I have just returned from just over 3 weeks leave and by this, I mean a proper absence, no looking at work emails or answering work calls. I have not done this for at least 4 years and it was such an anomaly I chose to call it a retreat. This ended up fitting the reality of this festive season as going into Tier 4 meant I could not make my planned trip to see family and spent Christmas on my own for the first time in my life. I did not feel sad or lonely, to be honest it was a relief to have no expectations, and nothing to do. I was I admit the most exhausted I have ever been in my life. I had nothing left and had been pushing myself to deliver every day. Having had nearly 4 weeks break it feels a ghost of a memory, but I am interested in how I got there and what it took to feel a little better. I do work hard but do not realise I do. It is partly about our competitive busyness, well I was not working at 10 O’clock at night and I wasn’t working weekends, well a bit but not much. There is something about the world of Covid and having no real social interaction, there is nothing quite as exhausting as staring at a Zoom screen. I had made some allowances, I never taught longer than 4 hours at a time and usually ‘only’ three but that is still a long time to ‘entertain’ an audience who is not really there. Interacting with really people is just not as tiring, it is invigorating, life affirming fun, I come away charged, Zoom just does not offer this, I do not think it can. So, in conclusion I think what got me was never being off work, not seeing enough real people and spending too much time on screen, so much so I had a constant migrainous headache.
So, what did I learn from not doing much for 3 1/2 weeks? Firstly, I had to surrender, this was not a defeat, it was an active putting down of my responsibilities and an acknowledgement of my frailty and humanity. I spent a lot of time sleeping and lying about, it took a whole week for work to stop whirring it demands in my head as a constant to do list and to go away. This is the time of year for Wintering for being quiet, inward but we still feel we need to be doing something. Perhaps, doing nothing is something? I tried to eat well, read a little, walked a little, talked to friends but limited myself to the maximum of one call per day, warned people I would finish when my energies flagged and ended with a minute’s silence. I found a connection to nature particularly fulfilling which might be looking out the window or reading about nature when walks felt to much.
So now I am back at work and this is about the first thing I am doing, I have not even finished looking through my emails. It feels revealing writing in this way, surely at the CEO of even a very small company I should be strong and ever available? Perhaps, I might be better and more useful being human and honest? I suppose I write this as an invitation to us all as we return to work to be kind and careful with ourselves. To stop and be slow a few minutes through out the day, to look out the window, to walk outside to gulp a few breathes of cold air. My recommendations for things to read or look has a few suggestions I have found a particular comfort and resource over the last few weeks and which I will continue to enjoy and gain wisdom from.