Today marks my ninth day in a row off from work, which leaves me with three more days of vacation time before returning to my job. Thus, I have created my own twelve days of Christmas, minus impractical gifts given to me by a true love. As my writer’s block continues to be chipped away and the current year gives way to a new one, I have been in a reflective mood about both this past year and about this time off from work. I generally try to save my vacation time to use around the holidays to spend time with my daughters when they are off of school and to take some time for myself when they are with their Dad. So, the fact that I am off right now is not unusual, but how I have spent my time has been a bit of a departure for me.
I began my vacation feeling burned out at work, nursing a bruised heart, questioning myself on every level, and feeling anxious and depressed. . . And a partridge in a pear tree. What began as the perfect storm for ending the year on the worst note possible ended up providing me with unexpected insights and comfort to end the year gently and to begin the new year fiercely. How did I manage to begin the process of letting go of some of the things that hurt me, in order to hold on to what heals me? I asked myself what I wanted, listened to the answers, and took the appropriate action, which sometimes meant taking no action at all.
While this is not an earth shattering revelation, it definitely rocked my world. I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the future and trying to influence the outcomes of situations and relationships by knocking myself trying to do the “right” thing that will bring me what I most want and need. I didn’t set out to have the experiences I have had during my time off from work, but once again, I have learned that some of the best lessons have come to me when least expected. It all began with the simple act of sleeping.
Ever since I was in college, I have prided myself on not needing more than 4-5 hours of sleep/night. I usually begin my day before the sun comes up and end it in the wee hours of the morning. When I went to bed nine days ago, I intended to wake up early the next day to exercise before my daughters woke up and begin decimating my revolving “To Do” list, but that’s not what happened at all. Instead of waking up to an alarm clock, I woke up to the sound of my younger daughter entering my bedroom and curling up next to me in bed at nearly 9:00 a.m. Nine o’clock?! When I realized that I had slept almost eight hours, I did a quick assessment to first make sure that my clock was correct (it was) and then to make sure that I wasn’t physically ill (I wasn’t). I had slept more in one night than I had in many nights, and I liked it. A lot.
I am not sure what happened in that moment, but something changed. As I lingered in bed with my daughter, I made the decision to spend this time off listening, really listening, to myself and to indulge myself in whatever I wanted, needed, and desired, within reason, from a healthy and positive place. Again, what may not appear to be significant, has put me solidly back on track to heal, learn, and grow. Here is what I have done and not done for the past nine days:
- I went to bed when I was tired and woke up whenever I happened to open my eyes and was ready to greet the day. My 4-5 hours of sleep has become 8-9 hours of sleep.
- I ate what I wanted and when I wanted, and if I didn’t feel like eating, I didn’t eat. I didn’t worry about calories or nutrition, as I just ate what I craved.
- I did not exercise, which may seem counterintuitive, especially during the holidays, but it was the best thing for me. Exercise has been my salvation in many ways, but recently, I had been using it as a means to punish myself for not being physically “good enough” , and it became pure labor, not a labor of love. So, I gave myself permission to not exercise until tomorrow. At first, I feared that I would not resume my workout regime, but I am looking forward to it. In this case, absence made the heart grow fonder.
- I allowed myself to grieve the recent losses in my life, which for me, meant engaging in the primal, raw emotions that cut me to the core when I lose someone I genuinely love. At times, I cried so intensely that I felt like I would literally die from the pain, and I was amazed that my body could produce that many tears and that much snot. I also developed a sincere gratitude for tissues.
- I engaged with my daughters in the moment and followed their lead in what they wanted to do during our time together, which included making cookies, snuggling in bed to both begin and end our day, watching Christmas movies, going out to eat, taking in a movie, playing games, talking, and laughing, lots and lots of laughing.
- I balanced time by myself with time friends and family, and I accepted an invitation from friends that I first considered declining, but something told me to just go, so, I did and did not regret my decision.
- I was true to myself and to the other people in my life.
- There have been times when I have done nothing, absolutely nothing, but it felt like something.
These past nine days have been so good for me, and I am looking forward to what the next three days will bring to end 2013 and to welcome 2014. I will continue to let go and hold on, and I will continue to listen to myself.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story