Through and through, I am a creature of habit. My planner is the most important purchase of the year and I thrive off my Sunday night organization session where I outline my upcoming week in multi-colored pens. I have certain habits for grocery shopping and laundry and when I like to study foreign languages.
These routines, much like running and writing, keep me grounded and focused. But at some point, routines can become too much. It isn’t until you’ve stepped outside of yourself for a day or a week that you notice how much you’ve missed. You know that feeling of taking a long weekend trip? Suddenly, Saturday seems to last forever as you forget about buying bananas and bread and focus on enjoying wherever you are.
All this is to say that while I appreciate some of the structures I’ve given my life, I can’t help but wonder what’s just outside the box. The new idea for Sunday blog posts is to write about one experience I had in the previous week that was out of routine, that wasn’t predictable, that made me think a little differently about myself and the world I live in.
Challenge 14: “Movie Day”
When I decided that I wanted to do small changes each week – little challenges every now and then – I added a sticky note to my computer to jot down ideas. One of the first ones that came to mind was the all-day movie marathon.
Now, in theory, an all-day movie marathon sounds fantastic. I was imagining myself mid-October with hot apple cider in my left hand and a sticky note of horror films in my right. Or perhaps around the holidays, with tape, scissors, and unwrapped Christmas gifts surrounding me. I love the idea of an all-day movie marathon, but it’s also something I never could successfully pull off.
The idea of giving an entire day to the sofa is not particularly appealing and I always fall back on the “I’m too busy for that” excuse. That said, there are still moments where I hit a tipping point.
Two weeks ago, I was operating at 110%. In full survival mode, my adrenaline alone was carrying me from one activity to the next. I remember reading once that sharks must keep swimming or they will die. That’s how I felt. If I stopped moving, momentum would break and I would realize the enormity of the workload lingering over me. So, I kept moving.
I kept moving until Sunday night at 8 pm as I finished my last scheduled obligation and found myself lowering my desk chair to the floor and putting my head down next to my planner. My weekend was beginning. It was my first moment to breathe and that pause made me face the exhaustion.
The Friday before, I was texting a friend on my train commute when I explained my frustration. In tired discouragement, I said that part of me wanted to be apathic. I wondered what it might be like to not care so much about everything, to not try to be everything to everyone, to turn off my phone and ignore my responsibilities instead of going home after work to sit at my desk for 5 more hours on side projects. What if I just went home and took care of myself? I knew that wasn’t an option, though. Or at least it wasn’t an option that would come naturally to me.
Aware of the inevitable meltdown that was sure to arrive in a matter of days, I jumped to the other extreme. On Tuesday, I came home from work, ate some left-over pasta, took a hot shower, and crawled into my bed. I read a little. I watched a little Netflix. I read a little more. I kept my phone across the room. I kept myself focused on where I was. I didn’t look at my planner. I didn’t read my emails. I didn’t try to cross anything off my “To-Do List.” I rested, but not necessarily for me. I rested in spite of myself. It’s as if I had the hyper-active workaholic Liz countering with the please-give-me-a-break-and-rest Liz. Neither would admit to the others necessity and so I ended up squaring off against myself and bitterly resting in my room.
I did the same thing on Wednesday. I snuggled into my covers and found myself loving the feeling of what I had deemed as my own irresponsibility. I felt almost smug ignoring my emails. I didn’t worry about all that had to be done. I decided I didn’t care and that was that.
I realized how nice it was to come home after a busy day of work and not try to accomplish anything else. As I went to bed on Wednesday night, I thought that maybe I could get used to this. Maybe I didn’t have to try so hard. Maybe my new look was going to be one of not caring about anything. Maybe I was done being the responsible, hard-working, 100% all the time person.
And then I woke up on Thursday, splashed water on my face, and turned to my favorite upbeat music. I splashed water on my face and realized that I had been throwing myself a private pity party for two days. The rest had been very needed but it was also high time I pick myself up and get back in the game. I had things I wanted to accomplish.
That’s the tipping point. After two days of what I deemed apathetic nothingness, I left work on Thursday ready to be social, ready to work, ready to return to the things that bring me so much joy. I read a really great quote yesterday that said, “How to succeed: try hard. How to fail: try too hard.”
I’ve noticed more and more recently the delicate line that exists between work and play. While I believe I will always struggle a bit with the “spreading myself too thin” dilemma, I also am constantly working to integrate more forgiveness with myself. Watching a spontaneous movie with my roommates does not require chastising. Working until 1 am on a new project shouldn’t necessarily invite praise.
The truth of the matter is that I did enjoy my two movie nights. But that can only be done in moderation – as I noticed by my overdrive of ambition on Thursday…which brings me back to my main point. I need nights like Tuesday. I need times where I retreat to my bed with a mindless movie. I need evenings without my phone and days where I don’t even sit at my desk. I need changes in scenery and park dates with good books.
It’s easy to write off leisure as a waste of time and it’s easy to assume that there’s no way to work something like that into a schedule, but giving yourself breathing room, allowing yourself a night off, finding ways to incorporate play into your day-to-day are what truly give us the energy to pursue our dreams.