I haven’t written in awhile.
Quite frankly, I had lost my play drive.
I had to take two weeks off of work – including some time totally unplugged from civilization – to even see glimmers of it returning.
Before I wanted to explore, to create, to ponder.
To take pictures. To go hiking. To sew. To sculpt. To craft.
I had gotten so bogged down with reacting to life and trying to keep up with it all, I couldn’t find the room to play, let alone sleep enough, eat as healthy as I’d like, exercise, or even spend time with my husband and kids.
That’s not a healthy place to be, and I don’t wish it on anyone.
Sometimes we have to buckle down and get the work done. No doubt. Sometimes pushing ourselves past our limits is needed, and can be exciting and helps us grow. And yes we must make sacrifices, we simply cannot do it all. Some professions (performers, fire fighters, doctors, airline employees, consultants, CEO’s, etc.) require travel and/or late nights that take us away from our friends and families, but it is worth the short-term sacrifice.
But too much of that sacrifice is physically and mentally draining, period. It literally wears us down – our brains stop working as well and we feel physically exhausted all the time (because we are!) – until we are so depleted it takes a long time to get back to where we can actually function as members of our respective tribes, whether that is work, home, or friends and other social obligations. In the worst case scenarios it can kill us.
We can all find great pleasure in devoting ourselves to one main “thing” and for some of us that is our professional work or as caregivers to our children. But even those who are dedicated to their one passion need to take breaks. Sometimes we get so bogged down in keeping up we don’t even realize just how much of a toll it has taken on us. Until we break.
Thankfully I did not reach the breaking point, but I did reach the point of exhaustion. You know those pictures of runners that have collapsed after a particularly grueling marathon? That was me. I was able to walk myself off the finish line, but as soon as I did I just sat down and it took a long time before I was ready to stand up, and even longer before I even wanted to think about running again (both metaphorically and literally).
It almost feels melodramatic the way I’m describing it, but just like so many other things related to the mind and body, it is an invisible but real problem we need to deal with. Unfortunately overwork and exhaustion are all too common a phenomenon in our modern world, almost a badge of honor, that is instead contributing to the leading causes of death – heart disease, obesity, unhealthy coping mechanisms, others – and it needs to be taken seriously. You need to know the signs in yourself before you get so far down the path of exhaustion and overwork – whether you’re a SAHM or an unattached traveling salesman – that it takes much longer to get back.
But it doesn’t have to take long. After my relatively short break – 2 weeks – I am slowly getting back into my play training regimen. I am taking pictures. I am walking/hiking. I am sewing. I am crafting. I am looking for play opportunities.
And I am trying to fit play and adventure in wherever I can. I have the benefit of having my kids to help me.
On my first day back to work, I took a half hour out of my morning to watch the eclipse. That wasn’t a lot of time out of my day, and I know some neighbors who drove the four hours south to get a better view, but it was enough. (And, side note: for a once in a lifetime experience I didn’t see as many of my coworkers out on the sidewalk with me as I would have expected.)
Bottom line, including mostly for myself: Please take time to play. Everyone will thank you. Especially yourself.