Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Time off

I am very fortunate; I live alone and I have time to think about perspective, and priorities. I realize this is a luxury.

(Here is a good example of multiple perspectives: I know there are others who would look at my life and think "Poor Julia, no husband, no children, all alone in the world, nothing to distract her." Ha! And there are still others who think "If Julia would only be more involved in the world she wouldn't spend so much time navel-gazing; just think what she might accomplish." And my mother: "Julia, if you would just do something instead of thinking so much!" Those, and other, views have come from inside as well as outside at various times in my life. The perspective in the opening sentence is the one I'm working with these days.)

I have always worked in the non-profit sector. It's less demanding, I think, than the for-profit world. It's also less lucrative - in terms of dollars. It's much more lucrative than the average American corporate job in terms of time. I get about a month off a year, maybe a little more.

For a long time I hoarded time off - I don't know why. Maybe I was subconsciously preparing for a time when I couldn't work; I really don't know. Now I have about a month coming (which I can't take all at once.) So I took a couple of extra days on this Labor Day weekend; I'll take a few more at the end of a conference I'm attending in October.

What I've realized over the last few years is that I need regular, extended breaks. Even though my medications keep me relatively healthy, there is still a lot I need to learn, a lot I don't do well, and life is simply more tiring than it would be if I had always been well, if I was better at dealing with people and situations.

I know, too, that I tend to lose my focus, or my perspective, if I don't take time for mental tune-ups. When I get to the point when work is keeping me awake at night, when I'm digging into clothes I haven't worn in months because everything is in a pile to be ironed, when I haven't eaten anything but frozen food or take-out in over a week - then it's time to take a break. I've lost focus, I'm running too fast in too many directions, things are piling up, and I've lost track of what's important.

I haven't really done much with this break -- some ironing, a lot of reading, some movies. Not as much writing as I expected, and probably more napping than was strictly necessary. (I finally finished Anna Karenina!)

Today, the fifth and last of my days off, I'm finally feeling a little peace. Whatever has been chasing me is quieted for now. I am rested; I can think. I can smile. I just now realized that I haven't been smiling lately.

I just bought some music by a new performer, Zee Avi, so I have something to listen to this afternoon if the temperature stays reasonable and I feel like finishing the ironing. In the meantime, I'm going to visit the bookstore, buy too many books, and take a notebook to the Japanese restaurant down the street, where I can drink sake, have lunch, and make notes.

In the next day or two I'll write about the priorities that floated to the top during this break.

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