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Posts Tagged ‘rest’

On margin

daffodils dachshund table

Recently, my husband and I took a weeklong road trip to Canada, to celebrate the end of a long, full spring season (at work and at home) and so I could take a break between jobs. We had a glorious time, and I promise I’ll tell you more about it soon. But I’ve been thinking about how I also loved having a few quiet days at home after we came back. My husband headed straight back to work on Monday morning, but I had a couple of days to sleep in, catch up on laundry and putter around the house. I had some margin.

I started my new job at the Harvard Kennedy School last week, and I am thrilled to be back among colleagues I already know, at a place I already love. I’m easing in, with a couple of days at work, a long weekend for the 4th of July, and a short workweek this week. And I am so happy about it – not just because it’s summer and things are therefore a little slower, but because it gives me some margin. Some room. Some breathing space.

I’m a classic type-A overachiever, and I live and work in a culture that prizes hustle. When the occasion calls for it, I can hit the ground running and keep up a hectic pace, for days or weeks on end. That’s what I did during my temp gig at the central Harvard Public Affairs office this spring. Commencement season around there is a maelstrom, and I was right in the thick of it.

But that’s not how I like to operate. When I can get it, I prefer a little margin.

This spring, I jumped straight from one temp gig to another with only a weekend in between. After our lovely weekend on Martha’s Vineyard, it was full speed ahead at work for the entire month of May, while still trying to figure out my next step. And although early June was quieter, it involved a lot of tying up loose ends and handing over tasks and projects to my replacement, before I took my vacation. I haven’t had a lot of margin lately.

I’ve been doing my best to snatch breathing room where I can get it: solo lunch breaks with a sandwich and a book, a quiet evening at home with dishes and a podcast or another book (or three), and in rare cases, half an hour scribbling in my journal after my husband goes to bed. But I’m looking forward to a little more margin in my life this summer. There’s still a lot of change and adjustment ahead on the horizon, but I am hoping for more space – physical and mental – during these long, sunlit days.

Do you find that margin is necessary in your life? How do you make sure you get it?

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Enough is plenty

Our bodies are designed to tell us when we’ve had enough of something. And in a sane world we listen to the message and we stop. But we live in a world in which extremes are good and saying you’ve had enough is just pathetic. So the more our bodies send us warnings the more we find ways to reject them. […] We do it because we’ve bought into the idea that we’re morally required to ‘challenge’ ourselves. So we give ourselves lectures about how we ought to be, instead of listening in silence to see how we are.

When I first came to Corca Dhuibhne I heard a proverb that means ‘enough is plenty.’ […] If I thought about its meaning at all, I assumed it applied to food and drink. Now I think it applies to all the appetites, including our appetite for work and for personal challenge. Too much or too little of anything means lack of balance. The Celts believed that the health of each individual affects the health of the universe. I don’t know if that’s true. But I do know that the essence of health is balance. And I think the route to finding it is awareness in stillness.

—Felicity Hayes-McCoy, The House on an Irish Hillside

pei view prince edward island fields

I read this charming memoir just before leaving on vacation, where my husband and I spent several days wandering green fields and red sandy beaches, drinking in the views of the blue Gulf of St. Lawrence and patches of pink and purple lupines along the roadsides. The author is writing about western Ireland, and her words did remind me irresistibly of my own visit to the Aran Islands, long ago. But we found the same sort of deep stillness and rest on Prince Edward Island. (The photo above is the view from our doorstep there.)

As I reenter the world of commutes and email, errands and obligations, I’m keeping these words about balance in the forefront of my mind. (And picking up ingredients for a few salads, to balance out all the seafood, ice cream and pie we ate this week.) More PEI photos and stories soon.

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When it’s all too much

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My mom used to tell me, over and over again: “You can’t do everything.”

I am only now starting to believe her.

I was a super-involved child and teenager, by my own choice. Piano lessons. Spelling bees. Marching band. A student diplomatic organization. Lots of church activities, in addition to classes and homework. I treasured my solitude even then, holed up with a book or my journal, but I treasure community too, and I never want to be left out. I struggle with saying no to anything that sounds appealing, even if I know I don’t have the time or energy for it.

Since moving to New England, I’ve learned how the daily grind can wear you down, even if you work in a beautiful place, even if you love your work and your colleagues. Sometimes weekends are for travel and exploring and brand-new adventures, but just as often, they are for puttering and sipping tea, for quiet afternoons and lots of rest.

Most of the time, I don’t mind taking a quiet weekend. But it’s harder when you’ve made plans and have to cancel them, when you’ve invested time and money and you have to cut those losses because you know it would be better to stay home and rest.

We had hoped to spend the upcoming long weekend in New York – a city I love, which endlessly fascinates me. We’d bought bus tickets and booked a cute little studio apartment in Brooklyn, even made plans for brunch with a friend. But about a week ago, we looked at each other and said: Let’s stay home.

This is my husband’s last week at the job he’s worked for three years, and while he is excited to be moving on to a new organization, he is saying lots of good-byes, and those are tiring. I am smack in the middle of a busy season at work: three or four events jammed up against one another, all in the space of two weeks. Add to that a work conference in Rhode Island (for me) and the death of a relative in Texas (for my husband), not to mention all the small daily details, and perhaps you will understand: we are tired.

It felt strangely adult to cancel our plans, the life equivalent of reaching for a healthy salad even though you’d rather order a steaming plate of salty, delicious, not-so-healthy fish and chips. We lost a bit of money, but the deciding factor was taking a clear-eyed look at our lives as they are right now, and choosing what we need over what we want.

This is a small issue, I know, in the grand scheme of things. There will be other New York weekends, other chances to explore and sightsee, other adventures. We did not give up anything permanent, and this was in no way a life-or-death decision.

Still, it feels important, and grown-up: realizing we can’t do everything, and choosing not to try. Rather, we are choosing to rest and renew, so we can come back to our everyday lives with energy, grace and even joy.

Do you struggle with saying no, or with choosing to rest?

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#AugustBreak 2013

I need a break, friends. Between recent travel, lots of houseguests and some big changes at work (one of my closest colleagues is moving to a different department), I’m feeling a bit depleted. While I love summer and all the pleasures it brings (I often wish for half this level of activity and fun in the wintertime), several weeks of high-octane summer fun can leave me worn out and wordless.

Luckily, Susannah Conway is hosting her August Break again this year – a chance to step back from the words and share a few photos, capturing summer’s essence while relaxing a bit. This year, she’s added some (optional) photo prompts, below:

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I doubt I’ll be organized enough to take or post a photo every day, but the beauty of a break is that there are no rules. I may also pop in to share what I’ve been reading, or another occasional post, but for the most part, I’ll be stepping back to savor August and recharge.

Just for fun, here’s the first photo (breakfast):

breakfast tea cereal blueberries

See you around (sporadically) this month. I’ll be back to regularly scheduled posting in September.

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That’s what I’m doing the rest of this week. You can find me baking, cooking, eating, playing board games, celebrating Nate’s birthday, attending our church’s Turkeypalooza (also known as our Thanksgiving Extravaganza), calling far-away loved ones, taking two of my girlfriends around Boston, knitting, hanging out with my husband, watching holiday episodes of Friends, and being thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, my loves. You are definitely on my gratitude list.

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