Separation anxiety

This week, I went into town for a work meeting – not once, but twice. This was only the third time I’ve been into an office for a meeting in the last eighteen months, having otherwise been working from my dining room desk.

It was strange, I’ll admit. We visited another office, cool and air conditioned, and as I walked through, I got a weird pang, just for a moment, to be sitting in a small office with like-minded workers, just quietly getting on with stuff.

Of course, back in the day, my working life was not like that, has never been like that. Either the office has not been cool, or quiet, or I’ve not been with like-minded people, and there have always been interruptions or irritations. Most of all, you forget the rush. How I used to propel us out of the door in the morning, get to work to find a spare desk or go straight into meetings and find time to get coffee and lunch and have a moment to think and then more work and staying late and not getting back until nearly my daughter’s bedtime and always being so tired. I’m less tired these days.

How did I write back then? I don’t remember. Once in a while I have a fit of positive thinking where I try to do the thing where I get up earlier and write first thing in the morning but it never lasts long, even now I’m less tired. So I wrote in the evening. I still do. It’s just easier to do now.

After the meeting on Monday I went back home, and it all felt so easy. Casual travel in, casual travel back and walking into a cool house to carry on with my laptop. It was nice to have a change, to see others getting on with life. It was a bit like the days when I first took my daughter to school at ‘normal school time’ rather than a trip to nursery earlier in the day – I noticed the people, the others just going about their lives, in a way that I’d not seen before. I’d forgotten they were out there.

My daughter has in the last few weeks developed what the Google parenting articles call sleep separation anxiety. She dislikes sleeping alone, and some nights has worked herself up almost to hysterics over it. The articles assure me this is a normal developmental pattern for her age but I wonder if separation anxiety is a wider pandemic issue, not just for my 9-year old but for many of us. As glad as we might be to get back to some semblance of normality, separation from where we’ve felt safe, with people we’ve felt safe with, can induce feelings of anxiety.

Work meetings outside the internet will increase from now on but I wonder, will I ever go back to being that exhausted short-of-time working mother trying to juggle everything? How do I feel about that prospect keeping me from my new lifestyle where I can get things done in the evenings without falling asleep on my keyboard? Our problem, before the pandemic and, I imagine for some still, is that we separate out the hats we wear. While I had my work hat on, I should not be wearing my mum hat, or any of the other hats I wear juggling a range of roles and identities. But of course we do. We blend our hats, a patchwork of roles perched on our heads at any one time. My hats are part of who I am and what I bring to each role, so separating them out always feels odd.

With my daughter, I think a lack of routine was also part of the problem. The summer holidays are an enemy of routine. I cannot remember how we got through six weeks before the pandemic but at least two weeks this summer have been spent with me working with her entertaining herself in the next room.

With her being back to school, I figured having a routine myself might help. And to get past the separation anxiety, I need to ‘join’ in more. I’ve set myself goals, deadlines, aims. I’ve looked into courses to help support me, and writing retreats online. Some of these are at times where I’ve got more than one hat on – a lunch hour from work, a burst while I’ve also got my daughter around.

The chat in the media is about us all needing to get on with it now, to get back to normal. But we can do this slowly and take our time, feel our way back to something that feels safe for us.

(One of my goals is to work on the website – as you’ll see the blog has a new look. Bear with me while I work on the rest. Thanks)

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