After week-two of being back at home, I knew that what I felt wasn’t jet-lag. I couldn’t clear my head; I felt drowsy and dreamy; I thought I might be catching what a lot of people on the flight back from Montreal seemed to be passing around. (Is there anything more unnerving for the weary Traveler than a plane chock- full of hacking, sneezing people? Almost – but not quite — up there with the ‘Mechanical Trouble’ announcement.)
As soon as I arrived home, I lined-up my natural remedies, hoping to boost my travel-stressed system against whatever was trying to get me. It seemed like I was losing the battle when, three days after landing, I botched my portion of a group presentation. At least, that was my ‘read’ on it – I didn’t press my groupmates for their input; didn’t really need to, sadly. But as I walked away from that particular humbling experience, it was only a minute that I felt bad. (Humiliating myself is one thing, but I hate to reflect poorly on my group.) Before long, I was feeling ‘Whatever !’, in mind, body and soul.
And then the ‘dominoes’ began to fall in my head: I didn’t care at all about the topic that I’d presented on. My heart wasn’t in it. What’s more, I was annoyed with the way my colleagues had been fussing with one another about work responsibilities. (Really?) I realized that people and situations in my immediate surroundings were making me feel like, “Enough, already!” Lastly, even my urge to write seemed to have waned. What the…? That never happens.
And it came to me: What if I stopped trying so hard at everything I do? Having recently completed my doctoral program (a major accomplishment on my cosmic To Do list), I never missed a beat before I was on-to-the-next-thing. Where was my Off, or even Pause button? Do I even have one of those? Where did all of this ‘drive’ come from?
Not long ago I was doing my four-mile racewalk and came across a guy riding one of those funny little collapse-able bicycles (they’ve always appealed to me, so small and so low to the ground – packable?). We chatted for a bit (he was quick to tell me he was the proud papa of a local, somewhat famous chanteuse in my city). He asked me about myself and I told him about my doctoral work. “Oh,” he said, “You’re one of those super-ambitious women.” Say what? Rather than get into the whys and wherefores of how ambition becomes a different kind of trait when a woman possesses it, I proudly said, “Yeah, I am.” Did that kill the guy’s interest in further conversation? I don’t know, and didn’t care that he suddenly pedaled-off.
Despite the odd (sexist and judge-y) way he framed it, bicycle man was correct. I do have more than my fair share, it seems, of ambition. But after my recent international trip (celebrating the official conclusion of my doctoral work), my body, mind and soul said Hey. It began with a foggy brain and less than stellar professional moment. Then came the acceptance that it’s probably ‘ok’ to down-shift for a minute. I eased-into what I’ve been calling The Big Relax. Staying up late, sleeping in; ignoring The News of the day, phone calls and texts. Most importantly, ignoring my need (compulsion?) to produce: the evidence that I’m not just taking up space on the planet but actually making each moment count for something.
The Big Relax is already over, but my takeaway is that I can slow down, without stopping. The sky doesn’t fall if I’m not productive. Bingeing on Netflix and Talenti has mental health benefits that, for some reason, I’ve truly overlooked.