If there is one thing I struggle most with – it is taking a break.
Some of you will be unavoidably puzzled by that statement, and oh how I envy you and your break-full lives. But there are some of you who must have thought: Yeah, this bun has a point. All of you perfectionists, planners, to-do-listers, completionists, control freaks, workaholics, busy bodies, the list is endless. Because as natural and basic the need to rest is, as diverse are the flavours of people who learnt to be without.
At one point in my life I stopped kidding myself that this is in any way, shape or form fixable. It is not like I am… not functioning. I just function in my own way. My own way may be destructive, but it is my way and… I’ll stop myself right here. Mostly because of the fact I simply do not know if my inability to take a break is actually an inherently bad or good thing.
I have no clue if it is ok to suck at giving myself some rest.
I just know I suck at it.
But whether you are just like me or simply intrigued by how alien the concept of riding oneself to death seems to you, I hope you enjoy this little story of how I managed to screw myself over one. more. bloody. time.
I needed a break
The evidence was all there. As the tale always goes, I took on significantly more than I could chew. You see, I get easily bored. This combined with my absolute lack of patience leads me to always, always do things all at once. I cannot wait for a better moment. I cannot postpone something till I have less on my plate.
That’s not how I roll.
I entered 2018 already pretty ruined by 2017. 2017 was not the best year. In some ways it was the best year of my life, but it just wasn’t great for me as a person. I achieved lots of things that in the long term changed my life for the better, but the process of achieving them was painful, long, stressful and overall very unpleasant. I don’t remember the last time I felt like I was standing strong on my feet. Not this year and definitely not the year before that.
And now I know my soppy story is not that interesting, but it really wasn’t about a specific situation. I have been in situations like this many, many times before. Some of you were too. And somehow we never learn.
So I entered a busy time already being pretty damaged and without even a little breathing break of a few days. My days were disappearing without me even noticing them, and yet somehow I was finding myself thinking about all these other things I could do. How about this project? Or this visit? My brain is addicted to new ideas that we end up abandoning anyway. Perfectionism never leads to closures – you have been warned.
Often I like to think of myself as one of those hand-powered toys for kids. You wind the handle round and round till they are ready to start hopping around. And they do. And do. And do. And do.
Till the power is suddenly out and there is nothing left in them.
The break forced itself onto me
One day I just couldn’t go on.
The sheer amount of stuff I had to push myself for was too much for me to handle. Thinking about it was too much. Suddenly even planning felt like a chore I couldn’t complete.
Things came tumbling down. From my blog and social media to my Spanish classes to my work to my every-bloody-thing, including actually leaving the house on the weekends. That was it. The power was off and I had not a single drop of it left in me to move on.
It was time for a break.
There is one thing people that never experience moments like this (coming from a veteran of being one’s own slave master) should understand is how unhealthy these breaks are. Yeah, I stopped doing things, so technically I was recovering. But I was not recovering at all. I am not recovering at all even now. I felt and still feel broken.
Stretch me beyond my elasticity point and I do not just snap back to my original size. I shatter in half.
It hurts me to write it, even though oversharing also lies in my nature, but I know out there people like me are doing the same thing to themselves. I wish I could send them all some healthy pugs and kisses. I cannot. I would probably try if you dared me, as impossible to organize projects are my favourite projects.
I know I am not alone in my habit of sitting on the floor and crying that I have not done something, even though I could just get up and do it instead. I understand how one can put productivity at the top of one’s priority list and if productivity is not there, nothing matters. I am not alone and we are not alone in this madness. And, at least for me, it is just so important to know that I am not some freak of nature, that these things happen to the best of us, all of that jazz.
The body-inforced break, as I do not really know better words to name it, is not a nice thing. At all. It is tiring, it seems like it will never end and I swear with every repetition it just gets worse and worse. There is just so much guilt and self-loathing attached to it, worse, there is a hefty amount of self-pity, by far the worst emotion in the world.
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
I couldn’t bounce back
The second thing I struggle most with is recovering after a failure.
I operate on a non-failure model. I ignore hiccups and move on through difficulties as if they didn’t exist. I do not allow myself to be flawed. To break. To make mistakes. To fail.
Because once I do fall off my mighty horse, there is no way for me to just hop back into the saddle. Not without long, long months of recovering. It almost feels like I need to teach myself again what it is like to do these things. Everything feels just so… foreign. And stressful. Even the simplest tasks related to the failure overpower me.
And I do not even talk of failure as in ‘not succeeding in something’. I am in a very deep denial about most of my ‘failures’. I do indeed consider, deeply inside me, a break to be my failure.
System failure, you may call it.
That’s how if I miss a week of my bullet journal, there goes a month. If I forget to check my IG for three days, I am too scared to open it again. If I don’t write a blog post, may not have a blog anymore anyway. Skipped class? Please, I am guaranteed to not go to it ever again. Holidays ruin my exercise routine, because if I don’t run for one day, RUNNING WAS NOT FOR ME ANYWAY.
These things pile up infinitely and before I realize, I am facing weeks or even month of backlogs on things I should be doing.
I rinse and repeat
Climbing out of that break hell takes time.
Yet eventually I always climb out. Often to do other things than originally, but I do go back to old tasks and hobbies too – each time with less enthusiasm and love for them, mind you. So far my mind has been easy on me and none of these breaks have pushed me into depression or other similar issue; although they do carry a burden I never quite shake off. They get harder. Longer. More painful.
I never feel quite the same afterwards. And then I go and do the exact same thing.
Don’t root for me. I will climb out of my current hole and in a couple of months I will dig myself a new one. It seems like I am this one annoying hero everyone hates to have in books and shows, you know, the one that pulls the rug from under your feet at the end by reversing their story arc altogether.
My perfectionism always eventually gets the better of me. I need to be perfect. Perfect people do not know what a break means. They go on without, carry on their merry way to save the world and look fabulous on the way.
I know all of the theory of why rest is important and how it can actually improve one’s productivity. I just do not practice that theory. In this sense I am a physicist in a land of engineers. I can solve you some aerodynamic equations but I will not build you a plane (this sentence is weirdly factually correct even on a non-allegorical level). I can explain to you how important taking a break is but I will not really know how important it is to me to take a break, if you get the distinction.
That’s why this post is called Sometimes a break is not a bad thing. It cheekily tries to reprogram my brain – our brain, I am looking at you fellow non-breakers in the back row – like a propaganda mantra. And yet it is soft; it talks of sometimes and not bads, instead of alwayses and goods.
Because I do not know. I really do not know if living without a break is such a bad thing. Even after all this time I do. not. know. it.
Good luck to you.
I wrote this post on the 19th of April and never hit publish. I guess I was not as ready as I thought.
To be perfectly honest, I am not sure it would appear today if not for the odd nudge I got from seeing Paula post again yesterday. So thank you, Paula, if you ever see it.
Inspirations are funny things. You never know what will make you finally click.
Being ready it tough, buns.
Good luck, once again.