The Arc Of A Year

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of our office and the beginning of the remote work period. I’ve been reflecting on that year and our ever-changing, shifting, constantly morphing reaction to it. We’ve all gone through our own stages during the past 12 months, in a way comparable to the classic notion of the seven successive stages of grief: at first shock and denial, followed by pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, the upward turn, reconstruction and working through, and finally acceptance and hope.

The first stage, for me at least, involved feelings of newness and trepidation; I’d never worked from home before, so the technological and behavioral challenges of doing so were interesting and a bit daunting. And there was a certain giddiness to the idea of not going to the office; I remember sharing photos with colleagues of what we had made for lunch during that first week of remote work, and doing a lot of texting.

Then that constant texting stopped, the interest in making different lunches ended, and there was a creeping realization that what was initially presented as a brief interlude was going to last a lot longer than people thought. Weddings, vacations, sporting events, and other things on the calendar got cancelled or delayed indefinitely, and those developments packed a punch. And we wondered, with an element of deep concern, about what a prolonged shutdown would all mean for the economy, our families, and our friends.

This was followed by a settling-in period, where people accepted that remote working was going to be the rule and the work needed to get done, so we would just have to deal with it. New routines were established and adopted, home working spaces were identified, defined, upgraded and reconfigured, and Amazon got a workout.

Then the sameness or staying inside and working in the same setting, day after day, set in, and people began to think more creatively about the situation and whether they could combine working remotely with a much-needed change of scenery. People moved around to change things up. Some people started going back to the office more frequently, while others changed their base of operations to lake houses, second homes, or rentals just to break up the monotony.

As working remotely went on and on, ultimately we hit the trough. I think it began in later autumn, as the pandemic continued to rage and we were heading into winter with no apparent end in sight. That was followed by a grim realization that we would just have to put our heads down, take it one day at a time, and just soldier on through the bleak winter months.

The current stage seems to be one of vaccine-fueled hope that the true end of the shutdown is coming someday soon, coupled with an uneasy wariness. I think the wariness recognizes that there could be more disappointments and case spikes and the discovery of new coronavirus variations ahead, but also involves an acknowledgement that there might be a different “new normal” lurking ahead that we’ll also have to adjust to, somehow.

Dare we say it? We want this to be the last stage, but this year has trained us not to get our hopes up too high.

Inadvertent IPod Wipeout

I am of the generation that views every electronic device with wary trepidation.  Raised during a time when computers crashed even more frequently than the healthcare.gov website, I firmly believe — despite the bland assurances of sons and IT nerds alike — that I can bring any system down with one false keystroke.

IMG_5424Saturday morning, it happened.  I had my iPod attached to the computer and was listening to music when I decided to remove the iPod.  It’s something I’ve done hundreds of times, but this time the outcome was different.  Suddenly a wavy line appeared on the screen, the mouse became unresponsive, and before I knew it the computer was telling me that did not recognize its old pal, my iPod.  When I removed the iPod, with sinking feeling, I found that all of my music and my carefully constructed playlists had been removed.  And, because I’ve been lazy about it, I don’t have any remotely current back-up on the computer itself.

So I went through the seven stages of reaction to technology disaster.  First, shock that my faithful iPod had deserted me, then denial that I could wreak such havoc with one inadvertent mouse click.  Next, I raged at the capricious electronic device gods for punishing me so grievously for one little mistake.  Then, false hope and bargaining.  Surely, the music still had to be on my iPod somewhere!   I’ll do a google search and find out how to retrieve it!  But google gave no answer, and when google gives no answer you are truly screwed.  My hope gone, I accepted responsibility for the disaster, then wrestled with the devastating realization that, although every other American under the age of 80 happily uses their iPod without incident, I am an idiot who can somehow evade all of the safety protections Apple has built into one of its signature products.

Those stages are behind me now, and I’ve moved, finally, to acceptance and hope.  I now welcome the chance to change things around, to shift the order of songs and maybe be a bit more selective in what goes on the iPod in the first place.  (The Telemann piece with the hunting horns probably will hit the cutting room floor this time.)  I’ll rebuild my iPod, with new and better playlists!  This time, I’ll back things up!  This time, I’ll do things the way Apple wants them done!

Oh, and I’ll be a bit more careful when removing my iPod from the computer.