Start as you mean to go on

Recently, it’s come to my attention that I’m a workaholic.

Not in a jokey “oh, look at me, so busy and important” way, but in a quite serious, “I can’t stop” way.

It’s one thing for someone to tell you that you are addicted to something, and another to realize that you are. The distinction has made me re-examine everything I ever thought about addiction.

Here’s the thing: I don’t love my job(s). I like what I do. I am good at it. But if I had enough money to never work again, odds are slim that I’d still be doing what I’m doing. There are aspects of my work that I’d do for fun, sure. But there are parts I’d happily walk away from without a backward glance.

Therein lies the root of my confusion, and the reason why I had such a hard time realizing that there is even a problem with my behavior. I smoked for 20 years. I struggled for 10 with caffeine (and anyone who thinks caffeine is not a serious addiction has never awakened after 2 hours of sleep each night for months on end). My understanding of addiction was that you really like to do something harmful, or at the very least your body really likes to do it, and you have to struggle to stop doing that thing. It never dawned on me — and it should have, because addiction runs in my family — that you could be addicted to something for other reasons.

But here I am, terrified to turn down work, to drop a job. Thanksgiving week I worked more hours than the weeks preceding or following, and that’s with taking two days off. Partly because I’m afraid of not having a backup job. Partly because I want to achieve a certain degree of financial freedom. But mostly because I don’t have a sense of self-worth outside of my job. My value in my own eyes is and has always been equivalent to what I can accomplish and produce, and the destructive behaviors that go along with this belief go back to my college days.

Recently, someone in an editing group I’m in posted this image:

I’ve gotten better about the first one because of my kids; modeling for them that it is more important to know where to find an answer than to know all the answers taught me the same. But the other four are constant battles. And it all comes down to me not having anything in myself that I value outside what I am able to accomplish.

So many of my current issues stem back to this one problem. My inability to take care of myself for the sake of taking care of myself is chief among them.

Tomorrow I return to work after two solid weeks off. I had big plans for how to spend this break — baking, watching movies with the kids, doing all the arts and crafts projects I was too busy to do with them while I worked, reorganizing the pantry and the playroom, meditating/exercising daily, crocheting covers for the couch pillows, helping the kids clean their rooms, creating a menu plan for January, putting together a list of celebrations and fun activities for the kids, reading books to them and to myself, cleaning up my office, setting up a homeschooling curriculum for the coming semester, planning this year’s garden, washing the walls.

See what I mean? I don’t even know how to take a vacation.

My body does, though. I utterly crashed. I did some of the things on that list, sure — I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. But I spent most of my vacation sitting on the couch, barely able to pry myself up to get a cup of tea. My sleep schedule went off the rails; I’ve been staying up later and rising later every day. I subsisted on cookies and party mix for the first week. Each day I arose with the intention of knocking things off my to-do list, and each night I went to bed exhausted though I accomplished little.

I don’t resent this crash. I did watch a lot of movies with the kids, and logged lots of snuggle time. I also did a lot of thinking. I see now the vicious cycle I’ve been putting myself in starts with me not taking care of myself. When I don’t take care of myself, I am more apt to fall into an anxiety spiral, and that anxiety is what lies at the heart of my work obsession.

So today, I’m starting as I mean to go on. I am up early, though I stayed up too late (again), in hopes of resetting my sleep schedule. I’m taking some time at the beginning of the day to blog, to meditate, to stretch. I’m not looking at email, social media, or games in this space; this is a time for me. It is my intention to start every day this year in peaceful, quiet reflection.

Instead of my usual lofty list of goals and resolutions, I’ve put together a list of intentions for the coming year, which all fall under the umbrella of taking better care of me. Not so I can do more work, or so I can be a better wife/mother/daughter/friend, but because I deserve it.

It feels incredibly weird to type that. Which is the point.

2 thoughts on “Start as you mean to go on

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