On Monday, our area was hit with a significant ice storm and everyone was basically frozen in place until the roads thawed enough for travel. Some people still can't leave their homes. I spent the first three days of this week working from home. This is a perk that I have long craved and being able to do it for a few days has been a welcome reprieve.
It also gave me a window into myself that wasn't quite so cheery. I have made a realization: I have terrible work habits. I will indulge in a little rationalization and say many of these habits are defense mechanisms. There are only so many tasks to complete in a month and once they are done, they are done. Working diligently straight-through might leave me with two solid weeks with nothing to do. While that might be fun every once in awhile, it is pretty harsh month in and month out. I have long recognized my behavior and why I do it. What I didn't expect was how hard is was to break out of that long established habit. I was surprised how a different work environment didn't really change how I approach my work.
I had extended time at home where the commute involved walking up the stairs. Oh, the things I would get done! Except I didn't. I continually fell back into the habit of working for a minute, clicking away, thinking about a problem while I scrolled through feeds, having conversations, working another few minutes, clicking away, et cetera, et cetera. All the time I should have had to accomplish housework evaporated as I acted as if I were sitting at my office computer with a butt-in-chair requirement.
I was frustrated with the kids making noise and Marian wanting attention because they were interrupting my workflow. This is accurate but not exactly true. They *were* interrupting my workflow but I was frustrated because of all the time I had wasted doing my normal routine. They spent plenty of time being quiet and letting me work and I used that time to amuse myself. When I would finally buckle down to accomplish a task, they would sometimes interrupt which made me cross, but it was my own stupid fault. I wasted the quiet and fumed at the noise. I wanted to adapt, to adjust to working at home, but I failed over and over.
Bearing is blogging with St. Francis de Sales over Lent. I find him so practical. I don't know if I will ever be holy, but I can take concrete steps in that direction and he is all about laying out baby steps.
In a reflection on mortification where St Francis says work can subdue the flesh as well as fasting, Bearing observes that many overthink fasting and become scrupulous about it. I can count myself among these. I am always worried about following the rules, being caught short, rationalizing why this particular infraction is okay, having a ready excuse for why I failed again. I can be very scrupulous about rules in general. I try to follow the very exact letter of the law and usually have an excuse for why I didn't. Part of this is from my nature as a perfectionist. Part is from my upbringing. Overthinking and trying to earn every last bit is a thing with me. Almost nothing I do ever lives up to the expectation that has been created in my mind.
So while I obsessed a bit on whether or not a graham cracker broke the fast and whether or not nursing a 20 month old qualified for a fast exemption, I also wasted abundant time which could have been used diligently working instead of half-working, half-surfing. I lost the opportunity to serve my household for the glory of God and continued in my lazy office ways and yelled at my children in service to my frustration.
I have chafed at my working situation for awhile, wondering why exactly I am still here. Bearing says, "Laborers in other occupations may find it harder to see the channel by
which their labor may be made useful to God's glory, but ... there is some good to be harnessed in even the
smallest and most menial tasks, if we can only put our hearts in the
right place." I think I can use these (hopefully) last few months of working to harness my will into working more diligently instead of haphazardly. To put my heart in the right place instead of worrying how work done now will affect my schedule next week. To choose to work straight through instead of stretching. I can't say I'll disappear from the Internet during the first half of every month because I won't. Instead I will make a more conscious effort to choose the work over the play when I feel the urge to waste time. Of course succeeding at this task will mean unbridled Internet time at the end of the month. Talk to me then, won't you? Help make it worth my while.
This week that began with such high hopes of accomplishment does not have to be lost in vanities. While the laundry is still unfolded and unput away and there is still Vaseline on the girls' wall, toys everywhere, and paperwork to be sorted--all of which would have been grand to fix--I did gain an insight into the habits my working conditions have laid down in me. Have exacerbated in me. I will mortify my flesh through my daily work in these last months and hopefully lay up good treasure for the months that come after.