Monday, April 12, 2010

Mental Health Day

Today I took a day off, with no particular reason: no vacation, no trip, no sick kid. I took a day off because I needed one. The past month has been somewhat intense, from my 4-days-in-MN without Dave to my illness that stretched on for 3, almost 4 weeks, to starting a class to a visit from Barb and Pete to writing 8 grants and surviving the AWP conference this weekend. I was at wits end. Like this: reading Heather Armstrong's account, over at, of sitting front row at a White House initiative on workplace flexibility and the subsequent gushing about the awesomeness that is Michelle Obama left me in tears. Like this: I fell asleep close to 9pm the last two nights in a row, once while reading on the couch and once in bed with the lights on, because I was just too tired to get out of bed and turn them off.

Today I began to put some pieces of my life back together (paperwork!) But I also managed to mostly focus on myself most of the day. I went to yoga. I shaved my legs. I got a pedicure and had my eyebrows waxed. I took the floppy discs full of college papers to the data doctors for retrieval some dozen years later (unfortunately, this doctor only treats PCs). And because I didn't really know where to do these things, I realized something: this is the first time since we moved to Boulder that I have taken some of the most basic actions in service of myself. Now, I know that paying someone to cut your toenails and tidy your eyebrows are luxuries, that plenty of people take care of these things for themselves. But as the day went on, I realized the larger theme that was in play: Today was the first day since coming to Boulder 8 months ago that I had a whole day without any specific responsibilities. No work, no kids. And working backwards through the months before our move, I have to go back to Mother's Day, to MAY, to remember a time that I took a day for myself. That is almost a year. This may be obvious, but I'm going to say it anyway: that is far too long.

Now, again, I know that many mothers never get a day to themselves, ever, and I have no idea on earth how they do it. I am one who needs a day once in a while. Once a year, apparently. All of this has made me appreciate, more than ever, the 4-day work week I had at my last job. Now, it wasn't perfect: I often felt like I was making up for it in the evenings and weekends, and I often ended up heading to the office Fridays anyway. But I had the option. Because our daycare was flexible, I had all kinds of choice: to go to the office or stay home. To have the kids with me, or not. And having the space even just to run errand by myself was an incredible gift.

Tonight, I am inexplicably exhausted from my quiet day. It is partly residual, I know. But I think it is also a part of the danger of taking a break: you lose momentum. All of a sudden, you realize how much you are doing, and how hard it is. You notice the weight of the routine because you have stepped outside of it.

But sitting here on the living room sofa, my beautiful girls tucked into bed, my husband on the phone with his parents, my feet up on the coffee table, I can admire my toenails, painted "monsooner or later", and feel thankful that I finally got this break, rather than resentful that it didn't happen sooner, or more often.

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