Routines in a Time of Trouble

Routines in a Time of Trouble

Montana road, dog in distance, blue sky, ocher cliff.

I must have a million photos of this bluff, that sky (this dog, and Raymond before him). This is my usual dog walk — in the winter we do it early in the day to catch the warmth and light, in the summer, late afternoon to catch the shade as the sun drops behind the mountains to the west. It’s about a mile each way, through a creekbottom, then opens out at the north end of the Paradise Valley.

This is not a wilderness walk — although last spring a moose calved in there, so we had to be careful. And two years ago a very large cinnamon black bear and I startled one another badly. But it’s not a wilderness walk — it’s a county road, and just on the far side of the creek is Hwy 89 south, the main highway serving the Paradise Valley and the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It’s very busy. In the summer it’s a parade of RVs. Don’t get me started on the RVs. I’m the old lady in the straw hat shaking my fist at your selfishness, RV people.

At any rate, this is the walk we take nearly every day. We have a couple of others, but our routine is a walk, then breakfast, then yard chores, then settling down to work. I’ve worked remotely since 2002, and until the last three years when I’ve had to drive over to Bozeman to teach at MSU, I’ve made my entire living while working from home.

For me at least, routine is key. It’s a real job. I log in about 10 most days, and work until 6. Or another way of putting it is that I work a regular 9-5 on California time. Which doesn’t mean I don’t putter. While writing this, I just got up to water the geraniums in my office that I only just noticed are looking peaky. I’ll do a load of wash — hang it on the line. But for the most part, I’m at work. Writing copy. Answering emails. Taking meetings. Just like I would if I was in a cube in San Jose, or Seattle.

So for those of you new to working at home — treat it like work. Do your morning routine — including working out if that’s part of it. There are a ton of workouts online that you can do at home — I’m a huge fan of Yoga with Adrienne — her neck and shoulder yoga videos have nearly rehabbed my left shoulder which froze up last summer. Then take a shower and get dressed. You don’t have to dress as formally as you would if you’re going to the office, but dress nice. Dress comfortable. I’m planning to put on my Teaching Lipstick when I start holding classes online on Monday.

Most important — learn how to log off.

When work is done, close up shop. I used to have a real rule about no screens when Himself and I are together for dinner and after. I’ve been bad about that the past few months — Twitter has crept up on me. I’m going to really try to return to Books On Paper in the evenings. And knitting. Things are terrifying out there, and while I love scrolling Instagram in the morning and looking at pretty pictures, I might have to give that up for a while too. Poetry. I think it might be time to turn back to poetry in the morning.

The thing is — figure out what works for you and impose some structure on your day. It will help fight back the terror, and the madness. Take advantage of these weird times and figure out how to limit what comes into your brains. If you have a yard, now’s the time to start cleaning up after winter, planting some things, or even just sitting outside in the evening and listening to the birds who have returned.

We can all get through this somehow. Together, but apart.

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