Welcome back! I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for those of you who have been reading and commenting on my blog. I started this blog as a form of self-reflection and a way of documenting big life changes. I am pleasantly surprised that so many of you have been able to relate to what I have gone through and have found something positive through my words. I will continue to be transparent with you and feel reassured that I am not alone.
As I continue my journey to a more rewarding life, there is one aspect that seems to have made the most difference so far. That being, living in the moment. Throughout most of my 33 years, I have been an over-achieving workaholic and obsessed with planning every single minute of my life. Once I had finished veterinary school and a grueling one year internship, I finally entered the real world at the age of 26. I was working an average of 5 days a week and found myself at a loss with what to do with myself on my days off. Leading up to this point in my life, my previous 9 years had been consumed with studying or working. Most of my personal relationships had fallen by the wayside and forget about hobbies. What are those? So initially, my days off were spent recovering from the exhaustion of work, glued to the TV, and left me wondering… is this IT? So, because I am a woman of extremes, I began planning every minute of my days off so that I felt accomplished. It is insane the amount of tasks I could squeeze in a 24 hour period. Mind you, most of what I planned wasn’t very fun (laundry, dishes, errands, or any number of mundane tasks.) After about 6 years of living out this planned life, I was at a whole new level of exhaustion and still felt empty. I recently read an incredible book called #Chill Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life that summed up my life as a workaholic. In this book, I learned there is a term called karoshi. This is a Japanese-coined term for the 10,000 Japanese workers who drop dead each year from working 60 to 70 hours a week! For real! And here I am with the same work ethic whether I was at work or not! Yeesh! Without making some much needed changes, I would have been well on my way to karoshi.
It wasn’t until an eye-opening conversation with my therapist that I realized what I had done. By planning every single moment of my life with things that I considered important, I had inevitably left zero space for friends, family, and life. Worse yet, I was never “in the moment.” To me, there just wasn’t time for that. Too much to do and not enough hours in the day. My thoughts were always consumed with what needed to be done today, tomorrow, and next week. Without ever being present in the moment, I became incapable of truly experiencing joy and likely missed out on some wonderful life experiences. My therapist quickly picked up on this and reminded me that I needed to be present in my life. Even during the dark times that I didn’t want to face.
Although my work environment was not ideal during these dark times, I strived to be present in the moment. This allowed me to rediscover what I love about veterinary medicine by caring for a sweet senior dog or educating some excited clients that recently adopted a kitten. So much of what I do as a veterinarian is incredible, and I just needed to focus more on why I got into this in the first place. During this time, I had also became fully aware of the unpleasant version of myself that I had turned into. I was all about business and being as productive as possible. I would see coworkers having light conversation and laughing and think “We don’t have time for that! Get to work!” Thankfully, I have come to terms with the fact that by adding some humor and lightheartedness to the workday, it does not take away from productivity. In fact, studies show that it creates balance in the workplace by actually improving productivity and lightening the overall workload.
While navigating this change, I have learned to be patient and speak more kindly to myself also. I have certainly excelled at beating myself up and continue to do so to this day. I assumed this negative voice made me stronger and pushed me farther, but in reality it has kept me from trying things I thought I might fail at or from being brave in general. By being kinder to myself, I notice that I perform better, my muscles relax, and I have less heartburn. Go figure. For me, this has been a difficult skill to master that will take time and daily practice. I did not become this way overnight and I can’t expect to recover from it overnight either. Another distraction that occupies too much of my mind is worry. As women, we are champions at worrying. Constantly worrying. I used to view my tendency to worry as a reflection of my compassionate heart and therefore considered it to be a favorable attribute and not a flaw. I now understand that worrying does not change the outcome of whatever I am concerned about. Instead, it leaves me in a chronic state of stress and misery. My husband has tried his best to always tell me not to worry. Unfortunately, my usual response was “Well somebody has to!” Silly, silly girl. That is not true. Faced with this realization that my worrying and propensity to plan every moment of my life was contributing to my anxiety and depression, I have focused my effort into becoming more of a human being instead of a human doing. Eliminate the worry and just “be.”
If I were to reflect on the happiest times of my life thus far, aside from my wedding day, it would most definitely involve all of the adventure I have encountered while traveling. Although each place has been unique, I have truly fallen in love with Italy and its culture. Italians truly know how to enjoy life and I aspire to live more like them. In my opinion, they have their priorities straight. These people simply work to live. Not live to work. I have always admired that about them. Dinners typically last hours into the night with family and friends gathered around a table and enjoying each other’s company. They take long vacations and even coined my most favorite phrase “Dolce far niente” which translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing.” What a beautiful way to look at life and a reminder to just be. I have had to remind myself that I am not failing at life if I stop and take a break, a short nap, and forget about my to do list. Of course some form of structure is required to keep the train on the tracks, and Samantha (owner of Origami Day) has helped me tremendously with time management. Check her out! Aside from managing my time better and condensing my to do list, I am a much happier person by using most of my days off simply for enjoyment, visiting with friends and family, or resting. Another practice I have found helpful is spending 15 minutes each morning to just be mindful and grateful. I am not always successful with incorporating this into my day, but I have noticed a tremendous improvement on the days that I do. I hope that you all find value in today’s post and attempt to integrate some of these practices into your life as well! Until next time!
“Owmn. Owmn. Everybody sit on the floor Indian-style like me. [as Meredith sits down in front of him] Owmn–my God if you’re wearing a dress please keep your knees together nobody wants to see that–owmn.” – Michael Scott