Light Deprivation


So what do you do when you discover your home office doesn’t work well? Until now, I’ve thought my office was ideal.  It is a small space located on the other side of the laundry room.  It has a built in desk, bookcases on either side of a small window and until now has served me well. 


I’ve now taken enough annual leave as I edge toward full retirement in a couple of weeks that I’ve discovered the home office doesn’t work.  The home office doesn’t work primarily because it feels like being in solitary confinement.  Like I said, the space is small and my view of the world is limited.  There is only one narrow window and a plantation shutter covers it.


Positionally, as I face my computer, I am in essence facing a wall that for all practical purposes in devoid the presence of light.  There is a window, but it serves no useful purpose. I keep the shutter closed because the window faces west and the sunshine, were it invited into the room would be brutal. It would also be in my face.


I have a friend who, in his young adulthood, did a stint at substitute teaching.  His work schedule was such that he generally had a day or two of free time every now and then and thought he’d supplement his income by investing in the lives of youngsters.  The part time alternative career track didn’t work out well for him.


That’s not to say that he doesn’t relate well to adolescents, because he does.  It is just that some of his natural consequences for unruly behavior or not garnering a student’s full attention fell on the side of less than best practice.  How was he to know?  He had never taught school before and he grew up in an authoritarian model where kids did what adults asked them to do.  So what’s wrong with that?


Seriously, if he had it to do over, I know him well enough that he’d probably do the very same thing. He drew a small circle on the chalkboard (back then it was called a black board) and required a disruptive student to stand facing the chalkboard with his nose in the circle.


I can’t remember if the principal was walking down the hall and saw what was taking place or if the punishment was reported to him, but it didn’t set well.  Like I said, the consequence not only didn’t fall into the category of best practice, it was deemed unacceptable practice.  The verbal redirection the principal provided my friend was basically met with my friend suggesting to the principal that he could stand facing the chalkboard with his nose in a circle.  Actually, I’m making that part up, but I bet it is closer to truth than you might imagine.


At any rate, my sitting for an extended period of time in my home office facing the wall hasn’t worked well for me.  It reminds me that I am only half a step away from standing at a chalkboard with my nose in a circle.


In addition, I’ve got to have an office with a view.  For the past several years I’ve had the good fortune of having a large office with a wall of glass. It proved to be an ideal office environment.  Light makes an appreciable difference.


In looking back at my early days of child welfare work, I never had an office with a window. For that matter, no one did.  The State had the propensity of leasing metal buildings where all of the walls were windowless.  I don’t guess I’ve thought of that until now, but what a demeaning environment to call an office.


I am energized by natural light. If you want to see me emotionally plummet to a dark place, take natural light from me.  Isn’t it true that there is an association between darkness and depression?  I’ve known people who live behind the privacy of windows covered with heavy draperies or blinds and they never, even in the light of day, alter the absence of natural light.  Nine times out of ten, I have the sense that these people really need to lighten up.


I’m a simplistic kind of man, but natural light deprivation doesn’t work for me.  I’d be certifiably crazy in a matter of time. I’ve got to have natural light.  In fact, there is a recent scientific study associated to the profound changes that light deprivation causes in the brain.


Neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania kept rats in the dark for six weeks. The animals not only exhibited depressive behavior but also suffered damage in brain regions known to be underactive in humans during depression. The researchers observed neurons that produce norepi­nephrine, dopamine and serotonin—common neurotransmitters involved in emotion, pleasure and cognition—in the process of dying. This neuronal death, which was accompanied in some areas by compromised synaptic connections, may be the mechanism underlying the darkness-related blues of seasonal affective disorder”.


Consequently, yesterday I decided to do it differently. I spent the day on the sun porch. It is the ideal office environment. The view is incredible and I got my full quota of natural light.  It was a very good day for me and I got a lot of work done on my notebook.


So for the second day, I am once again perched on the sun porch. I’ve even got soft music playing in the background.  It is an ideal work environment. However, I fear the General is going to put her foot down.  She’ll easily conclude that I have no squatters’ rights. Trust me, she’s not going to acquiesce to my newfound workspace.


However, between now and then, I’m not going back into solitary confinement. I don’t like facing the wall with my nose in the circle on the chalkboard.


All My Best!




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