Saturday, January 12, 2008

Life After Vacation

It's a common question after a long break: "How's everyone adjusting to getting back into the routine?" For some of my family members, this has been easy to answer.

"Lyle was beyond thrilled to see his babysitter again, and he was happy to get back to nursery school, too."

"Baxter seemed to jump right back in and was glad to see his friends."

"Matt was counting the minutes until he could go back to work and put an end to the non-stop activity and socializing. I've never seen someone so happy to go back to work!"

But I've been avoiding answering this question for myself this week. That's mostly because I don't want to scream loudly at the friendly people who are making small talk with me.

I loved seeing all the kids I work with, and my colleagues. I enjoyed talking to the families about how the break went for their kids and hearing both the successes and the horror stories. All of that was great and very satisfying. I missed those parts of my work when I was away.

But it's the pace. The pace, and the amount of work I need to do daily to stay afloat. And the fatigue, especially on the days I've been to the gym before work. Those things, and running in so many directions every day. By last night I was sitting at my desk in the darkening clinic, unable to get myself motivated to pack up, clean up the toys in the clinic, and drive home to spend the evening with my sweet but loud and boisterous boys, only to work at my desk after they go to bed and then go back and work all day again today.

In the end, I didn't go back in today, because I'm not feeling well this morning. I don't know if I'm coming down with something or if this is just complete and utter exhaustion, but I am out of energy and feeling lousy.

Here's what I was contemplating on my drive home last night: would it be better to a) take the night off and read a great book lying on the couch by the fireplace? or b) get the work done that needs doing today so that it doesn't keep piling up on me, causing total overwhelm in another day or two? As enticing as choice (a) was, I chose (b); I am too wary of the overwhelm because it leads to such major procrastination and more stress in the end. But then, when do I get a break? I'm not looking for a long break, just an evening to myself. On Saturday, when I'm not feeling well and stuck here in bed? That's not quite it, either.

So what do you do? Do you just put it all aside so that you get some rest, even knowing that it'll make tomorrow worse for you? Or do you keep on truckin', opting for the steady sound of check-marks on your to do list?

Please, I'll take any and all insights.


kristen said...

It's hard, a tough call, really. The pace of my work differs from yours. I get to say when. Of course, that has downsides as well. If I turn down an assignment because I'm tired and overwhelmed, well, I don't get paid, either.

But yes, here's what I think: I think sometimes you can't move forward, you can't keep pace or even play minor catch up without giving yourself a rest. A real rest. A mental health rest.

Vacation with the kids during the holidays is not vacation. It's not relaxing. In fact, very few actual vacations are relaxing. Why is that?

I think you need to take that night off. Put the work and the reports aside. Give yourself a break and then attack it head on in the morning. That's what I would do.

Shan said...

I agree. I've done both, and, to be honest, when I'm feeling that way about my current stay-at-home-mom-and-housewife job/life, I do tend to just "power through." I mean, it's not as if I ever take a nap, even when I'm dead tired and it's a weekend day when I could theoretically do so. But, I do believe that there come those times when you hit a wall of exhaustion so intense that only some solid self-care and relaxation can overcome it (even if you end up busier later). We've all experienced that, I'm sure. So....go for it!

Christopher Tassava said...

I firmly believe that if your brain and body are both telling you that it's time for a break, it is - even if it's just four hours with a book and some cocoa. My main strategy is compartmentalization - I try to (and usually can) keep "work" things (of any sort - main job, second job, volunteer stuff) in their places and just reserve evenings for non-work but necessary stuff, like relaxing, working out, reading, blogging. It's not always possible, but it often is, and I try not to second-guess myself for having chosen, say, to watch football and ski videos tonight rather than draft a letter to our association's lawnmowing contractor.

Jordan said...

Thanks, all of you, for your thoughts. Matt took the boys up to his parents' house yesterday and I rested - read my book and eventually took a short nap.

When I woke up I felt physically and mentally refreshed, and was able to more clearly deal with the situation at hand, which is that I've taken on way too much work this year - if I had a reasonable amount, I'd be able to take an evening "off" from work here and there, but I don't. Most work days I don't have a real block of time to do paperwork b/c I'm overloaded with clients so it simply has to happen on what is rightfully "home time".

So I made a few big decisions, all of which will upset some other people (or at least be a lot less convenient for them) but that ought to make a big difference for me. Things like "no more monthly Saturdays at the clinic", "no more consultations/evals with new kids", "waiting list is now closed", and try to switch 2/3 of the 5:15 am workouts with during-Lyle's-nursery-school workouts due to fatigue.

Wish me luck.

Jordan said...

PS: I meant to add that after I made those decisions yesterday I did three things -

1) Gave myself a sloppy-but-satisfying mani/pedi;
2) Read my book some more;
3) Sat at my desk and was able to face a lot of work that needed doing.

It's all about the balance.

Special Needs Mama said...

I'm a firm believer in cutting back. If you don't do it no one else will, and what dies that tell you? It sounds like you made all the right decisions. Good luck with that balancing act. As I like to remember in yoga, balance is all about nearly falling over all the time. The hardest pose is tadasana, where you stand completely still....

Jordan said...

Thanks, Vicki. This quote from you: "balance is all about nearly falling over all the time" is going to have to go on the wall over my desk. And yes, standing completely still - phew! Hard work.

Thank you for this much-valued insight.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

Hey, glad I am reading late b/c that quote about balance is awesome! Glad you had a chance to get a little rest. I agree with Kristen, vacation rarely seems relaxing. I am always craving the "do nothing" type of trips and then feel guilty for not "making the most of the time". I struggle so much with this and you seem like someone who gets so much more done than me so I have no answers. But your plan to cut back some sounds like a good start!