Last week was the first week of the new year and I am already exhausted! How is that possible? I decided to take the last two weeks of 2011 off from both my day job and my writing work. On the one hand, I felt I had earned a break. On the other hand, I felt incredibly selfish. I’m trying to launch a book and reach my audience, I thought I don’t have time for a break! Never mind that I work a full-time job, am raising two kids, have a spouse and home to take care of. Sounds crazy, right? And yet, I would guess that many of us have struggled with guilt over taking time to rest and rejuvenate.
It became apparent to me that if I was going to enjoy my vacation at all, I was going to have to get over my guilt with taking it in the first place.
My first few days off felt great. I enjoyed guilty pleasures like Kathie Lee and Hoda on the fourth hour of the Today Show, catching The Ellen Show in the afternoon and taking long walks outside by myself–ah, what luxuries! But after a couple of days of this, my sense of I’ve got a lot to do, why am I wasting all this time? started creeping back in. I finally broke on day three when my compulsion to be productive became almost overwhelming. I’m not good at being still, at doing nothing so I let myself do just a little work. I have to admit, I was concerned that I would slip back into full work-mode, but I was able to keep that impulse under control after checking a few things off of my to-do list.
As January 3rd (the official end of my vacation) approached, an impending sense of dread set in about how fast-paced my life was going to once again become. My life had just started to feel like it was slowing down momentarily and now I was going to pick right back up where I left off? Not fair! Sure enough, I jumped right back into the chaos once Tuesday came. When I shut the computer off late that night, it felt like my vacation was a distant memory. On Wednesday morning, while I was at the gym, I reflected on my time off and the enormous amount of work ahead of me and thought, something’s gotta give. I made a quick inventory of my competing priorities: family, day job, writing/book, house upkeep, exercise, sleep. I tried to figure out where I could invest less time. I immediately eliminated family from the chopping block; I’m all about living a life without regrets, and I’d have some MAJOR regrets if I wasn’t giving my full self and attention to my relationship with my husband and children. Next I eliminated Day Job since I obviously need to make a living and I enjoy what I do. I also eliminated Writing/Book; writing is the way I express my creativity and my passion for helping others, it’s something that gives me energy and helps me feel fulfilled. Next on the list was House Upkeep– I can’t lie, I already don’t keep house the way I was brought up or would like to, so doing less in this area is not really an option. Following that on my list was exercise. While some may jump at the chance for an excuse not to work out, exercise is something I can’t do without. It’s my ‘me’ time–a chance to be by myself, read on the elliptical trainer and burn off some steam. This all leads us to the last item on the list: Sleep. For a split second I almost convinced myself that sleeping less was the answer. As you may have guessed, I ended up having to cross that one off too. No one does well without a good night’s sleep. I need a solid 7-8 hours; I know some people can do well on much less, but not me.
Rest is something we all so desperately need each and every day. Not just restful sleep at night, but the ability to recharge and reenergize ourselves throughout the week during daylight hours.
I came to the conclusion that I have to redo my something’s gotta give list. I’m trying to figure out what areas exist that may give me more room to breath, and rest. My husband and I could be better at balancing all of the kid’s activities and household responsibilities we are juggling. Investing more in pre-prepared meals and a cleaning service is sounding more and more attractive. I’m aware that I need to find time for myself, accept that that’s best for me and my family and lose the guilt–just like I had to do to enjoy my vacation.
A fascinating read on re-energizing that I came across a few years ago is The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. I’m going to start rereading it soon. When? On the elliptical of course. That’s the only time I’ve got. For now.