The Illusion of Time Away

Sometimes I feel that if I could just get a vacation – some time away from my normal routine and responsibilities (my fantasy get-away alternates from me just being at home, to me being in some cabin somewhere) – but if I could just get that break from things, then I could do a sort of personal “reset.”

For an away retreat, the reset would be for me – mentally / emotionally /physically. For a home (or uninterrupted at work) reset, it I would focus on my environment. But with either one, I feel could get myself in a better place to handle, well, life, when I returned to the reality day-to-day.

But that isn’t the point of life, is it?

It should be the finding enjoyment and rewards in the day-to-day, not in holding that satisfaction away from myself- only to be achieved at some impossible time, because I know if I had that time, that retreat, I wouldn’t leave it much different than I entered it.

And life would still go on the way it has.

The key is small changes – implemented on the day-to-day, not on the mythical “when I have time.”

And intellectually I know this. But I still dream of that perfect, life-altering week away from it all.

Habits as a Safety Net

For as long as I can remember, I have been on the path to establish good habits in my life. The habits on my list have shifted over time, but among ones I have tried to establish are:

  • floss daily
  • go to bed and rise the same time each day
  • write something every day
  • complete “Morning Pages” everyday before work
  • drink a cup of tea in the morning
  • drink a cup of green tea in the afternoon
  • pack my bag, my lunch, and pick out clothes for work the night before
  • cook dinner at home at least 3 times a week
  • dedicate one evening a week to hanging out with friends
  • reach out to distant friends once a week
  • walk on my breaks at work
  • go to the gym 3 times a week
  • set 3 goals at the beginning of the work day that take priority

And so on, and so on.

I have always looked at these goals, these habits I was trying to establish, as a way to improve my life. Yes, I took some of them straight of of magazine articles. And Yes, I realize that simply having a routine, that establishing good habits, does not automatically mean that my life will be better.

I understand that there is no perfect combination of actions that will unlock happiness for a given day. Yet still, I wanted to set myself up for success as much as possible, and these habits seemed the way to go.

The Points System is simply a new iteration of this same idea. A way to reward myself for achieving something I hope to establish as a habit.

It was the routine, those habits, that got me to work today. Wake up after 3 snoozes. Take my medications. Sit and watch the day’s weather. Stretch. Set the kettle on. While the kettle warms, medicate and feed the cats. Make tea, and put it in a travel mug. It’s Monday, so take out the trash and recycling. Grab my bag (which is sitting in the newly designated spot by the door), and go to work.

I did not want to go to work today. I wanted to curl up in bed. I wanted to sit on the couch, with a cat in my lap, and just sit, feeling the warmth on my legs, and revel in the purring. I wanted to drop everything and cry.

I didn’t. I followed my routine, my habits. And by mid-morning, things weren’t so bad. My anti-depressant had kicked in, and while I’m still not terribly motivated to do work, it is easier. And the routines and habits I’ve put in place at work are also catching me from just staring at the screen, feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

I was diagnosed with depression earlier this year. Before this, I attributed my lack of motivation and my moods to stress. To my own inability to handle life. It wasn’t until I talked with friends and family who were also being treated for depression that I realized that I may not be failing at life – that something may be chemically wrong in my brain.

With their support, and the support I felt from other public figures I respect talking openly and honestly with their own experiences with depression*, that I talked to my doctor. I am still in the phase where we are trying to get the medication right. Some days are harder than others, but I find that the habits and routine that I’ve been trying to build over the years are really a safety net of sorts.

For the days when I don’t feel like doing anything, if I can do the habits I’ve set, I will have accomplished something. It will be the minimum, sure, but I will have accomplished something. And looking back at myself over the years, over all my attempts to set these good habits, I wonder how long I have been in the grips of depression, and have been fighting it in the only way I could see, without knowing what I was fighting.


 

*Mur Lafferty talks honestly about depression on her blog and in her podcast; Howard Taylor does likewise on his Facebook page (like February of this year), and his wife, Sandra Taylor did a wonderful post on being married to someone with depression.