Today I went back to work after being on bereavement leave for two weeks. It took me months to go on bereavement leave, for a host of reasons I won’t get into. But I was finally able to take two full weeks off to myself. I feel weird calling it a vacation because surely, it wasn’t this purely fun time off of work as I planned on sitting in my discomfort and grief.
I was messaging a friend yesterday and she asked me, “so what did you learn.” And the question, while simple, hit me like a ton of bricks. What DID I learn in taking off two weeks? So I sat in some quiet reflection this morning and journaled about it.
I learned a lot about the self care I need to sustain myself and I learned a lot about the activities that take a lot of work that I often act as if they do not. For instance, cleaning. We all complain about cleaning but I don’t know if anyone noticed after being social distanced or in the house or what not, there is so much effort and emotional energy involved in keeping a fully clean house. It’s tew much. We spend so much energy doing it and so much emotional energy trying to mentally encourage ourselves to do it. Then we have the audacity to be working full time or taking care of kids/family (and in the middle of a pandemic). Of course I know this but sometimes it takes more quiet to sit with the facts.
I figured out that I function my best with structure and need it. And I need down time. There’s a ratio there that needs some tweaking. I learned that it shouldn’t have ever taken me months to take bereavement leave. And some deeper less obvious things that are between me and my journal..
So, what do I do with this information? I learn to restructure my life based on the order of importance things have and most importantly I check the self talk about various things. That sounds really easy and like something I would have done already if it were simple. It’s a dance I have to do though, a dance we all have to do to take care of ourselves. Vacations are not enough because we need to maintain enough peace and downtime on a regular basis in order to feel okay, not work ourselves to death and then save 2 weeks to “replenish.” What an American, capitalistic idea. We really need to call that what it is. Vacations are short reprieves to prevent insanity not at all the time away that we need. And some of us do not get to have a vacation at all.
I understand not everyone has the ability to rework their lives. Capitalism makes that so. There’s no simple answers but you have to ask yourself what regular replenishment looks like. And most importantly you have to keep checking in with yourself, your life, your need to do so (as we are always changing and evolving). Prioritize yourself and prioritize your priorities.