Earlier this week, a friend misspoke and suggested that I was unemployed. Now I want to say right here, right now, I bear her no ill will. It was a genuine mistake. She was overwhelmed at the time and her sentence was in complete shambles. But it did make me think about my own worth.
We all struggle with worth. Are we worthy of love?Are we worthy of respect? Are we worthy of happiness? Are we worthy of anything other than a complete and utter shit-show?
After all these years of me working from home, I still have a lot of people in my life – extended family and friends alike – who see me as a lazy, good-for-nothing, spoilt brat. Yes, she may have two degrees, but she’s sitting at home on her parents’ dime, likely having not had a bath in a week or brushed her teeth properly, still in her pyjamas telling her naïve parents that she’s working when actually she’s watching movies or reading smut. All day. Every day. 24/7.
This isn’t exactly a shock. It’s the generic stigma attached to most people who work from home, especially when they’re unmarried and without children. And it doesn’t matter how many people you cut out of a life or how many people you confront, the stigma remains. You aren’t doing anything the ominous ‘they’ think is productive, and therefore you aren’t worth the air you breathe.
What I’m actually doing is sitting in front of a computer screen (sometimes two or even three) editing photographs, looking after social media accounts, building websites, revising publication pieces, setting up blog tours, working on my own novel, studying for my CBT diploma. It’s true, on occasion, it’s in my pyjamas, but it’s never in bed. I’ve always had a bath and brushed my teeth. And, most importantly, I earn my own money. But because other people don’t acknowledge that, and the stigma still remains, one of those voices in my head is always ready to remind me that I am not worthy. Not of love, nor respect, and definitely not of happiness.
There’s A Mouse in My House!
Last month, my Mum told me that my sister was struggling. She was exhausted – mentally and physically – and she needed to reconnect with herself. To restore her equilibrium. For us Sihat Sisters, that always happens best at home with our parents. So, I bought her a ticket and had her fly back to London for few weeks. I offered the same thing to my other two sisters. One was busy and couldn’t make it but the other accepted.
That first week was incredible. I was sick – hello, chest infection, my old friend – but it was filled with fun and laughter and deep conversations…
…and then we saw it.
Well, actually, there were three mice, though they were clever enough to come out one at a time so we didn’t realise there were three until two had already been dealt with. Either way, with one sister having a knee injury and the second scared of mice, I bundled them and my nephews into my bedroom and slept downstairs with our uninvited house guests. Not that I slept. I spent a full week chasing those Jerry-wannabes around the house and was outsmarted on numerous occasions. Perhaps referring to them as ‘Jerry’ was a bad idea, I definitely became Tom in that scenario.
I slept in the morning, when there was an unoccupied bed; I hung out with my family in the afternoons; I worked in the evenings; and at night the chase would begin. You’d be right if you think that, by the end of it all, I was glad to have my room back. I was EXHAUSTED! But I was also filled with joy. Not only had I been able to bring two out of three of my sister’s home when they needed it but I was able to give them a peaceful night’s sleep. Suddenly I felt worthy.
My Corner of the World
I am surrounded by people who either old enough for free bus passes (my parents, my neighbours, my aunts and uncles) or who are ill, be that mental or physical. Everyone else I care for are abroad in time zones that aren’t anywhere close to mine – a lot of my clients included.
I often write about working from home being great because you can set your own schedule. You have the ability to say: “I can’t concentrate today, so I’ll get this admin done, and then I’ll move onto the bigger tasks this weekend instead.” Or “I have family coming over, I’m going to move this, this and this around and clear up some space to spend with them.” I also write about how horrible it is to work from home because you’re living and working in the same place and it becomes suffocating, and more and more difficult to switch your brain off and take time for yourself. But what I’ve realised, thanks to that mouse in my house, is that the moments I feel worthy, are moments I wouldn’t have gotten without working from home.
If I hadn’t been working from home, I wouldn’t have noticed the slight sag in my Mum’s face last year. I wouldn’t have been able to rush her to hospital where she was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy which even the doctors had never seen in such early stages. If I hadn’t been working from home, I wouldn’t have been able to drop everything to go to my Dad’s office to give him the car keys that he had accidentally forgotten that morning (if there are any car manufacturers reading this, car fobs need some work, people!). If I wasn’t working from home, the person who came over to unload wouldn’t have had anyone to talk to and would likely have ended it all like they had planned to. A friend in a time zone eight hours away wouldn’t have been able to call me and cry over the phone until her heart felt lighter. An uncle that didn’t have internet access or the ability to use a computer properly wouldn’t have been able to book his flight home. An aunt wouldn’t have known that a family member had passed away. A cousin would have had to pack up her late-father’s belongings by herself. My sisters wouldn’t have been able to sleep soundly upstairs on the holiday they desperately needed to recharge because I wouldn’t have been able to give up my room and spend my night chasing after a mouse.
And it’s not just the big things!
I can walk into Tesco and listen to the cashier gush about her granddaughter who’s the first in her family to start university. I can take in the bins for my 92-year-old neighbour and listen to them reminisce about how much life has changed. I can stop on the street to talk to a passer-by who needs a word or two of kindness after a really shitty day. Without that job that everyone else considers ‘unemployment’ because you’re not physically leaving the house to do it, I wouldn’t be able to do any of that. Yes, I’m likely to be sitting at my desk at 2am still working, but it makes someone smile, or makes their heart lighter, or just for a fraction of a second makes their life worthwhile. And THAT makes me worthy.
I’m still unlikely to be able to lift Mjolnir – I’m not pure of heart, mind and soul like Captain America is! – but it makes me worthy of love. Of respect. Of happiness.
I am worthy.
I am worthy.
I AM WORTHY!
And so are you.