“The Room Where It Happens” is a song from Act 2 of the musical Hamilton, based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, which premiered on Broadway in 2015. The musical relates Hamilton’s life and his relationships with his family and Aaron Burr. Lin-Manuel Miranda composed the song, which detailed the Dinner Table Bargain of 1790 when Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison met privately and hashed out the compromise that set the location for the new US Capital on the Potomac River in what is now Washington, DC.
Historic details of the private meeting are not known, except for some published notes by Jefferson. Others not present in the room would have loved to be there, the room of power where grand decisions were made. The room was a place where politicians and the powerful carved out decisions.
The song helped me see that a specific room can enhance my daily life activities.
When the stay-at-home/work-at-home time started, I was okay. I had a phone, my iPad, a smart phone, and a printer. It was late February, and I knew I could write, plan events, and keep in contact with people by phone, email, or texting.
My job is co-director with Kathy Faist of the Sisters of St. Francis Associates—Christian women and men who learn about our Franciscan Sisters and join them for prayer, social gatherings, and special programs that support our ministries like Bethany House, Sophia Counseling Center, the Labre Project, etc.
The first few weeks, Kathy and I communicated by phone, voice calls, and email. We had to cancel five different events. That meant a loss of help to people who needed food and support for other resources needed in their lives.
The cancellations began since most of our activities involved groups of people. We planned a day-long spiritual retreat: cancelled. Our butter lambs and crosses, a fundraiser for the charitable care fund at Sophia Counseling Center, was cancelled. Our monthly faith-sharing/scripture-discussion group, as well as our Spring Tea, which helped support Bethany House, our long-term home for victims of domestic violence and their children, would not happen this spring either.
After the tough decisions to cancel these events, we called our associates and everyone involved in the event with the message, “We will not have this event this year because of the pandemic. We hope to see you next year.” We returned registration fees by mail and sent a few reflective and upbeat emails to our associates. After about five weeks, we were allowed to return to our offices, wearing masks and keeping our distance from people.
I was looking forward to the days (which changed into months) ahead, a time for me to call associates and keep up with my monthly articles from three different magazines. I had no problem meeting my deadlines while I went to work in my office during pre-pandemic times, but during this work-at-home time, I truly struggled to get things done!
I was convinced I was suffering from depression because it took me so long to even sit down at my iPad and begin anything. I never missed a deadline but had trouble starting. Once I finally started a project, I was completely focused, almost to the point that I was oblivious to anything else happening around me—thunderstorms, high winds, and even text message alerts.
I tried to figure out what changed in my work life so much that I wasn’t my usual disciplined self. Some factors contributed to my new work environment. Phone calls now took a lot of time. Friends, associates, and neighbors would call, and our visits were sweet, deep, funny, and pretty long! I loved the connection with people, but some days I would be on the phone for over two hours.
I made schedules so that I could prioritize my day and always included my work tasks. Sometimes that helped me get going but not always. I wondered: what is wrong with me?
I think I discovered part of my slow-to-get-started-on-work problem. I needed a dedicated workspace. For months, I placed my iPad on my little kitchen table and was ready to work, but I didn’t get started right away. I shuffled some papers or I refilled my napkin container, changed my placemats, made sure my salt and pepper containers were filled, and checked the weather forecast.
I went to my office for a few days during the week, and I had accomplished much at work. I wondered what was so different about my work environment, and it hit me. I do much better in my office because it is a place for work. I do not have the distractions of emptying a dishwasher, trash, or fruit that needs slicing.
Environments help us do what we need to do. A bedroom helps us sleep when it is cool and quiet, with lights off. We can be more spiritually reflective when our place of worship is quiet, calmly quiet, and with a simple, artistic environment. Offices have our computer set up the way we like it, with books, office supplies, a printer, etc. where we want them.
These rooms all help us do what we need to by their environment. We pray more easily in a sacred place, sleep better in a relaxing bedroom, and work more efficiently in an office. There is a specific advantage to a room designed and designated for a specific purpose.
Many of us can work efficiently in our homes, but I bet that many prefer their workplaces, although it is great to work at home. I just know that I need to be aware of the importance of my “Room where it Happens,” whether at home or my office.
It’s like they say in real estate: “location, location, location.” I need to be mindful of making sure that I work in a “Room where it Happens” whenever I can.