I promised myself at least three weeks of total separation from work. I did pretty well. And it felt different. At first, quite honestly, it caused some anxiety. I was sure there was a deadline looming that I had missed, or a Zoom presentation occurring without me, or a coaching session that I had forgotten. I looked at my phone, a lot, and felt a little empty without constant emails and calls. Maybe, I thought, working constantly is my happy place.
I was wrong.
My daughter flew in from L.A., my son joined us, and my life suddenly felt like a wonderful rerun. I was allowed to revisit a time in my life when the kids were with me every day, and there were people to wake up and beds to make and groceries to be bought. There were conversations, and friendly mocking, and a lot of focus on the dog. We ate like kings – my daughter was the chef, so breakfast was my only responsibility. But I spent more time at Kroger in three weeks than I had in a year.
We played Uno, and trivia, and watched our favorite shows. We laughed and bought presents and put up decorations and wrapped ourselves in a cocoon filled with heart and comfort and love. Then the holidays ended, presents got shipped, my son went back to work, and my daughter returned to her life in L.A. And I realized that my busy-ness had just shifted from work to family. Maybe, I thought, I have a need to be busy all the time.
And I was kind of right.
The loss of my mom in October had yet to be processed; the realization that my husband could no longer drive hit home; the responsibility of generating income slammed into my consciousness. Reality is sometimes like that unwanted person who walks into a conversation and kills the laughter. So, before reality kills the buzz, I would like to share my key lessons learned during this time off:
- Be busy with the things that bring you joy, that challenge you, that let you be YOU.
- You aren’t your job, but you are your works. How you do your job is what matters.
- Plan your life as if you are on a special mission – ordained by whatever God you believe in – because you are.
- Work is important, but it is interested in itself and will exist without you.
- Comfort zones are the best, but they are meant to be temporary respites for rejuvenation.
- Emotions are the language of the heart and fuel the soul.
- You are your best thing.
During my time away from work I realized that I avoid emotion if at all possible. For example, I completely broke down watching a rerun of Grey’s Anatomy. I have avoided crying over my mother, or allowing myself to feel her absence. Then Meredith Grey cried over her mom and I joined her. I realized that I avoid the heart’s message by staying busy, acting tough, and talking constantly. Right before mom died I made her laugh once when I said, “Mom, do you just want me to be quiet?” Her eyes cleared and she looked at me and I could hear her say, “I’ve wanted that your entire life, Donna.”
During mom’s last week, which I didn’t know was her last week, I spent too much time on a work project. I completed that project, and I don’t miss it. But I miss my mom. I’ve used work as a way to separate myself from people, I think, and that is going to stop. But I do love to work, and that isn’t going to change.
My focus will move to young women who want to find their passion, a new career, make a great presentation or get a promotion. I’m good at that, and I know how to help them. My people side of change focus will continue with a new path and focus on intuition. It’s how I’ve lived my whole life, and it’s time to share it.
For you, my readers, time away from work taught me that no matter what life throws our way, if we stay focused on finding our talents and using them to help others, our lives will have meaning. I’m not sure COVID has robbed our quality of life as much as has our greed and focus on consumption without meaning.
We, as companies and families and individuals, have lost our way. We are riddled with anxiety. We need hope, and hope begets purpose, and purpose begets peace.
I want to live my truth, and I want you to live your truth. You don’t have to go hug trees and eat berries, but you deserve to find yourself. Because once you find that, your path will become clear, and the energy of your journey will branch out to other humans and create a root system that will nourish everyone and everything around you.