I ended last week pretty wrung out. Work has been pretty challenging lately, and I started my weekend by debating whether to stay late into my holiday weekend or bring work home. There’s enough to do that I could easily have done both. And five years ago, I totally would have. But after putting myself in a position where I was working 80-hour workweeks and getting great reviews but no actual promotions (lots of promises. Lots and lots), I changed my tune. I’m willing to put in an extra hour or two here and there, especially during busy times. But if you’ve got an extra 40 hours a week of work for me over an 18-month period, then you need to either hire someone for the team or increase my pay. And my working like a dog behind the scenes really only masks that reality and punishes me. So I treat it like an exception, and I pay attention to how much it empties me out. I was pretty emptied out at the end of last week. Exhausted, dispirited— exactly what you’d think if you were paying attention to the overall level of chaos in my life right now. (Have I mentioned that I can’t put together my couch because I can’t find the bolts the mover handed me? A month ago? It’s awesome and relaxing at home, too.)
I made the decision to stay late and finish what I promised I’d finish by the end of the week— which had been revised down a few days earlier. I did that, and resolved not to bring work home.
My company has had a great policy whereby we get off especially early on Fridays during the summer. It was the last such Friday, and I wanted to do something awesome with it, but I just couldn’t muster the energy. I went home, ate leftovers, and watched movies on TV. The dog pleaded with me with his eyes long enough that I let him take me for a walk.
I’m so glad he did. We’re still exploring the new neighborhood, to a degree, and we went down a street we hadn’t gone down before. And I found this great garden, filled with tomatoes. I don’t know if it’s a private or community garden, so I assumed it was private, but I loved that it was outside the person’s fence. A moment later, we walked past a house with sunflowers forming a hedge for the patio. The sunflowers were, like, 8 feet tall, and their scale compared to the patio (it’s a decent-sized house, but they dwarf the patio) propelled me into a realm of imagination. I started thinking about fairy tale cottages, and started hearing the song “A Hundred Million Miracles” from the musical “Flower Drum Song.” Lyrics here.
It was so lovely, and I was so grateful to the pup for bringing me out and showing it to me. He’s so many miracles, all by himself!
My BFF called while we were walking, and we were able to get our frustrations about our week mutually shared and dealt with, and it really cleared the decks for a weekend more restful and productive than anything I could have imagined earlier. And I came back to work less discouraged and more ready for the week than I would have if I dragged all that into my down-time.
How do you maintain your boundaries when tested? How do you refill your cup when it’s empty?