Working home alone

Finally, finally, work provided me with a laptop so I can work from home one day a week. I’ve been waiting for this for months and last Friday I got my first outing. Or should that be inning?

I woke up feeling very relaxed on Friday morning. It’s not as if I rush around in a frenzy normally, but knowing I didn’t have to go anywhere meant I could go at my own pace. It was lovely being able to put on jeans instead of work clothes, and take time to brew coffee in my stovetop espresso maker, a ritual I normally save for the weekend. 

I fired up the laptop, the VPN worked seamlessly, and I sat at my dining table and got into it. Next thing I knew I was feeling hungry and realised it was midday. I’d been so engrossed and so uninterrupted I’d completely lost track of time. It was wonderful. 

I hadn’t fully appreciated quite how stressed I get at work from the constant noise and interruptions. At home, my phone rang once, a call I was expecting relating to the project I was working on. The rest of the time I was concentrating on one task after another. By the time 5pm came I’d completed a project that had been hanging around for months, and dealt with three “I need this urgently” items. That’s about 2 normal days work. 

More importantly, I felt happy. I had spent an entire day working in a way that suits me and I had the output to show for it. It’s crazy to think that I spend 80% of my work week in an environment that is counterproductive. 

I have wondered in the past about going into business for myself and working from home permanently. But I worried that I would become a complete recluse. I never worried that I wouldn’t get anything done at home – I’m not a procrastinator when it comes to work – but I did worry I’d cease to have any contact with people. At least going to the office means I get to talk to people most days of the week. That’s good for me. It’s hard for me to seek out company so having it forced on me is no bad thing. 

But it’s so, so good to have even one day a week when I don’t have to cope with other people. 

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Getting a shakeup 

We had a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake last week (I live in New Zealand). The damage is remarkable both for what it did do – raise the Kaikoura seabed 2m or so – and what it didn’t do – raze Wellington. 

Photo: NZ Transport Agency

Earthquakes are perhaps the worst of the natural disasters because they are completely unpredictable. With floods, fire, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and tornadoes, you have warning and time to prepare or evacuate. Not so with earthquakes. There might be a rumble as if a heavy truck is passing but that’s all the warning you get, less than a second – just enough to get the adrenaline on the move – then bam! The earth starts moving. And you have no idea if it’s going to stop or keep going and get worse. And when it stops, if it’s going to start again. 

It was midnight when the fault gave way. I shot out of bed and got into the doorway, not ideal but better than lying in bed if the roof fell in. As soon as the major shaking stopped I got dressed, grabbed the duvet and went downstairs to huddle on the couch for the rest of the night, figuring it would be easier to run outside from the ground floor if things started to give way. 

The rest of the night was a blur of more shakes, tsunami sirens, checking Facebook and GeoNet to find out what was happening. I didn’t evacuate for the tsunami sirens because I’m above the line. Also, my house was still standing. 

And, miraculously, nothing broke. Nothing fell of a shelf. I still can’t believe it. That highway is cracked to pieces, the railway line got flung meters eastward, the seabed rose 2m, the mountains moved several metres sideways, cows got stranded on islands in destroyed paddocks, buildings are on the condemned list, and I didn’t even lose a wine glass. Unbelievable. 

This is why earthquakes are so stressful. You simply cannot know what is going to happen. Christchurch’s 6.6 mag earthquake in 2011 caused far more damage because it was centred right under the city. We survived a 7.8 more or less intact. But who knows what comes next? 

Christchurch taught me that I could survive something like that. I survived more by good luck than good planning.  I learned that emotionally I could cope, but it was difficult and I remember feeling extremely alone and wishing desperately for company and reassurance. 

Sunday night’s quake brought that feeling rushing back. This time I was surrounded by neighbours and I had internet & phone access so I didn’t feel as isolated, but I still yearned for the reassurance of another. Self soothing has its limits, I’ve discovered. 

I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about that, as someone who lives alone. Except perhaps to reach out to those around me to make sure they are all alright and offer, rather than ask for, reassurance. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t do that. I did check to see if neighbours lights were on and houses unbroken, but I didn’t knock on their doors to see if they were alright. Because being up and having electricity isn’t the same as being alright. 

Like almost everyone in NZ I’m now checking my emergency kit supplies and hoping I won’t need any of it. And next time I hope I’ll think to check on my neighbours. 

What to say

I’m not American so I didn’t vote in the election. But it affected me nonetheless. For one thing, for the past two years my RSS feed has been full of commentary on everything to do with the campaigns. If nothing else I am hugely (or is that yugely) relieved the whole ugly mess has come to an end. And what an end. 

The dynamic of the race and what it says about Americans’ changing view of politics and “the system” is on one level fascinating. I did enough political science at uni to have some interest in that aspect of it. 

But what I find saddest is that playing to racist fears, xenophobia, and misogyny worked. That there’s a large enough group of  (mostly white) Americans who believe that continuing to oppress others is the only way ahead. Apparently Making America Great Again requires Making America Hate Again. 

I don’t know what to say to my American friends. They didn’t vote for this but they’re stuck with the consequences. 

Recovering from being social

Two weeks ago I attended the wedding, and while I enjoyed it very much it also involved what is now for me a very late night: 11pm. The following day I decided to go for a hike with a friend as the weather was stunning, walking is good for me, and my friend has RA too so we could compare notes and commiserate while enjoying the views and the day. We ended up walking about 6km which isn’t a huge distance. 


Apparently this was all too much for me. It set off a flare of symptoms that saw me in bed for three days. On day 2 I almost fainted after getting out of the shower and had to lie on the bathroom floor for about 15 minutes before I could crawl, literally, back to bed. I also ran low on food because I hadn’t shopped for groceries over the weekend, being too busy dollying myself up for the wedding, and hiking. 

This was all rather demoralising. I obviously felt good enough after the wedding to entertain the idea of a hike, and although the hike was fairly strenuous I didn’t think I’d pushed myself too much. My body disagreed. 

I have very little resilience it seems. I do recover eventually but I’m inclined to think three days in bed is a very high price to pay for having a mildly active weekend. 

So I’m having a much quieter weekend. I’ve done my grocery shopping because being confined to bed is even less fun when you’re hungry. The most strenuous that things are going to get is wrestling the duvet into a clean cover, which I can then have a nap on.