What I Learned This Week

My last post was about finding balance in my life, specifically around health issues.  I spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend reading with my fur friends and did not work on a single project–no quilting, no weaving, nothing.  And I discovered that this week went much more smoothly.  I started the week well on Tuesday.  (I should note that my work week is only three days long.)  Wednesday was long and I started to flag in energy.  Thursday was a busy juggling act in the morning and I was definitely fading, but it worked out well because my afternoon students cancelled, so I was done early.

What I have learned is that first, I really believe that I don’t do a lot.  After all, I only work a couple hours here and a couple hours there.  But my therapist has helped me see the reality of my life.  First, I am always doing something.  I get home from Student Link and then snatch an hour or two of quilting time before I tutor the students who come to my home.  I don’t move anywhere nearly as fast as I used to, but I keep moving, keep doing, never resting until evening.

Then, on the weekends, I have time to myself, which as an introvert, I truly need.  But again, I am doing, sometimes as much as eight hours of quilting in a day.  I don’t stop until 5 or 6PM.  And I do that every day.  

I have always filled my waking hours with activities, for a variety of reasons from avoiding facing the fact that I was not being true to myself (much of my life) or because I felt lonely.  I could keep a bunch of demons away by just staying busy and distracted.  And I was accomplishing some really worthwhile things at the same time.  But it was only avoiding dealing with the real issues.

There are way too many folks who have to work seven days a week to put food on the table and that is just so wrong on so many levels.  There are more people who keep busy as I did as a way to run away from themselves.  But the truth is that we all need a balance in life between activities, be they work, chores, projects, whatever, and rest or down time.  Anything else is not healthy.

Each of us has many relationships of various kinds but the one that is the most important is our relationship with ourselves.  Other relationships will come and go, but as long as you are alive, you will always have yourself.  Furthermore, a healthy relationship with yourself is necessary for the health and well-being of all your other relationships.  I am just starting to learn this.  Self-care has to be the number one priority if we are going to live a full and happy life.

So, with this in mind, and having experienced the benefits in having some quality down time last weekend, I’ve tried to re-sort my life.  Again, my therapist pointed out that my job at Student Link and the extra tutoring I do is a high stress job.  Working with adolescents is always stressful, but working with high risk students is even more so.  And at Student Link we are working without any proper support from the school district, not because anyone is mean or doesn’t want to help, but simply because there is no money for the support.  As so often happens, governments mandate all sorts of rules and requirements, but then they don’t fund the programs to allow for those requirements to be met, and then they come in and audit with much yelling when the programs are unable to meet their requirements.

The clearest example in my life of this is the Student Link library.  As I’ve mentioned before, I donate heavily to Student Link to provide the books the students need.  I catalogue them and get them on the shelves and into the students’ hands.  But I don’t have time to enter them into a very outdated and badly conceived database.  My supervisor and I have discussed this and we have set up priorities which I personally think are valid.  Students will come first.  But I know that next spring or the one after, someone from Olympia will start yelling that our library database isn’t properly done.  Well, I think it would take at least one if not two fulltime professionals to sort out the hodgepodge that we have now.  I certainly can’t do it.  And I am a volunteer as well, which means the district has no funding to provide for either the books or the proper recording of them.  I have at least provided the books and if the state wants more, well, they’ll have to figure out how to make that happen.  Both my supervisor and I are fine with our decision, but this is just one example of the lack of support for our efforts.  This naturally raises stress levels.

I keep saying that I “only” work two hours/day three days/week, but my therapist pointed out that that simply isn’t true either.  I care deeply for these students and I hold them in my heart in and out of Student Link. I worry about them, plan for them, think about them. I often end up taking papers home to mark because I spent my two hours helping students.  I offer extra tutoring to both Student Link students and Vashon High students in my home.  I field the occasional e-mail or phone call.  And even if the students don’t e-mail or call, I am “at the ready,” so to speak.

And I love this job.  I find it rewarding beyond all expectations.  Seeing these students overcoming adversity and fighting for their dreams is incredibly heart-warming.  But it is also draining, and if I compound that by “sneaking in” quilting moments in between students, and so on, I run myself ragged.
I am nearly sixty-seven years old and I have some health issues as well.  So I need to work on better self-care, and I am far from the only person in this world needing this, but I can only work on myself.

I have decided that weekends are for recharging my batteries, not running them down further.  Taking time to snuggle with my pets and just relax with a good book works well for me.  Quilting is physically exhausting.  Weaving and writing are less so.  I started playing the piano last weekend and that was relaxing and not taxing.

There will be time for everything, but in smaller doses and with more attention being paid to me, my body, my mind, my psyche.  I have confronted many of my demons and I don’t need to be frantically busy to avoid them.  I don’t need to feel that who I am depends on what I do.  And if I take care of me and learn to value my relationship with myself, then everything else will fall into place.

I hope that everyone can find time for themselves, can practice good self-care.  If we all do this, our world will be a much better place for everyone.  Have a lovely day!

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