chats, they are working without breaks. The work–from–home protocol is evolving slowly. And with mental and emotional challenges for many. Friends with senior-level positions in large organizations are finding their work tedious. It’s the same work. It’s just being done solitarily and from a desk in their den. Every day. They are sharing with me their experience of waning interest and meaning in their work. With the social constructs and context of office life stripped away as they sit by themselves in front of their computer screens, they are examining what pieces of their work truly motivate them? That’s a daunting question.
And for others, the “new norm” of not going into the office has enabled them to construct a life that is more balanced and fulfilling for them. They feel safe and deeply content. They have achieved a blend of personal time and career responsibilities that suits them and feels sustainable. I believe this to be a blessing for introverts. Whereas extroverts need connections with people to create energy, introverts expend energy when they are engaging with others. Working from home enables them to top up their energy with solitude.
And then there are the families with children at home. Trying to juggle one or two demanding, now on-line and in-the-house careers, with childcare and homeschooling. For all of us, this pandemic has created challenges. For this sector, the stress and toll are unimaginable.
Perhaps my restless dissatisfaction with the world is trivial compared to the challenges of others. Or maybe I’m giving a voice to those too busy surviving. Or too busy asking deep questions about purpose and meaning. Or too busy living their life as best they can. Under the circumstances.
I know for sure that we are all asking questions, experiencing fear, and feeling untethered in unfamiliar ways. Reaching out, finding maskless faces to talk with, and refilling your energy chalice are daily necessities. There is no “new norm”. Only shifting realities.
At least, that has been my experience.