I normally work from home so the rest of the world is joining my normal reality. The nice part is you get to dress like a mullet business half and fun half. Here are some tips for working from home, especially during the current crisis.
- Create an office space. If you work from home or even a shared space, developing some physical boundaries for work will help you maintain life boundaries from work. That way when it’s time to ‘work’ you do it from the ‘work’ space and when work is over you leave it in the physical office space. It will help prioritize work staying at ‘work’ and home life not being interrupted. It will require practice in not allowing work things to infiltrate other parts of your house and life. An example will be if it’s an work email, only answer it from the ‘office’ location.
- Find opportunities for “virtual” connecting. Working so far apart means its worthwhile to try and find unique opportunities to connect in-person with teammates or like-minded workers whenever possible. Because of social distancing it means using things like: facetime, whastapp, zoom, skype, Marco polo. Use these virtual means to connect with work and non-work people. You may have to initiate but its worth it.
- Maintaining Margin or Work/Life Balance. Even the most structured among us may have difficulty keeping all of our daily tasks in the right category. Margin means having extra time in the week that isn’t planned but open. That way when things do come up they can take ‘work’ time in the ‘office’ and not disrupt the rest of one’s life. It may be worth recording how many actual hours are worked in a week (remember anytime answering emails is work time). Schedule in breaks from work – espcially if your families are all at home too. Play a game, do family exercise time, read a book or follow #2 and call someone.
- Time on Computers. This is more of a warning. Since computers are intrinsically linked to working remotely it important to be careful about the overall time spent on one. It would be a worthwhile activity to measure the time on a computer/tablet/phone over the course of a week. This would include any non-work activities on these devices. Then figure out a healthy amount of time in a day or week and limit your usage to those times.
- Fast/Retreat. Take time away technology and work. This means a break from all technology for certain amounts of time. This could be connected to quiet time, personal retreat or silent retreat. Regardless, replace that time with something that is good for you mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally. As a community, lets hold each other accountable to being healthy individuals.
- Take Care of your health. One of the best ways to avoid illness or be prepared if you get sick is to be as healthy as possible. Increase immune boosting nutrient dense foods. Use time at home to try new recipes or swap ideas. Exercise either going outside or in your home. Get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water. Other things like vitamins or supplements can be helpful.
In case there was any doubt in your minds, Ellie is the cook of the house. She has worked in restaurants and most recently at Hurly House, a bakery. It is her outlet for creativity and a stress reliever. Probably a contributing factor to my post marriage weight gain. Over the past week I decided to test the outer limits of my kitchen prowess by making a pumpkin spice latte. Before the mocking begins I should clarify that I needed to buy a whole pumpkin, roast it, blend it, create a spice mix, before even making the coffee. Secondly, I love the pumpkin spice flavor any time of year – even if that puts me in a camp with all of the American suburbian mothers (My only living experience in the suburbs was less than a year with one of my best friends Andrew and his cousin. They can attest to my lack of domestic qualities and love for holiday food i.e. Little Debbie Christmas trees. Fortunately, they were both neat freaks and often cleaned up my messes. One time Terrence (the cousin) started washing my dishes before I was done cooking). Also, my dad used to make pumpkin pancakes during the holidays (to be fair he still does, I’m just never around) which also contributed to my nostalgia for the flavor. SO, I loosely followed the recipe on attempt one and wound up with a decent starbucks knockoff in taste but with the consistency my dad would call ‘too thick to drink, too thin to plow”. Ellie suggested as strainer for round 2. A few mornings later I went through the process and mashed the pumpkin up more with an immersion blender, strained the mix (loosing most of the seasoning) and put the milky pumpkin combo in my mug. I looked at it with the hunger of Esau but wanted it to be fluffy (frothy) and knew that the fancy blender on a stick could totally do that. 2 seconds later there is pumpkin milk all over the kitchen (and my clothes). Ellie was upstairs in our roof room with her language tutor and my former roommates are nearly a decade in to keeping their own houses clean. The kitchen got a good cleaning and I waited a few more days before making a successful 3rd try Pumpkin Spice Latte. Moral of the story: Worth it.
The Holiday season (for American’s it includes Thanksgiving the end of November up to New years) is certainly a time of year I love. Especially Christmas. When living in Kenya I spent 5 straight Christmases creating many traditions. The first one was fairly lonely but with my friends Chris and Abigail (and eventually their cat, then dog, then son, then daughter) we created some amazing Christmastime traditions. The highlights were leading our church through a Arnold/Covey spectacular spontaneous drama, huge breakfast and dinner, and of course a slip and slide. Last year Ellie and I were in our home culture for our first holiday in the states, together. We got to navigate family and friends and felt loved, supported and included (and surrounded by pumpkin spice flavors).
This year is certainly different than all those. Living in a country that the 25th of December is simply ‘Wednedsay’
and not having people around with whom we have shared Christmas connections is different. As I enter my 7th holiday season being away from home I’m finding the value in doing the little things that give me a sense of joy. On some of my international trips in the last few months I’ve been collecting ornaments, lights and some Christmas decorations (star and lights from Germany, ornaments and stockings from Malta). We have learned through our three years of marriage, living in three different countries, that a feeling of ‘home’ is worth creating. Sometimes its buying butter in Malta because of a potential shortage so you can make the Christmas cookies your family makes every year (Ellie). Or its gathering all the trimmings of a tree around the world so that your house feels right (James). It certainly draws us closer together and we have been able to create a space that feels warm, inviting, safe and yes- Christmasy. So much of this time of year in the states tends to be organized chaos as people run from one party to another (re-gifting the gift exchange item at each one). We have an abundance of calm since Christmas is not celebrated here and some new perspective. For us its prioritizing the things that bring joy. In the absence of the cultural pressures of Christmas traditions we can focus more on the whole point of Christmas and are doing this advent reading together. Don’t forget to reach out to people who matter but aren’t with you – it really makes a difference. We are hosting Christmas movies, possibly a carol sing, skyping friends and family and hopefully will find some people to celebrate with on the day….
…And making Pumpkin Spice Latte’s
I graduated with my Masters in Counseling in 2009 and recently have been considering all that has happened professionally over the last 10 years. I remember one of my first clients during my practicum (about a year into my graduate program) and as he poured out his life story, thinking that I was in WAY over my head. There was a moment in one of our first sessions together, when he shared his childhood abuse for the first time in his life. I was wondering what class I was supposed to have, but hadn’t had yet, so I could know what to do. In a loss of words I just nodded and listened, which in hindsight, was the most powerful thing I could have done – and a significant lesson. In someways that is the most important aspect of counseling, listening well and being patient.
When I was counseling the homeless in Fort Worth I didn’t always have time to patient because so many of my clients I might only see once or twice. Sometimes things went well enough that they would greet me across the shelter and introduce me as ‘their counselor’ to all their buddies. Other times they would find out I didn’t have food, clothes or shelter and leave in a storm of curse words. I learned that each opportunity to interact, even if it was the only time, could be positive and impactful.
In 2011, I began looking into counseling cross cultural workers joining an organization that provided an avenue to do that. I spent a year working in the states and then five years in Kenya. Now I am based and working out of the MENA region (Middle East / North Africa). Since 2011, I have counseled people from at least 28 different countries. For many people it was the first time they experienced counseling and sometimes my first time counseling someone from their home country. Often our differences far outweighed our similarities. I learned that listening is ‘spoken’ the same across cultures. Healing comes in many different ways, times and places. I have the privilege of being a part of my healing stories.
I write this from Jordan, one of my many stops with Healing the Wounds of Trauma. This week is about training adults in how to work with children who have experienced trauma. It is sometimes seeing the suffering at its worst but getting the joy of helping others be a part of the healing process. The children learn what to do with their pain and the adults guiding them often learn more about healing than the children. I continue to learn that anyone, regardless of background, can both be a part of a therapeutic process and find healing through one.
There is always an internal hummmm for the first day of school. As I woke on my first day of language school, February 4th 2019, I hoped we would arrive early! After all, we were leaving our house with an hour and a half to travel to class. We hustled 15 minutes to the nearest metro stop, more because of the crisp air than worry about time. The sky was growing from grey, to pink, to golden, as we turned the corner within view of where we’d wait for the train.
Kajjunk Kajjunk Kajunk, passed us. We woefully hurried behind a metro we knew we wouldn’t catch. It stopped momentarily, just out of reach, and continued downtown. There are no train times or schedules. Friends advised us before our first metro ride, “you never know when the next train will come, so hop on the first one you see…no matter how full.” I shifted my weight in the chill, wondering if we’d missed our best chance.
Some 20 minutes passed…under an hour til class begins. Kajjunk Kajjunkjunk. The metro stops before us. Its doors creek open and reveal people packed like new toothpaste in its tube…no room for any more. James and I nod at each other with understanding, go to separate doors, and wiggle our way in to the mess of body odor. A woman deep inside the tangle of limbs squeezes my elbow, sucking me in, so that I am not closed in the door.
I can not see anything but bodies. The lights flicker. The wheels groan. The train struggles to move again. The air is still; unmoving scents hang around my head, barely a whisper cuts the quiet of the crowd. James has been swallowed by the mass.
20 minutes later our train arrives at a central station. Our second train, which will take us to our final destination, is no where to be found. Without discussion, James and I fight the current of people to set off along the metro tracks, hoping to meet up with our train along the way. I nibble my egg sandwich with pesto and spicy sauce as we wonder what our first day of language will be like…only 30 minutes before class begins and 2 miles to go.
Where do I pick up from my last post…..
SO much has happened since our first night in that hotel! We haven’t lived here for 2 months, yet I feel more established here than I did during our recent 10 month stay in the USA.
What makes this so?
Possibly our purpose in this place? I am invested in language study. 4 hours a day I study with a tutor. I practice around town. James and I try to replace our English words with the new vocabulary in our own conversations. I study for hours at home. James, now finished with language study, has clients queuing up to utilize his services. Different groups are booking him for conferences months in advance!
Quite possibly, our waiting in the States? The anticipation of what was waiting for us in this new city made it easy to grow restless in the USA. Now we are finally building a life in this place, realizing the thing we were waiting for.
Ultimately, I know we were meant to be here. That is the deepest reason we are so settled, established, and at Peace. There has been, and continues to be, such an affirmation in our start here. From the convenience of finding a mattress on our first day in country, to the friendship we’ve found with a local massage therapist, I am amazed at how all things have come together.
I feel like something in me has been waiting to start this chapter all of my life. I feel like this is a place/lifestyle I’ve not only been growing toward, but been desiring for longer than I can pinpoint.
As I reflect on this feeling of being home here, James is at a conference in America. It is a marvelous thing to me, that these feelings of being established, safe and at Peace are with me even while James is far. That is a True testimony (to me) that we were brought to thrive here in this season….
“The first word that comes to mind?” James asked, as we stepped from the airplane into the crisp breeze. “Pleasant,” I said.
It was certainly pleasant to be out if that tightly packed “patchwork” airplane. It was a deeper pleasant feeling to look out at the mountains in the distance as we walked along the tarmac.
After dropping our bags at our bare apartment, we set out to reach the hotel where we would stay, at least until we purchased a mattress…
It was dark outside and after a long, but successful day we were ready for rest. Thankfully, our driver was a gracious, English speaking friend. We plugged in the hotel address into GoogleMaps. Great, it is 600 meters away. We’ll soon be resting and hopefully find dinner.
In the darkness the neighborhood surrounding our new apartment did not look like one that would house a hotel, especially not the one pictured on our map. What do us new foreigners know anyway…. we slowly circled the block.
The first time around the block we found no sign of any type of lodging. We checked the address and tried again. In the darkness, it was difficult to see road signs. Did any of these intersections have signs?
We checked the address again. This time we slowly drove looking for people to ask about the hotel. Doorways were locked up for the night. Not inviting. At a corner in the distance, a light shone with a few men standing around, dressed in warm hats and thick coats. We parked and our friend stepped out to speak with the men.
On this illuminated corner I could see a handful of cats jumping in and out of the light, a few cats munching bones in the gutter. Small dusty store doors were closed all along the street. A mural painted on a wall was barely touched by the light. Cars trundled by on occasion. The men huddled around the light at a street side grill, inhaling cigarettes and chatting. When our friend broke the circle to inquire about our hotel, I could see spices, sauces, dough and meet piled beside the hot grill.
Our friend got back into the car. “I don’t speak Arabic,” he offered. We sat, thinking, hungry…kind of floating. At least I though we all were floating, but in a few moments, “I’ve found another location!” James called.
Keeping our hope in check, we drove across town to investigate the potential sight of our hotel booking. The new pin drop took us outside a hotel….We stepped inside…
“You must be Mr. Covey” the receptionist welcomed us.
It just doesn’t feel permanent.
We wrangled each of the five 50 pound bags onto the baggage scale to be tagged….Check. We hugged goodbye to our parents at the security line….Check. We managed the middle seats, in the middle row of the plane, without much sleep…Check. We looked at each other after we landed in Germany. “It just feels like a little trip”, we said.
Now at a Service Leaders Conference in Germany, it still hasn’t sunk in. I know the mingling with colleagues and engaging in conversations on strategy are keeping us occupied.
At the moment it’s around 3am Germany time. It’s 8pm Texas time…jet lag. I am typing these thoughts from my perch on the closed toilet lid. James is blissfully asleep and I don’t want two Coveys to be dead tired tomorrow, so type in the bathroom it is!I have plenty of time to reflect in this sleepless night, and I wonder when the weight of 250 pounds of luggage will sink in; We moved.
People ask: “What is it like to be back in the USA?” “How has your time in the States been?” “What do you miss most from US when you are away?”
Often times I resort to a 30 second, surface answer. Although that quick answer is true, I avoid the deep tension I feel. I think either: people don’t want to listen to that story, or friends/family don’t want to take the time to understand the complexities.
My excuses are selling both parties short.
In a conversation with a friend, and in another conversation with my sister, I was reminded that the tension in transition is universal…At the very least, Millennial:)
So here are some wrestlings with transition. In hopes that sharing them will be unifying, and honest, and cathartic:
- How do I fully engage in relationships when we both know I’m leaving? Diving deep into relationships is a JOYFUL thing! I thrive where I am, mostly because of the connections I have, or am developing, with people. However, the deeper we get into each other’s lives, the more painful the leaving; the more painful to move on without you.
- Being Present. What a double-edged sward! I am habitually engrossed in the place where I am…in this moment. Yes, it can be a gift, wielded to easily establish new roots and norms! It also leaves people and places behind. Those I am not with, can feel forgotten.
- Each time I give of myself, to a place/people, there is a cost. When transitions(leaving) occurs, the weight of that cost is grieving. Although I “pay for the cost” in grieving, I ultimately gain a treasure. The treasure is: a new friend, a deeper foundation, a better friend, a million memories. I’ve counted up the cost, and giving myself to relationships, no matter how long or short, is worth it.
- I am made of: dozens of countries, a few languages, hundreds of ethnic foods, a global community of friends, at least 3 homes, and other things
- I must grieve my losses well. If I do not, how will there be room to receive the next wave of blessings, friendships, experiences?