I have a confession to make. I am a workaholic. I am also a procrastinator. If I’m not killing myself working, I am beating myself up for not working. I put a great deal of effort into both of those activities! The longer I avoid working, the more I chastise myself and the less I can enjoy whatever is I am doing that is keeping me from working. So, I am neither enjoying some time off nor am I getting anything done. It’s a terrible affliction and I know that I am not alone, either. Perhaps this is you, too? Now that summer vacation is here, it is definitely time to have a game plan to free yourself!
Many years ago, I entered into a long period of discernment. I found myself at a crossroads lacking clear direction. Here is what I decided to do.
I decided to take the summer off!
I gave myself permission to not work and not worry about work. I picked up a copy of the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and endeavored to complete the challenges she set out in her 12-week journey of reconnecting and freeing your creative self. I spent my days enjoying life, guilt free! I did my morning journal writing… took “artist dates” all by myself… went to the beach… read books… enjoyed performances… caught up with friends… took long walks… ate well… And you know what? I generally and thoroughly enjoyed myself! I look back quite fondly on that summer because it is literally the only time I ever did that: truly and honestly enjoyed myself for an extended period of time without guilt.
As I get older, I realize how deep my need is for that kind of totally unplugged time and I have had trouble figuring out how to do it. My conscience is relentless in reminding me that there is always something I should be doing. So, here is what I propose to those of you who are like me. Change your mind. Choose to be free of that guilt. It truly is a mindset and it takes practice… I am still working on it! But here are a few steps that have helped me.
Be selfish and think about what you need for good self-care. If someone wants you to commit to something that doesn’t bring you joy, say no.
Make a list of what you would like to accomplish
Assume everything on the list will take twice as long as you think and then start slicing away to get at what is most important or necessary to you so you can create a realistic set of goals.
Create a schedule
Put in those things that are most important to you, including that time where you will schedule in some guilt-free leisure time. Find a window, a tiny pocket where you can really not work. It might just be a few days. It could be a week. You might even be able to eke out 2 weeks if you are really lucky and committed to the cause.
Remind yourself that there is nothing you HAVE to do
Martha Beck, self-help guru, taught me that. You choose to work because you want the money to support your life. You choose to pay the bills to continue to have those services and you choose to maintain your car because there are places you want to go and that car will help you to get there. You choose to attend that event with your in-laws because it makes for smoother relations. Are you getting the hang of this?
Address that little voice in your head
That one that tells you that you should be working. Remind that little voice as compassionately as you can whenever it speaks up that you have got it covered. You hear its concerns but you have a plan to accomplish all that you choose to accomplish to have your life work as you want it to work.
Then, kick back and enjoy! You deserve it!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.