Saturday, March 21 2020

over-focusing, pizza with Rodney, naps, anxiety, and optimism




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Dear Journal,

Happy Saturday, everyone. Hope you’re feeling good, eating well, and ready to make the most of this weekend.

I had a good work day yesterday. I had plenty of time to focus and write code, but with the shift into remote work, I’ve found a new type of problem where I over-focus. Yesterday, with no interruptions between morning stand-up and our final meeting in the late afternoon, I got a bit lost in my work. I glanced up at the clock on my desktop and saw that it was almost 1 PM. I nearly worked through lunch time without getting up from my desk, and after breaking concentration I realized that my posture was terrible. My elbows were feeling sore, and my back was tight.

“Anyone develop a problem with focusing too hard on something?” I asked in our afternoon meeting. “I almost worked through lunch time today. With no interruptions, I forget to get up and stretch, and I also forget to keep up with my email or messages on Slack.”

“I used to have that problem,” added Nate. “When I worked remote for a team, I would see them for fifteen minutes in the morning, and then we’d all just work on our stuff for the rest of the day. It’s kind of strange.”

“I used to use a special app. People make apps that limit how long you work on something, then prompt you to take a break,” said Alex. “Along with reminding you to get up and stretch, it can help timebox problems so you don’t work on too much at once.”

“I might have to check that out,” I said, intrigued by the suggestion.

I headed downstairs to heat up some fried rice for a late lunch. Marissa and Rodney joined me at the dining room table. After we ate, Marissa suggested we take a long walk around the neighborhood. “That’s perfect,” I said. “I worked for way too long at once this morning, I need to move around.”

We leashed the dogs and headed down our street deeper into the neighborhood. Our neighborhood is usually pretty quiet, especially when it’s cold outside, so everything looked so refreshingly normal. Rodney, clearly starved for outside activity, sprinted ahead of us with his arms swept behind him, slowing to a stop each time we reached the road, obediently waiting to cross the street together.

Marissa’s phone rang. “The Ikea truck is going to be here soon. Let’s turn around at Oak street.” Some more furniture for Miles’ room would be delivered soon. We made our way back just in time for the truck to pull in the driveway. A lady in a jumpsuit emerged form the driver seat and stood in our front yard.

“Do you still need me to sign?” said Marissa hesitantly leaning out our front door.

“Nope,” replied the worker. “We leave it in the front yard, take a picture, and send it back to headquarters. That’s enough proof of delivery for them. They don’t want us getting any closer than that.” Marissa flashed a thumbs up before closing the door. I retreated upstairs to finish my work day, attending a demo and a meeting, as well as catching up on slack messages.

After work, I headed downstairs to begin making dinner. Marissa was teetering on the edge of a well-deserved nap on the couch, so I lured Rodney out of the living room so she could fall asleep. “Want to make pizza, dude?” I said, grabbing Rodney by the hand.

“Of course!” he replied. “I love pizza.”

Rodney and I set up in the kitchen and began pouring the ingredients into the mixer. As always, Rodney’s involvement in the pizza made for an interesting challenge. He grabbed a butter knife out of the drawer and tried to stab it into the mixer while it was spinning. He must have eaten half the cheese right off the cutting board while I grating it for the toppings. But the important thing is that it kept him occupied.

“So we’re done dude,” I said setting aside the ingredients. “We just need to wait for the dough to finish rising. Want to go play video games?”

“YEAH!” exclaimed Rodney. “I love video games.” We retreated into basement art studio and booted up the xbox. I set Rodney up with Need For Speed. Ziggy jumped up in my lap, and we enjoyed a good snuggle while watching Rodney trash a perfectly good Porsche Carrera in incoming traffic on the fictional expressway.

We finished baking the pizza, and enjoyed it together at the dining room table. I cracked open a beer. We decided to take a video call with grandma and grandpa over snapchat. Rodney was happy to see them and show off the pizza we made.

“I thought you made pizza,” joked grandpa. “How come it looks like you’re eating fish sticks?” Rodney looked down at his cubed up pizza, confused. “grandpa Dirk is just being silly, dude’, I whispered.

“Thanks for letting me sleep,” said Marissa as we were wrapping up dinner. “I’d like to return the favor. Can I put him to bed?” My eyes lit up. “Can I take a nap?” I asked. Marissa happily nodded, and I retreated upstairs, instantly falling asleep in bed. I woke up an hour later, feeling very hazy and groggy. Before emerging from our bedroom to join Marissa, I sleepily fumbled my way through a Dutch lesson and grunted my way through my evening exercises.

I’m still hanging in there with the daily push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups, but I would not recommend waiting until you’ve eaten pizza and taken a nap. “Exercise is brutal after pizza,” I griped after joining Marissa downstairs, holding my stomach.

The rest of the evening was pretty low key. I hung out with Marissa in the basement studio while she worked on frames. I played with the dogs while we watched Bobs Burgers on her new TV monitor. I’m feeling grateful that we managed to make the basement cozy before the coronavirus stuff happened. It’s a great, cool space to relax and spend the evening together.

Before heading upstairs for the night, Marissa and I chatted in the kitchen while closing up the main floor. Marissa needed to talk. She shared that her anxiety has been really tough lately. “I can’t imagine what you must be going through right now,” I said consoling her. “If this stuff even makes me anxious, you’re probably freaking out right now.” I gave Marissa a long hug.

“I just want to be a good mom,” said Marissa. “I want Miles to be safe and healthy, and I want to do everything I can do.”

“You are a good mom, and that’s why you’re going to get through this,” I said patting her on the back. “It’s scary now, but soon this will just be an amazing part of his story. We’ll take it a day at a time, and remember, the whole world is working on this right now. Lots of people are going to be having babies between now and your due date. By then, there will probably be a good system in place.”

It’s becoming clear that this quarantine might define our summer, and it might also dominate the rest of this year. We could be doing this social distancing thing for a while. But I think there’s still room for optimism. The whole world is working on this, and with the whole world stuck in their homes, we’ve got plenty of time to solve immediate problems. I think in the coming months, we’re going to see more and more adaptations to make the prospect of long term quarantine life much less depressing.

In the meantime, it’s also OK to be scared, and facts aren’t always the cure for fear. Listen to each other, acknowledge and negotiate with our feelings.

Occasionally, I try to lighten the mood around our house with dark humor. Whenever Marissa rightfully complains about some aspect of the pregnancy, I like to chase it with “It’s OK, honey. Life will get a lot easier after we… you know… have another baby.” Then I wag my eyebrows to milk the sarcasm as much as I can.

This afternoon, we’re going to hang outside in the backyard. While Rodney plays in his playhouse, I’m going to wrestle with the new infant car seat, and Marissa is going to tidy up the back yard. I think it’s going to be a good day.

Thanks for stopping by this morning. Have a swell & healthy Saturday. Don’t let the virus get you down.