Breaking the radio silence of a few weeks! I’ve been away on a well overdue break. I had scheduled a break back in March, but as it approached, thought “Nah, I’m OK, and got plenty to do after a busy-ish summer”. It’s interesting, our day jobs are not sitting round with our feet on the desks, waiting for the big one…we actually do other things, so when the big one, or even the medium size one happens, all the day job stuff gets put on hold, and piles up on the desk or in the inbox. So I didn’t take the break…. I think you know what is coming next.
In one of my earlier posts, I talked about writers block. I noticed that everything was hard, I wasn’t getting traction on any of the work that I was doing, and what would normally take a few days, seemed to be taking weeks. I realised that I was pretty overwhelmed, tired, grumpy and ineffective. This really hit home to me on the day that I was leaving work, I needed to find out how many children had died in the Victorian fires for the University of Melbourne project that I am involved in. Not being able to find the figure easily, I went through the Royal Commission reports, reading each of the reports into the deaths. I should say, these are reports that I had read many times before, and have taken them in my stride. This time was different, and I felt profoundly disturbed by them.
During the school holidays, we were in a bookshop, and my younger daughter showed me a book, which has a very sad ending, and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Yep, there is a wall in front of me, and I had just slammed straight into it.
This is not the first time this has happened to me. A few years back, I was in a hotel room in Brisbane, and also very exhausted. I had to go to a meeting of a group that I used to chair, and the agenda read as though the group had not moved on in the 4 years that I hadn’t been associated with it. For some reason, this provoked a reaction in me, and I felt like I couldn’t go to the meeting. Strange how little things can provoke big reactions. I had to have a month off.
We carry so much with us, when we work in this area. We are inextricably linked with the events of the day. The chronic complexity of the impacts weaves a web around us as well. Despite our resilience, and I know that I have generally great reserves of resilience… I have been dealing with people’s misery for 25 years now; this web will find ways to get in.
This is why self care is so important. Working out what is important to you to maintain balance. It is different for everyone, but this should be one of the questions we ask at interview. What self care strategies do you have? If people don’t have self care strategies, then don’t employ them. Sounds harsh, but you can’t afford to have people hitting the wall. It’s not fun. And it’s unproductive.
One of mine is kicking the football with a bunch of friends on a Sunday morning. This helps release me from the every day, as I try to recapture past glories, of spectacular marks not taken, tackles not laid, perfect passes not struck. IT is also a good opportunity for a brief chat, whether it be on football results, new albums, or the latest political crisis. Interestingly, in the last 4 months, I have been carrying an injury. This has slowed me down, made me more tentative and reduced my enjoyment of the Kick. I wonder if this has helped reduce my resilience, this time around.
Another is music. Being able to get lost in songs, in pieces of music, that also take you away from the present, is wonderful. I have coping playlists. Tonight I’m fortunate to be going to see Philip Glass, the great American Composer, play a solo piano concert. His rhythmical music has helped calm and soothe me over many years. I learnt how to play guitar very badly after sitting in a hotel room in Washington, late at night listening to Bill Frisell and thinking it would be wonderful to be able pick up a guitar and strum. After the Black Saturday Bushfires, I’d come home at 1 am and strum for an hour, until I was ready to go to bed.
If you go back to look at one of my earlier posts about All Right, these 5 strategies are fantastic; Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give. All pretty simple. You’ve just gotta do them.
My time away was great, with my two daughters and their friends (unfortunately my wife had to work) down to the beach. No phones, no computer. We had a fabulous time, board games, movies, trampolining, reading, playing spotlight with the torch. It brings you back in touch with what is important. My second week away, all I did was read, play guitar, watch some DVDs (EAST WEST 101 is fantastic), went for a swim, did some mountain biking (I think those mountains have grown in the last 25 years), and slept.
And the result? I feel fine, and ready to go again.