I miss the daily transitions. In our new lives working from home in a global pandemic (‘WFHIAGP’), we have lost transitions from one venue to another, one organisation to another, one phase and one task to the next. In addition to marking change, transitions give us in-between time to reflect, to relax and to reset. Boundaries matter
The Lost Transitions
The commutes went first as I adapted to working in my study every day. Travel now seems like a mythical experience. Walking through an alien foyer seems like a transgressive experience when navigating the local supermarket seems like a game of social distancing bumper cars.
I had to make coffee a consistent morning and afternoon ritual to remember to take regular breaks. My pomodoro clock sits abandoned in a city office. Lunch is often threatened as a break when someone is only available to talk at that time, but at best it’s a walk down the hall for a quick sandwich or toastie. Other meetings and catchups extend the day into the evening until dinner or beyond. Without transitions of scene, everything blurs into one long day. The only real changes of scenery are walks, exercise and grocery shopping, often combined into one excursion for simplicity’s sake.
Twitter has become a regular place to be exposed to different voices and to find some inspiration for the mind and heart, but social bubbles aren’t always healthy. Not all of life is work, but the lack of defining transitions means it can be hard to switch off, to change pace and to move on. Stress and anxiety have to be beaten back from every part of life.
I don’t do always on particularly well. My personal practice is to balance intensity of work and life with withdrawal to reflect. Things like commutes, travel time, meal breaks and even cups of coffee alone or with others were opportunities to muse on life the universe and everything. Missing transitions have meant that I need to make time for this reflection and I haven’t always been successful. As a result my energy levels often sag.
Writing blog posts is usually documenting these reflections and conversations for me. Now the process of writing is more likely to begin with forcing some time for reflection. A chance to force a caesura into the regular metrical flow of the day.
Paul Valery famously said ‘a poem is never finished, only abandoned’. I feel the same sense often in my transitionless existence. Without boundaries and deadlines, personal and work tasks fall into a liminal abandon. Closure is missing.
Transitions help us to see beginnnings and endings. Those moments also help us to appreciate what we have and what we lose.
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lotJoni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
Boundaries were a big project for me in 2020. Those boundaries got lost in the chaos of isolation. Now is the time to reflect and refurbish them for our continuing project of social distance.