What You Don't See: The Negative Space at Work

I work from home. This work of mine finds me facilitating and participating in video calls many hours of each day.

What the participants see when they log on is this:

video pic.jpg

That bright smile
the subject,
the positive space,
the thing that is

on any given day there’s a whole lot hiding in the negative space, the unseen, that happens before, during, and after those calls.


Here is one such example:

          9:48 AM: Hear Sean coughing. Check on him and notice that his cheeks are flushed.
          9:49 AM: Take his temperature. Wince at the reading. Swear silently.
9:50 AM: Phone alarm beeps to alert that next meeting begins in ten minutes.
          9:51 AM: Call clinic to report fever and ask for instructions. Leave message.
          9:53 AM: Find Tylenol, refill water, deliver both.


9:55 AM:

Open sterile packaging for kangaroo feeding bag.

Fill halfway with water.

Let water run through piping.

Shake and open two cans of high calorie nutritional supplement.

Pour into kangaroo bag.

Fill separate cup with water for g-tube flushing.

Find syringe and add to cup.

Find mic-key tube.

Fill tube with water.

Roll IV poll into bedroom.

Connect kangaroo bag to poll.

Set materials within reach.

          9:58 AM: Ask if there’s anything he needs, praying the answer is no, while attempting to appear concerned and present as I edge towards the door.
          9:59 AM: Run to home office. Close door. Sit at desk. Turn on computer.

10:00 AM: Call begins. Smile. Greet participants cheerfully by name, asking questions about grandchildren, recent vacations, and the                                                                  weather in their states.
10:01 AM: Assist those struggling to get video or audio to connect.
10:03 AM: Begin to facilitate meeting by presenting agenda for the hour.
10:04 AM: Ask for burning questions or celebrations.

          10:05 AM: Silenced phone lights up with return call from clinic.
          10:07 AM: Voicemail icon appears.
          10:08 AM: Coughing from the other room.
10:09 AM: Encourage participants to ask questions of and give affirmations to each other.
10:11 AM: Share screen to show latest data.
10:12 AM: Facilitate conversation around cause and effect of latest numbers.

          10:14 AM: Doorbell rings with delivery of medical supplies. Hope that snow won’t seep through boxes in the next 46 minutes.
          10:19 AM: Coughing from the other room.
10:20 AM: Pause to have participants write take-aways and goals from data conversation.
          10:22 AM: Silenced phone lights up with text from pharmacy that prescriptions are ready to be picked up.
10:23 AM: Set the scene for upcoming video clip of their colleague in action.
10:24 AM: Give specific things to observe for and suggestions about forms on which to write objective documentation while watching.
          10:25 AM: Silenced phone lights up with call from nurse at daughter’s school.
10:25 AM: Start video.
          10:26 AM: Voicemail icon appears.
          10:27 AM: Coughing from the other room.
10:33 AM: Stop video. Give participants time to complete note taking.
          10:34 AM: Mail arrives with the sound of medical bills splashing through the slot in the front door into an untidy pile on the mat.
10:35 AM: Ask participants to share what they noticed from the video.
10:38 AM: Ask open-ended questions to help participants reflect, analyze, and problem solve.
          10:40 AM: Coughing from the other room.
10:41 AM: Call on those who have yet to participate, asking for their thoughts and comments.
          10:43 AM: Cat walks over to where I’m sitting. Vomits.
10:43 AM: Mute microphone just in time. Nod, smile, look engaged.
10:44 AM: Ask participants to write goals based on the video and subsequent discussion.
10:48 AM: Ask a few participants to share goals with group.

          10:51 AM: Silenced phone lights up with text from friend and fellow Fanconi anemia caregiver with dire report.
10:53 AM: Finish up with next steps and business items.
          10:54 AM: Coughing from the other room.
10:58 AM: Thank participants for their time and contributions.

11:00 AM: Call ends.
          11:00 AM: Step over cat vomit, dial voicemail, take Sean's temp while listening to messages.
          11:01 AM: Break news to Sean that clinic recommends that he come in.
          11:02 AM: Help disconnect from g-tube, while mentally rearranging schedule for remainder of the day.
          11:03 AM: Grab an Ensure for the road, knowing he didn’t fully finish the two cans of formula. Refill the water bottle.
          11:04 AM: Help him into his winter gear and out to the car, stepping over the mail and throwing the box of medical supplies inside the front door.
          11:05 AM: Text mom while Sean buckles seat belt, asking her to pick up Maya from school, where, according to nurse's voicemail, she threw up. Begin to concoct a                                         mental plan about how/where to quarantine them from each other and a mental note to cancel her piano lesson.
11:06 AM: Just before the phone gets put down, see a text come in from a colleague, "Have a minute for a quick video call?"
11:07 AM: Reply, "Not at the moment, sorry! :) Maybe later?"

          11:07 AM: Drive off towards the clinic. Coughing from the other seat.