By Barb Arland-Fye
Nearly 15 months after we left our offices to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our staff has returned; to me, it feels like starting a new job. Early in the pandemic, someone posted a meme on Facebook that quoted Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice in Wonderland”: “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” The thought stuck with me because life seemed to be changing at warp speed.
In those early months, returning to the office became a goal that would signal normalcy, the overcoming of a baffling, evolving disease and its devastating repercussions. Millions of people worldwide did not have the ability to work from home, especially the frontline workers who risked their lives for all of us. Our staff had the privilege of working at home, which required learning how to collaborate remotely and to embrace the technology that made it possible.
Slowly, warily, I developed new routines and rhythms. One of the “constants” I appreciated: Assistant Editor Anne Marie Amacher’s daily postings from Leo the cat. Every night before bed, I bonded with Leo on Facebook.
My husband Steve created a home office in a spare bedroom of our house. On one of the bookshelves is a pair of glitzy 2020 costume eyeglasses that remind me of that historic year and the irony that no one had 20/20 vision about the pandemic. A two-drawer file cabinet filled with hanging folders of reference materials for the newspaper will remain in place … just in case.
When the pandemic sent us home, I had to shift gears, literally, in my daily exercise routine. Unable to swim laps at the YMCA, I spent more time on my bicycle riding the Great River Road, taking long rides during which I prayed. That saved my sanity.
Recently, Steve asked when I planned to return to the Y to swim. Fully vaccinated, I no longer had an excuse to avoid the pool. However, that activity would require re-establishing routines.
Admittedly, I clung to routines even more tightly during the pandemic. Two weeks ago, I took the plunge, arriving at the new Bittner YMCA in Davenport and by the grace of God seeing a friend who led me to the locker rooms.
Swimming is like getting back on a bike again; the strokes felt natural (although the muscles felt a little stiff) and the breathing rhythmic. More important than the hour-long swim was conquering the resistance to reconstruct routines. It is time now to leave the comfortable bubble of home and to build relationships in a world desperately in need of healthy relationships. That effort begins with the simple step of returning to the office as a team.
“From this crisis we can come out better or worse,” Pope Francis wrote in his new book “Let Us Dream — The Path to a Better Future.” “We can slide backward, or we can create something new. For now, what we need is the chance to change, to make space for the new thing we need.” We need, the pope says, “to slow down, take stock, and design better ways of living together on this earth” (pgs. 4, 6).
We can’t go back to yesterday, as Alice in Wonderland discovered. We can place our trust in God to lead us to a better tomorrow.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)