For most of us, it is over.
This year’s Christmas and New Year’s break — with its oh-so-elegantly placed statutory holidays and weekends — has been a good long rest. Judging by e-mail volumes, there was an un-discussed but somehow mutually-agreed ceasefire declared by all combatants on the weekend ahead of Christmas that has lasted pretty much until yesterday. Not great for the economy, but very good for the soul, once I got into it.
Getting into it took some time. On day one I woke up, surveyed the expanse of nothingness that was my day…and felt the cold, empty, hand of anxiety grip my shoulder. Such emptiness: what to do with myself?
I was not at loose ends for long; my subconscious – in an ever-present desire to keep things ‘normal’ – took care of the incipient anxiety by bringing to my attention that my sock drawer was in need of a little light organizing, and — once I had started on that – like a knotted ball of string, one whole wall of closets was in the frame for a clean-up.
Before I knew it I was eyeball deep in socks I hadn’t seen in years (the white ones with pink flamingos up the sides – a joke gift from the 80s, long-saved for an inappropriate situation that they might be appropriate for – finally bought the charity shop farm), and happy as a pig in…full employment. The first days of my break were spent cleaning out cupboards and chasing my tail around town doing all the things that are not possible when living life at full tilt. It took until day 3 of my holiday before I really even began to slow down, but then I started to get the hang of it.
Once into it, the elements of my days were limited — sleep, read, eat, sleep, walk. Repeat — but the permutations were myriad. None of them involved alarms of any kind.
Ahhhhh. Day after day of it. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
But now the time has come to change gears again, and it ain’t easy. The reflexes that made working at speed such a pleasure in the period before the holidays are dulled, and I’m having to make conscious efforts to get back into the swing of things. It is uncomfortable.
Like a surfer going for a wave after a long relaxing session bobbing on the waves, I don’t feel quite ready just yet. And it is time to get moving. The waves are getting larger and will not be held back. My only choice is whether I want to ride them (can be exciting and fun) or have them crash over my head and pummel me along the bottom until my lungs burn and my nose is filled with sand (can be exciting, but usually not so fun…).
This isn’t the first time, so herewith a couple of things from experience:
- It seems obvious when I think about it, but I seem to need to learn it each year anew: it took a few days to slow down, and it will take a few days to speed up again. The good news is that most people are experiencing the same thing. The bad news is that most are pretending that they aren’t, so it can feel lonely.
- Start anywhere. Getting into motion is much of the battle. Sometimes I process, sometimes I clean another cupboard, sometimes I just call a friend I’ve been meaning to call.
- Do a Weekly Review. Although I tend to do one just as I start my break, it is always surprising how much has changed / moved on since starting the doing of nothing. Part of what has me feared up about re-entering the fray is often that I’ve lost touch with what I actually do have on, and going through ALL of my commitments is a great way to get clear on what the priorities are – and how much of the list doesn’t need doing right this very minute.
- Take it easy on yourself, this is not a permanent condition. I sometimes feel – briefly – like I might have broken something (my motivation, or an adrenal gland or something…) during the break, and that I’ll never catch the wave again. Two to three days seems to be what it takes to knock the kinks out and to hit my stride again.
I believe that my capacity for doing nothing is at one end of a spectrum, and that the spectrum is broadened in both directions by movement at either end. The more I can do nothing, the more I can do when I choose to, and vice-versa.
One thing that does need doing, and quick, is to get my next break booked. The thought of some light bobbing on sun-kissed waves in mid-March is probably just the thing to help repair that busted adrenal.