Text by Sharon Niederman
Little did I know that the purple pillow would, next to my tangerine iBook, become one of my more valuable working tools. It looked so cute hanging from my doorknob that I actually started turning it to At work, when I entered my office and back to At play when I left at the days end. I liked the jingle the tiny bells made when I turned it, a small announcement of my status, letting me know, at least, where I stood in relation to the deadlines, phone calls, faxes and emails that make up my work day. If I was going to knock off early and watch Oprah, it let me know that too.
Like many people who work at home alone, I dont have the rituals of the workplace to inform me when its time for a break or for lunch or for heading home. I create my own day with its own rituals, so my useless grab bag present has become an asset.
Working from home means its easy to work virtually all the time. At least when youre an employee and you bring work home from the office, you know on some level youre transgressing certain boundaries. At home, the boundaries are less clear. While you have the advantage and the convenience of waking up, drinking coffee and doing laundry while youre tackling the days first round of email, you also have the down side of thinking you can always go into the office finish up a job after supper. In a sense, youre never completely off.
You know you can always be working, and part of you says you ought to be. After all, you think, you dont rely on a regular paycheck, only on your own industry and wit, and the longer and harder you work, the better off you will ultimately be. Right?
My pillow has become a friend in keeping me on track. Now, when I enter my office in the morning, I turn it to At work and announce where I stand. When I leave the office to go to the gym or meet a friend for lunch, I enjoy a light-hearted sense of clarity when I flip the pillow over to the At play sign, as I do on Friday afternoon. This little activity actually helps me keep my boundaries straight. When Im At work, Im aware thats where my focus belongs; when Im At play, Im off and guilt-free. It helps me know where I stand with myself, and that is a very good feeling, indeed.
When a friend who had recently moved to another city visited recently, she told me her husbands new job not only kept him at the office for 12-hour days, but when he came home, he could think and talk only about work. I demonstrated my pillow technique, and she wanted to know where she could get one. I thought briefly about passing my purple pillow on to her, but decided there was no way I could part with it.
This article was first published in the
July 2001 issue of Sage Magazine
in the Albuquerque Journal
site design: © 2002-2006 word of eye; content (except book jacket blurbs): © 2002-2006 Sharon Niederman