Tuesday 21 February 2012

"Rainy Vancouver Days and Simplicity"

"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

I am on vacation. That's right - two whole weeks to myself in which I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.  Sheer bliss. I can book a spur of the moment trip to London. I can hop in my car and drive across Canada. I can redecorate my apartment, complete with freshly painted walls in bright, new colours. Oh, the possibilities!

So how am I actually spending it? Well, the first three days have been celebrated with doses of extra-strength Tylenol cold medication, naps, comfy jammies, and extended bouts of coughing. Glamorous and exciting, non?

I am not surprised that I am sick. The last month or so has been very busy for me - I transitioned into a new job and in the process trained my replacement. I have attended two career fairs for work and given a presentation to a community partner. In addition to this, I celebrated a milestone - it's been six months since I returned to work from my short term disability leave and put the worst of my depression behind me. In short, I'm worn out!

Returning to work after a leave of absence of any kind, I am sure, is difficult. I have heard from friends and colleagues who have returned after a year of maternity leave that it's hard to come back to all the changes and the work that has gone ahead without you. In my case it was a balancing act. I was hyper-aware that I needed to move slowly and deliberately and not jump into things too quickly. The wounds of depression were still healing and although I wanted to be 100% well, I still had a way to go.

As I started to near the end of my graduated return to work schedule I began to feel the need to prove myself. Although I am not ashamed of my illness, I am aware that sometimes even the most enlightened people will make judgements and can place limitations on you within their mind. So I wanted to prove that I was capable, and happy, and strong. Some days I was happy & strong.  Some days I hid the fact that I wasn't so happy. And then some days I was just honest. Honesty sometimes comes in the form of tears.

When I woke up this past Saturday morning feeling the full force of my cold, I was annoyed. Then, later that day after I had napped, I felt kind of bored. And then it struck me. Not even a full day had gone by and I was already bored?! Yikes! Had I already forgotten how to relax and enjoy the moment? Granted, I was not exactly in any condition to start that cross-Canada road trip or begin my new "six weeks to a bikini bod" workout (yeah, that was never on my to-do list) but I could at least enjoy the luxury of not having to be anywhere. The only thing that I had to do was relax - no deadlines and no commitments to worry about.

One of the key elements to which I attribute my recovery from depression was stripping life back to the simplest, most important things. No multi-tasking allowed - I focused on one thing at a time and tried to stay in the moment. If I was reading a book, then that's all that I was doing. No TV on in the background or conversations going on around me. If I was sitting in my parents' backyard then I would close my eyes and feel the sun on my face and listen to the birds. Sounds easy but it was hard at times. Hard to quiet my mind and stop thoughts, negative thoughts, from racing ahead of me. But as Deepak Chopra has said, meditation is not necessarily about removing all thoughts from your head, it's about being mindful. And in a way, in my own way, I was meditating.

In additition to the realization that my current pace has got to stop, my recent "a-ha moment" also got me thinking about why I still think I need to prove myself. This has been a weakness for me over the years and something that I struggled with during my last depressive episode. Yes, people will think what they want. And I have nothing left to prove to anyone. I am proud that I made it to six months and I am going to carry that as a badge of honour. But I am also going to focus on the future and continuing along the path of well-being.

For awhile now I have been tearing articles out of magazines that contain tidbits that might help me along my path.  One seems particulary fitting for my current state of mind. It's about people who flourish in life and people who don't. In this article from the January 2012 issue of Allure magazine, people who flourish are defined as people who feel good, contribute, and excel and they are all distinguished by a key trait: they get a bigger boost than other people from ordinary pleasures.

So it's back to simplicity for me. Appreciating the little things in life such as the luxury of being able to stay in bed all day with a cold. Sounds silly but I am pretty grateful that I didn't have to drag myself into work on Monday morning. And instead of jetting over to London, I am going to spend the rest of my vacation embracing the simple pleasures. Sorry, Will & Kate - family night with my bestie and surrogate family, enjoying homemade tacos and the second episode of Survivor is more important. I am also going to hop in my car with my dear friend, Jen, and we are going to head South for a day of retail therapy, silliness, and laughter. And I am going to spend a couple of days with "My Two Moms" and revel in the love.

And in between all of this I am going to savour cups of coffee, go for rainy Vancouver walks (and appreciate the year-long green that the rain brings), and I am going to embrace the luxury of simplicity.

KB xo

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