It has been pure calendar drudgery around Camp Rathroy these days. Late meetings, social engagements, softball games and the like have crushed any illusions we had of free time lately.
I’m a program/event coordinator by day, so it’s only natural that my compulsive scheduling and planning bleeds over into my personal life (and into the personal life of my laid back almost husband). We have synced calendars, we e-mail each other appointment requests, we review our evening itinerary before heading to work each morning. It’s a well-oiled routine – for a business. For a young couple starring down the barrel of the marriage gun, it’s probably the least romantic, least enjoyable way to go about spending time together.
As I stared at my growing task list on my desk this morning, the “to dos” started to paralyze me. I didn’t want to call that person. I didn’t want to create that spreadsheet. I had so many things to do in so many different directions that I found myself unable to do any of them. After checking Facebook for the 7th time in 3 minutes, I finally stood my ass up and walked into our small meeting room – no windows, a door that closes, and comfortable chairs (a welcome respite from the cubicle world). I sat down, set a 5 minute timer, closed my eyes, and meditated. I’m not talking about the chanting, nirvana seeking kind of meditation. Just 5 minutes of breathing, feeling, and listening to myself rather than the crazy calendar that I had been staring at all morning. It wasn’t the most relaxing meditation with heels click clacking down the hallway, impromptu water cooler meetings next door, and the constant knowledge that I had unopened e-mails, but it was a break from the source of my mental paralysis, and it snapped me right out of my funk.
I got back to my desk and realized that I had allowed my calendar drudgery to not only overtake my professional morale, but to make our wedding planning far more stressful than it needed to be. We don’t have a marriage license, we don’t have any décor planned, we haven’t even started on our vows. And even though those are things that I’ve been really excited to do, by the time we get an unscheduled minute to sit down together, neither of us want to do them.
For far too long I’ve been focusing on just getting through everything we have scheduled for that day and I’ve forgotten to notice why we’re doing them in the first place. I scribbled my “To Do” lists all over the big picture until I couldn’t even see what the picture was anymore.
Immediately, I composed a text to Mr. Rathroy (because a text is the most romantic gesture I could drum up while we were both at work). I had to let him know that I was no longer taking him or our life for granted. That I cherished everything. And that those things were more important than any frantic list of tasks that I could ever create.
As I allowed the daily details to fall from my line of sight, I realized that I had an amazing view: family, an almost-husband, a home, a piglet disguised as a pit bull, a super fun wedding, amazing friends, two jobs.. And those are just the big things that make up my life’s landscape. That 5 minute self imposed timeout spiraled into an entirely new perspective on my day. And while I know the task lists and calendar requests will continue (short of moving back to Malawi, I don’t know what could stop them), I feel so much more equipped to deal with them proportionately. Breaking down a goal into accomplishable tasks is a very effective way to achieve things, but if you lose sight of the original goal, you risk losing your direction, your purpose, your view of the landscape.
All too often we view breaks from work or other stressful situations as weakness. If you can power through and pile on the stress, then you’re a big, bad productivity machine. But we almost never ask why. Is being a productivity machine better than taking in the view from where you are in that moment? If it is, then congratulations, you are right where you need to me. If not, then what could it hurt to experiment with your own timeout and see what pops up?
Today, my timeout helped me remember to cherish Mr. Rathroy. Tomorrow, maybe it will help me write my vows, or find my true calling in life, or just keep me afloat in a sea of tasks. Allowing myself to step away from the calendar drudgery for a moment helped my focus, my clarity, and my gratitude. I can’t think of too many unopened e-mails that could trump those results.