We recently took a long weekend in a beautiful resort area nearby. While we did some fun activities, there was also time for just sitting. I spent hours sitting on the screened-in porch overlooking the Ozark mountains. It was heaven. Sitting there in the quiet doing nothing reminded me of a week spent similarly many years ago. I was working for a company under a destructive chief executive; it was taking a toll. The hours were long, the requests were meaningless, and the decisions were flawed. In addition, I was scheduled to testify in defense of my company in federal court in Washington, as they had been accused of wrongdoing. I was totally burned out.
I took a week of vacation that summer, and in that pre-cell phone era, refused to tell anyone where I was going to be. I spent the entire week in my backyard. I mean the entire week. Every day I got up at 8:00 and went out to a lawn chair under a shady tree. All day I watched my young son play outside with the neighbor kids, going inside only for food. When it got dark, I went inside to sleep, only to head out the next morning to the lawn chair. I had never done so little for so long in my life. I needed that much rest and went back to work somewhat refreshed.
Things didn’t get better. A few weeks later, my mother was scheduled for major surgery the same week I flew to Washington to testify. Our attorney asked for permission for me to leave before the trial was over; blessedly the judge agreed. My company lost and appealed…in the following round of document discovery, an internal document surfaced confirming our guilt beyond doubt. They settled. I decided to leave.
That week of doing nothing, my first, showed me what likely seems obvious to almost everyone else…that we all need rest. The challenge for high-energy people like me is that our brains can’t absorb this simple concept. I have been on a decades-long journey to learn to rest and recharge. I’m still not good at it, but I’m better than I was. A good boss jolted me along on that journey, pointing out I was a terrible role model for my team. He wisely knew he would have more impact appealing to how much I cared for my team vs. myself. But I’m working on that, too. I am trying to be selfish now with at least some of my time, doing things just for me. There still aren’t enough hours in the day for all of it, though, and working mothers always feel guilt about, well, everything. I’m working on the guilt, too. I’ll get there, probably later than I should, but I’ll get there.
It has a sound, a fullness.
It’s heavy with sigh of tree,
and space between breaths.
It’s ripe with pause between birdsong
and crash of surf.
It’s golden they say.
But no one tells us it’s addictive.”