Just like that, eight weeks have flown by since I last wrote in here. It feels like I blinked, and two months went past me. In fact, it took a very rude wake up call last week in the form of one of the worst eczema outbreaks I've had of my life to open my eyes to the crazy speed that I was hurtling through life at.
The past two months have been months of juggling a new promotion at work, going a little bit crazy obsessive with garden improvements because my parents are visiting next month and I want it to look pretty for them (ever the desperate to please eldest daughter - you don't outgrow some things so easily just because you grow older), and adjusting to Alan's new work travel schedule which means a) he's rarely at home during weekdays and b) I use that as an excuse to work till late and eat instant noodles for dinner, neglecting any form of self-care.
All of those things, in isolation, are perfectly normal and understandable in short bursts. Every new role requires time to adjust. Hiring a bigger team means giving them some time to train and learn the ropes before they start picking up more responsibility. Getting ready to host my parents who will be travelling for the first time to Europe naturally means I want everything to be perfect. The craziness was trying to do everything, all at once.
Having some time to sit quietly at home and recover from large, stinging red patches of eczema all over my cheeks and neck and arms gave me some much-needed time and space to reflect. I thought I was doing okay at holding everything together, because I was looking at the external metrics - I was getting 7 hours or sleep, I was not replying to emails on weekends - and I've gotten by on months at a time of 4 to 5 hours of sleep and years where I worked weekends - things aren't THAT crazy. But if I'm being honest with myself, things were getting a little out of hand. I was LYING in bed for 7 hours but my mind was filled with anxieties and when I woke up I didn't feel rested and my mind immediately jumped to the same to do list that I fell asleep thinking about. And on weekends while I stayed in pyjamas and didn't reply to work emails, I was just as stressed as I was at work, thinking of one endless to do list of home improvements and racing against the clock and daylight to get it all done. I think we easily made 4 trips to the local nursery, 3 trips to the hardware store, and 2 trips to IKEA across the span of a few weekends.
I had one of my best childhood friends visiting me last week, and I was not even a fraction of the relaxed, warm, and welcoming host I wanted to be because all I could think about was a long mental list of to dos and logistics, including making sure that I showed her all the sights to see in Finland. Something was seriously out of balance when even something pleasurable - showing a dear friend around the country you call home - becomes yet another stressful to do list to just "check off".
In hindsight, I'm even grateful that the eczema breakout caused me to take a step back and re-evaluate things before things got any crazier. My parents are visiting in a few weeks, my team at work is growing bigger, and the a lot of things about my physical situation are not going to change or get "easier". What is quite clear is that the way I handle things needs to change. As someone wise once said: "It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it."
Over the last few days, it's become increasingly apparent to me that my way of throwing all my energy towards accomplishing a task or solving a problem is great in small bursts, but is exhausting to keep up in the long run. My mental picture of myself was one of a ninja, dodging bullets and karate chopping any obstacle that came in my way, arms flailing around, expending huge amounts of energy. Today, I felt a greater sense of calm and peace going about my daily tasks, and it was one simple thing that brought me back to balance - well actually, two things:
1. Not just thinking about my to do list but writing it down on paper and working through each thing one at a time instead of jumping back and forth between each.
2. Taking the time to reschedule calls and meetings so that I could have a productive flow of work to achieve #1. I usually like to make things as easy as possible for others - I pride myself on being an accommodating person. But I'm starting to realize that I am much more useful to others when I am sane and calm, and once in awhile I ask to reschedule meetings - than if I am always accommodating but operating from a frazzled mind because I'm always reacting instead of taking control of my schedule.
The mental picture I had of myself today at work was less like a ninja, and more like a farmer, sowing seeds, one row at a time, deliberately and systematically. Most of the time, that's all that is required. Once in awhile, there are emergencies to attend to and fires to put out, yes. But having spent most of my career in startups and being someone who craves variety and the thrill of new challenges, I am finally starting to realize it's not healthy to always be stuck in firefighting mode, treating every single task as life or death urgent, when a slower, less reactive approach would work just as well, if not better.
I guess I need to start shifting my mental picture of my parents' visit next month too, based on what I'm realizing! Less "welcome to my beautiful, perfect house and garden - ah there's one more thing I need to fix", and more "this is us! I'm so glad you're here - let's spend time together even if the house and yard is a bit messy and unfinished."
If there's one thing this girl needs to get better at doing, it's just taking a step back and pausing. Resetting. Recalibrating. I'm good at going and going and going, until something outside of myself - in this case, my eczema, in the past, a divorce - makes me pull the hand brakes up slow things down. Here's to being thankful I'm realizing this sooner, rather than later, this time. Here's to getting better and faster and catching myself the next time I get caught up in worshipping all the altar of "getting things done" before I spiral down the hole of being so busy I lose touch with myself and with those around me. Here's to not only getting things done, but getting the RIGHT things done.