Turning It Off

Turning It Off

The balance of self-care, Sabbath, and work is sometimes a tenuous one in my life so I try to set boundaries and guidelines for myself.

They are:

  • never work more than two blocks in a day (morning, afternoon, evening)
  • take two days off every week
  • take all of the vacation time allotted to me

The easiest to follow probably has to do with vacation time.  My family has planned some vacations together and setting aside those weeks to go and be with them has made it easy to take full advantage of the time given.

One of the ways that I try to honor my commitment to take two days off every weeks it to be flexible about which days those are.  With my work as a state-wide coordinator, my schedule varies greatly.  Sometimes those days off are a full Saturday and Sunday.  Sometimes I move them around and take time in the middle of the week instead.

The same goes with the two blocks in a day.  To allow for the chaos of ministry, focusing on those two blocks means I can sleep in after late evening meetings, or take an afternoon off to play disc golf if I know I’m going to be working the rest of the day.  If in a particular day, it is not possible, then I steal a block from another day and make space for two blocks of rest then.  At least, that’s the idea.

Lately, however, I’ve been struggling.

light switchesIt is a blessing and a curse to do work that you love, because while it is incredibly fulfilling, it is also very hard to put down.  I have been fed by and energized by this work and there is always so much to do.  It is never-ending work and while I trust in God’s working even when I take time to rest, I really don’t want to stop!  And I’ve been discovering that there are a few particular things that make this idea of rest even more difficult. It’s hard to turn off your brain.  It’s hard to turn off the phone.  It’s hard to turn off the computer.

Imagine No Malaria has provided an outlet for a lot of creativity in my life.  I’m doing graphics, website design, social media, writing – all sorts of things I love.   And I could tinker with graphics and websites eternally.  I’ll wake up with an idea about how to sell an idea or a plan to present something and those ideas don’t stop when I’m baking or hanging out with friends.  I have scraps of paper littering my desk with ideas and to-dos of things I have thought up at random moments.  More often than not, I’ve been in my office, working hard and forget to stop for lunch or lose track of time and need to be reminded by my husband it’s dinner time.  When you love what you do, it’s hard to turn off the brain and let go of the work.

I’ve also noticed that working from home, the technology I use day in and day out makes it harder to find balance.  When I hop on the computer on a day off to check my personal facebook account, I also find myself glancing at the project page or responding to a question someone posted.  When I left something open on the desktop and come downstairs in the morning (even if I’m taking that morning off), I find my eyes drifting to it and starting to work on it even when I didn’t intend to. My office is also the place where I play video games and listen to music and practice guitar.  It is not some separate place I can close the door on and leave behind.  My car takes me to speaking events and to the grocery store… and glancing in the back seat on a day off I’ll notice that thing that I had forgotten and will go home and pick up the piece of work instead of letting it rest.

And then there is my phone.  I’m typically okay at screening phone calls and letting them go to voice mail on days off… at least when I was in the local church.   But it’s a lot harder to do that when it’s the Bishop who is dialing your number.  It’s hard to ignore the blinking blue light on my phone that indicates a new email.  I’m not getting emergency phone calls in the middle of the night, but that quick text back to someone who asked you a question about a document seems so easy to do when you are in the middle of watching a football game with your husband.

I guess one of the things that is a common thread, one of the reasons it is hard to turn off the work is that it doesn’t feel like work.  It is a joy.  It is fulfilling.  It is making a difference.  But the truth is, I’m not very good at keeping it from impinging on sacred time of rest.

So I’m going to work harder at turning things off… turning off the wi-fi that picks up new emails… turning off the ringer on game day… closing documents… closing the door to the office if I have to.  I think that also means allowing myself to turn off the brain and let a few ideas go instead of pursuing them immediately.

Yesterday, I re-installed a game on my computer and played for two hours.  I ignored the documents.  I let the ideas rest.  It was nice to turn off for a bit.

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