Lately I’ve become distressed about the impact that relatively minor physical discomfort and mood swings seem to have on my ability to get shit done. I’ve been telling myself that when I used to get up and go to work in an office every day I didn’t have to fight through periods of extreme apathy like I sometimes now experience, and a headache would rarely cause me to miss a day of work. Of course, I’m older now, and I believe I’m in the beginning stages of what is delicately referred to as “the change”, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. However, I’m worried that I am in danger of giving in to my lazier nature, which I absolutely cannot afford to do. What happened to that girl I think I remember, the one who would drag herself out of bed no matter what?
Yes, I did push through headaches and shoulder stiffness and sinus congestion and all that other stuff. I did force myself to get dressed and drive to the office and sit at my desk when I would have rather been pretty much anywhere else. Yes, I did that – we all do that because we have to. When I compare my recollection of what it was like to have to go into an office each day whether I felt in top form or not to how I react now when I’m not feeling my best, it seems like I’m ever so quick to take an aspirin and go back to bed, just because I can. Is that a bad thing? Shouldn’t I just make myself get up and go downstairs and fire up the laptop and get on with it?
Or am I remembering it all wrong?
One interesting facet of working from home is that you have an opportunity to really get to know your body’s rhythms. There are days I wake up and I feel ready to leap tall buildings. I approach my tasks with relish and I seem to get everything on my list done, and more. Then there are days when I can’t focus for five minutes on anything; my thoughts rush from one thing to another, and I start tasks only to quit and pick up something else that I also don’t finish. Then there are days when I just don’t feel well in my body. I’m tired, and things are sort of achy. I hate those days. I try to push through them, but I find that the quality of my work is lessened, and I make mistakes that I would never make on a good day. I’ve learned not to push too hard, and that looking like an idiot in front of a client isn’t worth losing an hour or so of my day to a nap.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure I had these same sorts of days when I went into an office. I definitely remember days where I felt as busy as a bee but I didn’t seem to get anything accomplished; I just buzzed from one thing to another in rapid succession. I remember days of my brain being so foggy that I would look for things to do that didn’t require much thought, thereby minimizing the the chances of making an embarrassing mistake. I remember days of feeling ill, but since having a nap wasn’t an option, I’d just suffer through and be totally unproductive all day. At least now I can go lay down for an hour; often I come back feeling refreshed and am able to attack my to-do list with new energy.
So, maybe it’s not that I used to have some superpower that allowed me to push through the down days, maybe I’m just better at acknowledging them and reacting appropriately. Sure, there are lots of times when I have conference calls or deadlines that force me to keep engaged when I’d much rather watch TV or take a nap. But I’ve come to accept that my work day doesn’t just happen between 8 and 5; I can, and do, work very odd hours. In addition, when I’m done with my work for the day I’m done; I don’t have a boss who wanders around trying to catch me goofing off. I still sometimes have that mindset, that I’m required to sit at my desk for a certain number of hours, being available in an instant in the event somebody wants something from me. The wonderful truth is that I don’t have to do that. If my head hurts, I can take a pill and go lay down until it passes. If I can’t focus on a particular task, I can put it to the side and do something my reduced attention span will allow. If I’m on fire, I can work ten hours straight without a break. It’s up to me to choose how to respond to the context of each day as it happens – to go with the flow of the highs and the lows.