In many ways I’m writing this week’s post more as a reminder for myself than as advice for anyone else. We are often our harshest critics. For me, the knowledge that the time we have in this life is limited and fleeting makes me press on myself to get things done. It has some positive impacts on my life, it pushes me to travel, to try adventures I might not otherwise have tried if I allowed myself to think maybe I can do that later. Most importantly, it pushed me twenty years ago to start taking a year off of work every few years in order to do those things I wanted to do before it was too late, or before I wasn’t physically able to do them.
But there is a downside to this push. Over the last two years I have been in a situation that is likely all too familiar to a lot of you. The COVID pandemic added an extra level of pressure and stress on our lives that were already busy and stressed. Throw into that mix the fact that we’ve all had various levels of personal loss during the pandemic and things get tough. Social isolation, even for a loner like me, also put stress on all of us and pushed down on our moods. For the last year I’ve also had the extra bonus of being assigned a second full-time position at work, with no extra support, recognition or extra pay.
So the stress ramped up, the pressure ramped up and there was no acknowledgement or appreciation of what I’ve been going through. And it contrasts at a high level to the fact that in my personal and professional lives I’m the person with the responsibility for acknowledging, appreciating and supporting others. What this has led to over the last couple of years for me is a lack of motivation for things that didn’t have to be done. This has meant a couple of books and other projects that should have done by now have languished. I’ve found myself being what I consider lazy, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, watching a lot of media and generally being unproductive in my downtime.
And that last sentence is the crux of the issue. How productive are you supposed to be in your downtime? During the last couple of years, I’ve avoided, so far, getting COVID. I’ve kept up my exercise regimen, I’ve maintained the lowest weight of my adult life for a couple of years now, even if I haven’t done such a good job with keeping my blood sugar down. But still, not getting these projects done has caused me to be really tough on myself which doesn’t help my mood.
The fact is I’m being a bit unfair to myself. My downtime is mine, and it needs to be used to help me recharge my batteries and lower my stress. So, just like the balance needed between work and downtime, there needs to be balance in my downtime between productive and unproductive time. As the world opens up, as my job hopefully gets back to one job not two, as I get to travel again hopefully I can get back to the balance.
But it’s important to not just get back to something resembling normal, it’s important to forgive myself for not being productive when I needed the space and time to just be, to be able to keep it together during a very tough time in life. The difficulty of this time snuck up on me. I’ve been through a lot in life and those things have always been right in front of me, coming at me, the source easily identifiable. But what we’ve all been through over the last couple of years has been insidious. These outside, and often subtle, pressures that build are not always easily identifiable, and worse, mostly out of your control. So forgive yourself friends if you haven’t been at your utmost best over the last couple of years, happier days are coming. ~ Rev Kane