I am new to remote work. I have resisted it for years, even though I am an IT professional and could contract my services. But I never wanted my work stress to interfere with my home stress. Those two stresses always and forever needed to remain apart, simply so that I had one place to escape from the other. I know you working professionals understand.
My ‘worst fears’ have been confirmed- I feel the same stress in my home office as I do in my work cube. But this 2nd floor home office with a view and comfy chair is not my home. I am at a remote location in Illinois, staying with my generous sister. I have two rooms dedicated to my needs- a bedroom and a connected office with a table and a washer/dryer. I have my laptop, docking station, wireless internet, keyboard and mouse, and a large standalone monitor- every writers dream!
The joys of my remote office include the breeze coming through the window, the birdsong and wind chimes, the afternoon break downstairs with a stocked fridge, and the lack of commute. It’s been better than I expected. But I do not have the distraction of ‘my stuff’ and more specifically, my stuff in boxes because I moved four days prior to coming here. What should be one of the most exciting times of my life, purchase of my very first home, is in reality owning a half-unpacked condo 400 miles away in Minneapolis.
I am homesick.
But I am also here for a specific reason- to help my mom during the last weeks of her life. As my mother’s health declines, it gets harder to concentrate on work. My boss has already told me to not worry about the office, that it will still be there when I get back.
But working part-time while helping my mom part-time has helped me. I have some control over my job. I do not have control over the Acute Leukemia that gets worse every day. I don’t feel helpless while working and if I wasn’t working, I would just sit here worrying and watching the hours dwindle away.
It has been a challenge to keep up with projects only working 20 hours a week. But I do get to have meetings with friendly co-workers. And through a twist of fate, they are all working remote now too. I was authorized to do distance work for FMLA but thanks to COVID-19, my co-workers quickly followed me. It has been fun to watch their kids and pets interrupt our meetings.
For now, I try to find a balance but there is nothing that can distract me from my job like looking at my mom’s lab reports. Even the neighbors across the street, blasting their stereo while detailing their SUV, cannot set me in a tailspin like a blast cell percentage or platelet count of her blood. I am oscillating between respecting her independence and providing her support. But I am going to have to ‘call it’ soon and stop remote work.
This is not a vacation.
I hoped to have nice end of life memories with mom. Normally when I visit Peoria, we go out to dine, see a movie, or visit the brewery. I am a working professional and I do my part to support the livelihood of many service professionals- waitstaff, hairdresser, travel industry, department stores, and entertainment venues. Now everything is closed because of God damn COVID-19. The frugal would applaud and say it’s better for my wallet. What I say is, I buy local and help my community by creating jobs. Now I can’t.
We are making the best of it. I think mom and I will take that trip to the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge this weekend. It’s only an hour away and the outdoors is not closed for business. Emiquon is a floodplain restoration project along the Illinois River near Lewistown, IL. In 2008, volunteers worked with the Nature Conservancy to replant 300,000 wetland trees and 8,000 pounds of grassland seed. It is the second largest wetlands restoration project in the United States, behind the restoration of the Everglades. Emiquon is home to hundreds of thousands of birds.
And it is spring.
The birds are returning. One of my great joys at the end of winter is to hear my first songbird. The vast migration is a symbol of hope, of freedom, of renewal. It is not lost on me that my mother will take her own journey soon, the great flight to whatever awaits us beyond this physical plain. I am grateful to be here, to be with mom to the end of her days.
As difficult as this time of my life really is, I will have no regrets.
-Copyright C.M. Mounts, April 2020
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