I cannot tell you how many times I was asked this question by friends, colleagues and potential clients when I was back in Denver for a week in June. There were variations of this question, based on how close to the inner circle of Charlie and Tricia the individuals were. Those closer were more likely to ask the humorous and more frank questions while the outer ones couched them with a bit more tact.
During a client interview, they asked me how I can work 40+ hours in a small space (with my husband was implied) like my airstream. I shared that I work from a lap desk on my couch (for the inner circle, the bed) for a couple of hours, I may then move to a table, then outside, then back in… I work best when I have a variety of spaces to fill my soul with its current requirements. And then there is Charlie. Sometimes the best space for me is right next to him. Other times it is as far from him as I can get.
Charlie and I have had to work out some work rules. When we have our headphones on, we are messaging out, “Do Not Disturb.” But then one of us will have a question, observation, or a need for attention. I kinda cringe but laugh when I say this, but a talking stick or a hand raised has become our go-to.
Seriously, you know how you feel when you are on a roll, responding to emails, putting down thoughts on paper, etc., and then someone hijacks your groove? Like the emperor,
you want to throw them off the side of a very tall building. But then, you realize that you live with this person – in a small space – and perhaps physically and/or emotionally harming them may not be in your best interest. Because of your own self-interest you work out a compromise. A way of gaining the attention you need with the least amount of disruption.
We found that a talking stick, for us – it’s Jack Jack the Pez Dispenser, works well. When standing upright and facing you, the person across needs attention.
Except then we realized we were not always at the table together – Charlie began holding up his hand. I would see it, nod to let him know I will be right with him, and then finish my thought process – all without losing my train of thought. Once the train was in the station, I could then focus on him and give him the attention he seeks. This goes both ways as we both need attention.
Listen, living together in any size space requires compromise. Being in a tiny space just means that you need (forced?) to be more cognizant of each other. Charlie and I have 28 years of learning to live together, choosing our battles, and knowing when the fight is worth it. There are the inevitable annoyances and maybe that’s when you take a deep breath and go for a hike – not the long one off a short pier but a few miles up the side of a mountain seems to really put life back in perspective.
The key take away here is it’s not the size of space that you work in that determines your ability to not smother each other with a pillow, it’s your ability to compromise and find tools that work for you both.