Forced to stop and smell the roses
It was just over a week ago when I got into a little fender bender near Port Aransas, Texas and had to make a detour to my old stomping grounds in Austin.
The last time I took any extended time off over the last 11 months (!) on the road was over the Christmas holiday when I was living/working in Arizona. It admittedly wasn't much of a break (my bad) as I was still in transit, making my way from northern to southern Arizona to start work in Tucson at the beginning of the year.
So, when I found out that I was going to be in Austin for at least 2 weeks while my car was getting fixed in the shop, it meant that in addition to meeting some folks who I've been working indirectly/directly with while I was in Karnes City—I was going to also catch a breather and be able to catch up some.
The main thing I've realized this past week since I've been here in Austin: whewie—I am one tired traveling lawyer. It's been another instance where the necessity of taking consistent and periodic breaks has proven its fierceness.
What happened when I didn't take a break
Work/life balance. Yeah—it's one of those phrases where you mention it and everyone nods their head acknowledging the importance of it. I mean, of course. But it can be tough to actually implement, amirite? American society has a strong norm of working round the clock—but sometimes you just gotta hit the snooze button.
Okay, so a slight confession to make (also in an attempt for public accountability): at the beginning of this year, I had this plan: I was going to take a considerable break every quarter of 2016 so that I could effectively recharge and gear up for the next leg of what was ahead.
So, March 2016 would have been the first opportunity to do that. I wrapped up my time at the Dilley family detention center in mid March—which would have been the perfect time to take a break!
But there was a little voice inside me that said: Hmm. Maybe you should just crush out the detention center focus here in Texas and take off that time in May—it's just a couple more months. It's not that much more time.
Ruh roh. By the time late April/early May rolled around, it felt like I was running on fumes. I woke up every day to go to work but felt this physical exhaustion that was compounded from not taking any time off in March. (Yes, I fully admit that upon coming home in the evenings, I would watch several hours of Hulu/Netflix straight. Doh! But my brain was just fried.)
If I had to analogize it all to a gas tank, and if there was a warning light that came on once the gas tank was running low, it would read: "approaching burnout."
So, I am currently carless in central Austin and am trying to get things done with no wheels (I am luckily staying at my generous friend's place in the central part of town).
But in the middle of taking care of things (such as prepping for the Virtual Law Office opening on July 1st! or focusing on my next stop in the Midwest/Chicago), it's an opportunity to reflect and decompress.
I was having a conversation with my friend the other day about my time in Montana, which at this point was already back in October/November 2015.
I was talking about some of my experiences there, and it occurred to me that new thoughts were emerging about my time there because I had some more space to let it all sink in and reflect upon it. And as I was doing so, I felt the gauge on my gas tank slowly begin to rise.
There was absolutely something to having a moment to pause, debrief, and process that helped to fuel me—something that I want to continue to focus on as I continue my travels into the eastern part of the United States for the remainder of this calendar year.
Yes, the car accident was definitely an unforeseen setback (and could have been much worse, so for that I am lucky & grateful). But I've been trying to forge some meaning out of the whole affair, namely in the whopping reminder of how decompression and breaks are essential to being able to do this type of work in the long-term (and many thanks to you out there who have lovingly and gently reminded me of this as well—this article is also a great read on the topic).
So, I recommit to my quarterly breaks so that I am filling up that gas tank. I own that I need to be feeling well in order to do quality work and be there effectively for my clients.
What do you do to recharge your batteries? How are you creating time and space in our busy work culture? As always, I would love to hear from you!