About a year or so ago I was summoned for jury duty, ended up getting called to hear a case and spent a very unexpected three days at the county courthouse. In the moment it wasn’t too big a deal except that I remember feeling frustrated about the upheaval that was created in my work schedule, among other priorities that were forced to shift. At some point during the experience, perhaps once it had concluded, I realized that this simple and unplanned “break in the action” had become a significant turning point for me. Something about having the surprise opportunity to just sit, think and take stock of things from a new point of view had a profound impact. (And, for those of you who may be concerned that I didn’t live up to my civic duty because I was daydreaming all day, please rest assured that I worked very hard to earn my $5 a day.)
This week I find myself experiencing another break in the action. After a long holiday weekend I succumbed to a persistent and annoying cough (the kind that gives you a headache after a while) and stayed home from work for an unthinkable two straight days. I can’t remember the last time I took a sick day, much less two in a row! At first, it was awkward. I really didn’t feel unwell, like I need to be in bed – the kind of sick we imagine we are supposed to be to stay home (or is that just me?) – it’s just that I spend so much of my work day in one-on-one conversation that I don’t think hacking and wheezing in people’s faces is such a great idea.
So, I’ve had some space. No meetings. A few good phone calls. Lots of email catch-up. Some planning time. And a chance to just be home. I’m telling you, the impact on my mental, much less physical health is profound. I’ve pretty much let go of the guilt of canceled meetings and disrupting other people’s world (I am, as ever, dispensable). And I find myself in this sort of “No, duh!” awareness as in:
You have too many meetings. “No, duh!”
You have no time in your day/week to write, read or think. “No, duh!”
You are stressed/angry/frustrated because you very much want to write, read and think but you’ve created a classic “sucker’s choice” instead of confronting the real issue. “No, duh!”
The real issue? Less is more. Letting go. Saying no. Redirecting. Serving myself, my family and my organization more thoughtfully and more generously by sorting out the important stuff from “the stuff.”
I’m already breathing a little easier. Time to get back to work.