Reposting this article from The New Yorker. Anyone who works from home will find it amusing.
Well, I’ve grown another muffin-top, which is reminiscent of the one that I grew during unemployment, thanks to the help of the stress hormone cortisol designed to help you run from the saber tooth tiger. Unfortunately, as evolved as we are as humans, our hormones can’t delineate between running from a saber tooth tiger and general life stress – if not released from the body, cortisol builds up and causes all sorts of health problems like weight gain and trouble sleeping. Guess it’s time I sneak into the zoo and play cat and mouse with one of the tigers so I can sleep again and reduce the size of my muffin top.
Or, I guess a less exciting option, might be to just do some digging into what’s bugging you. The only problem is mustering energy to do the self-work. Let’s face it, running from a tiger would take about 20 seconds of energy, then problem solved. Challenge over. Tiger wins. (Unless of course you survive, in which case you have an uphill recovery battle ahead of you so let’s pretend you’re dead.) But self-work? That’s going to take a whole lot longer than 20 seconds and require a hell of a lot more stamina. Guess I’d better start an I.V. drip of caffeine, put pen to paper, and start digging because the tiger route sounds less appealing and change needs to happen.
Yeah, I know, not the most positive uplifting post, but I’m a human so bear with me while I work out the kinks.
This week is my birthday. I’ll be turning 43 and if my life expectancy is anything like both of my grandmothers, I’ll live well into my 90s and possibly into my 100s. I joke regularly with friends, announcing that “this bitch is gonna last forever, so watch out!”
A hundred years. That means I have 57 more years to go, if I share the same lifespan as both my grandmothers. 57 years…
During the funeral planning process for my grandmother Gale, I was tasked with helping my mother write the eulogy. Writing a eulogy brings introspection into one’s own life. How will I be remembered? What role did I play in my life and in the lives of others? Will I just be remembered as the quick-witted, clever and creative funny girl? Or will people know the other side of me? What are my contributions on this earth? Am I living my most authentic life? What have I done with my life thus far?
My late grandmother on her 80th birthday wrote the following as she was pondering that last question. She said, “So my life has been filled with lots of love so far. I wake up each morning looking forward to see what life will offer me and enjoying what God has given me.”
This from a woman whose early childhood was filled with tragedy. She lost two of her siblings at a young age in a very horrific way. The first event was a car vs. train accident that killed her youngest brother Edwin and the second was a spark from a fire that ignited the dress of her youngest sister, Emily Ruth, burning her to death. My grandmother was babysitting that day and she carried the weight of her sister’s death her entire life. She even seemed to relive these tragedies on her deathbed during her morphine-induced trip, exclaiming “It wasn’t my fault!”
Yet, “I wake up each morning looking forward to see what life will offer me and enjoying what God has given me.”
So Keri, what have you done with your life thus far? How do you want to live your remaining years on the earth? There’s quite possibly 57 of them left, so how do you want to be remembered? What’s going to bring you fulfillment and carry you happily into your golden years? What do you need to do each day to make this happen?
As someone who regularly works from home (WFH), I can certainly appreciate some of the benefits – I live where I want to live, I have no commute and I don’t have germ-ridden co-workers getting me sick. These are all good things for sure, but after doing the WFH lifestyle now for several years, I’m beginning to experience what I think might be some side-effects. For example:
- I have a lovely wardrobe of house pants, comfy socks, flip-flops and slippers, but my career attire seems to be lacking or no longer fits, which brings me to #2.
- I’m starting to get a muffin-top, but didn’t really start noticing (thanks to the elasticity of my house pants) until I tried to squeeze myself into jeans and then…there it was…spilling over…Mr. muffin-top. Very reminiscent of my life as a lady of leisure with a flourishing muffin top.
- I talk to out loud to myself a lot and have started answering some of my own questions.
- My “water cooler” conversations are a big fail. Very boring and always one-sided.
- I even began to notice that my cats (who have since departed) were getting tired of my presence. Yoda no longer wanted to sit on my lap and in fact, started to hide under the bed so he could have some alone time (sans weirdo, socially deprived mother!)
Yep. That’s me in all my WFH splendor. Are you experiencing similar? If so, here are some tips that might help reduce the severity of these and other side-effects.
- Force socialization. Spending too much time at home alone is “crazy-making.” Extract yourself from your house pants (remember that house pants = pants for the house only!) and get out of the house. Work from a coffee shop once a week or better yet, find a local office share where you can interact with other business professionals.
- Get dressed every day (at least from the waist up). Then you can video conference to get some “face time” in with your colleagues so you won’t feel like you’re alone on an island. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of trying to find something to wear, here’s a tip. Just find a nice shirt, comb your hair (ladies slap on some blush, lipstick, etc.) and make sure that your webcam only shows a head/shoulder shot. Then, you can wear your house pants and bunny slippers and nobody is the wiser. It’s like being a mullet, but instead you’re business from the waist up, G-rated party from the waist down (G-rated, pull your head out of the gutter!).
- Get moving! Start your own muffin-top reduction program by carving out time in your day to move. Go for a twenty-minute walk on your lunch hour. Spend ten minutes a couple of times a day stretching or take five minutes to jump rope, hula-hoop, or do sit-ups. Whatever floats your boat, the point is to move – to get the blood flowing – which will mitigate your muffin-top and unleash some creativity.
- Get a dog. They always seem to want attention.
If you WFH and feel like you’ve reached isolation station, I hope you’ll consider these tips. And for those of you who go into an office regularly, I applaud your ability to tolerate commutes, deathly sick coworkers and of course, the “who microwaved fish?” guy or girl at the office.
- I can wear house pants every single day, just like my days as a lady of leisure
- I can also wear house socks or slippers, skipping uncomfortable heels
- I have no commute
- I don’t have to smell the stinky fish a coworker decided to put in the microwave
- I don’t have to sit next to a sick coworker who’s sneezing and coughing waiting for a germ to shoot across the cube wall and hit me in the face
- With video conferencing, I can still force socialization without the need to get dressed properly from the waist down and nobody is the wiser
About a month ago, I opened my mailbox and found a thick white envelope addressed to me with no return address. At first I thought that the label was machine printed junk mail some jackass marketer disguised as a hand-written personalized letter to me, but upon closer inspection I realized it wasn’t. Someone actually took the time to hand-address this envelope. Then I got sketched out. I didn’t recognize the hand-writing and there was no return address so this letter had to be laced with something bad. (Paranoia, another long term side-effect of unemployment). But then I thought “what if someone died and left all their money to me?” So there I stood on my porch in my house pants holding this non-descript letter thinking “poison or money?”
I decided to chance it, ripped open the envelope and unfolded a full page (8 1/2 x 11 college ruled) hand-written letter. Getting excited and starting to dream about all the things I could do with this new-found money, I started reading. “Dear neighbor…blah, blah, God’s kingdom, blah, evil-doers, hell, fire, prayer…” and then it went on to quote verses and chapters from the bible trying to recruit me to join. After picking my jaw up off the ground, a number of thoughts rushed into my mind, including:
- You have to be kidding me…now they’re coming at me via the U.S. Postal Service and they are spending money on stamps in this economic climate?
- What happened to the street crew that used to knock on my door, did they get laid off or something? I enjoyed answering the door as a recovering Catholic sporting level 1 house pants, fully packed black undereye bags with a wine-glass in hand before noon.
- What happened to their silent prayers for me and when did I get labeled as an evil-doer? Is this because of my effing swearing problem?
Creepy, annoying or brilliant marketing? I’d have to say I personally experienced two of the three and I’m going to describe it to you as if I am tasting fine wine (why not, I am bored). The letter opened with notes of creepy and as the words danced across my palate, flirting with my nerves was a strong sense of annoyance, but the experience ultimately finished with joyful amusement at the thought of everything funny I could do with that letter. While I doubt that one of their campaign goals was amusement, spreading awareness was probably on the list and I helped build on that because that letter ultimately got tucked into the sleeping bag cover of my visiting sister. Next time she unrolls her sleeping bag, she’ll be made aware, likely get weirded out, and then laugh realizing it was me (because I did something like this before with a VHS Jesus-tape that was left on my porch…hmm…is someone trying to tell me something?).
As for brilliant marketing, a friend suggested this idea to me a couple weeks ago saying “pretend your favorite clothing designer hand wrote and personalized a full page letter to you, wouldn’t that be exciting?” Despite my lack of style so much so that I’m worried Stacy and Clinton of What Not to Wear may show up at my door anyday, my friend is right. If the person sending this letter had been anyone other than this marketer, perhaps I’d have experienced that excitement. Guess in my case, their targeting was slightly off.
Disclaimer. I realize that talking about religion is a taboo subject, but I just thought this particular story was an interesting example of an average consumer’s reaction to mailbox marketing. I don’t think any one religion is better than another.
Today I thought it would be fun to chart my moods swings over the past several months of unemployment. As you can see from the below, it’s been very up and down, but upon closer analysis I’ve actually uncovered some interesting tidbits.
- My insomnia started when I was in my “fuck-you pink-slip” high phase, which as it turns out was likely fueled by high levels of cortisol running through my body. How did I know my cortisol was crazy? Well, there was the obvious physical evidence (a flourishing muffin top), but to rule out ice cream consumption as the main cause of the muffin top growth spurt, my chiropractor suggested I take a saliva stress test to measure biochemical imbalances. As it turns out, my cortisol levels were three times higher than normal at bedtime, which explains my inability to sleep. No sleep exacerbates anxiety. Anxiety means cortisol. Cortisol and ice cream feeds the muffin top that in turn gets me all hopped up on shitty foods (and caffeine) that prevent sleep. Wee…what a fun cycle!! My naturopath, who interpreted the results of the stress test, used words like “adrenal fatigue” and “pre-diabetic conditions” so now I’m in the process of making a complete lifestyle change (diet, exercise, meditation, etc.) because the alternative doesn’t sound pleasant.
- The chart also indicates that despite efforts to reduce cortisol levels the past two months by using the natural remedies above (which are slow), maybe the best medicine came in the form of actually make a decision about my future. Could all this soul-searching over the summer have been more stressful than getting a pink-slip or having a job that I didn’t enjoy? All signs point to yes.
- And finally, did switching to decaf actually improve my ability to make a decision about the direction of my future? I don’t have any scientific evidence that this is the case, but I can’t help but think it did. Caffeine is known to feed anxiety and when you’re sleep deprived and anxious, making an informed and rational decision is close to impossible. Instead, you seek solace in ice cream.
Well, there’s the recap of the “summer of Keri.” Wasn’t that a fun ride?