This weekend, I and all the other people of Vancouver decided to head to Tofino for the long-long weekend. I have written about Tofino here before, but there is always more to say…most of which I will say on another day.
This weekend, so far, has been one of deliberately letting go. Last week, I got pretty stressed. It was good, in that it showed me where my limits are these days. It was also bad, in most of the ways that stress is usually bad: I slept poorly, developed a persistent stomach ache and rekindled my love affair with cookie dough (shhh -no causal relationship here -move on). I also entered that space in my brain where I keep my extreme type A self. I’ll call him Allen. Don’t ask why I have a man named Allen locked away in my brain
Allen, when properly handled, drives me to do better and be better. He calls me out when I’m being lazy and proofreads everything 5 times over before I send it off. When someone leaves the gate open and he escapes, however, Allen can be a real pain. He gets mad at me for things that I can’t control, like rejected pitches and payment schedules. He points out all the things I should have done differently but can’t now; he wonders how I’ve managed to any success at all and muses that it’s probably all in the past anyway. He picks at my weaknesses and downplays my strengths.
I have trouble telling Allen to shut up when I’m stressed, and when he’s unchecked like that, he can really get going. It takes focus and quiet time and a deliberate refusal to listen to the negative things to get Allen under control again. It takes getting enough sleep and not looking at my work for a day and deep breathing and not listening to Allen when he calls me a failure or a wimp for doing those things.
So yesterday, I got into a car with four friends and we drove to Tofino. We got here, settled in and took a walk on the beach. We had a potluck dinner with some other friends and sat in a hot tub and played games and talked about boys. And then I went to sleep for nine hours. I didn’t write anything because I’m learning to recognize when I need a break.
If you’re like me, you were raised with a work-before-play attitude passed down from your mennonite farmer ancestors. The problem is, we don’t live on a farm anymore. Work isn’t feeding the animals and harvesting the vegetables and cleaning the farmhouse. It’s self-promoting via social media platforms and chasing story ideas and editing again and again. The work could go on forever if I didn’t choose to stop now and then. When I taught full time, it was the same thing, only with less flexibility. And I burnt out, and didn’t like teaching for awhile.
So now I take a break when I need to, if I can. It’s not weak or lazy -it’s necessary for the future of my career, as well as for my emotional stability. I just have to remind myself of that fact from time to time.