Everything around me continued. I could hear the sounds of the traffic, voices from passers-by, phones ringing and pinging as calls and messages came in and the sun casting its finger of yellow warmth and brightness across my room moving inexorably as the hours passed towards night time. The only thing that was not moving or making a sound was me.
I had just come off a 6 week continuous stint of working 80 hour weeks with no weekend breaks or social activity at all. Though it had been a hard graft I had, for the most part, enjoyed it. Like buses, work had come in all at the same time. It was a veritable flood of enquiries, events, meetings and creative production.
Wanting to follow up and investigate every opportunity that was arising had meant I just had to go for it and push myself beyond what I know are my physical capabilities. The occasional slots of a few hours where work was not required I had grabbed to eat, sleep and then ready myself for the next task ahead. It had worked and finally, after these 6 hectic weeks, I could see things getting back to manageable levels where the constant effort could be pegged back and some form of healthier balance could be readopted…if I let it.
Do you have perspective on your work-life balance?
This particular morning, I had got up with the sun and the twittering dawn chorus, grabbed my first cup of tea of the day and sat down to meditate for 15 minutes (a practice I adopted a while back as I find it sharpens my brain which then makes my day more productive). And that’s when it happened. Or rather I stopped happening. My body stopped moving and my mind disappeared from a functioning level.
I was aware that time was passing but had no idea as to what the time might be. As I said earlier I could still hear things and the world around me, I was simply not able to register or react to them. I did not move to eat, drink or even visit the bathroom but neither did I feel hungry, thirsty or need relief. At one point, I acknowledged to myself that the doorbell had rung but seemed utterly unable to get up to answer it. Daytime became dusk and gradually the darkness of night which I could see as I couldn’t get up to shut the curtains. It was only when the fingers of the following day’s dawn began to streak the sky that I felt able to move and get my limbs working again.
I have only encountered this catatonic-like state once before and that was years ago, during my recovery process, so was much more of a crisis. This time it was calming. The urgent necessity of having to do anything evaporated for that period. I didn’t feel happy, sad or emotional and was somehow observing what continued on around me from a far off, detached place. The very stillness was peaceful, in a way beautiful and the sudden muting of my normal brain chatter was delicious. Both consciously and subconsciously I knew and acknowledged that it was definitely time to get some perspective on my work life balance again.
Keep your importance in perspective
The following day I pulled my diary out and began to re-organise the coming weeks, building easier days around the busy ones, blocking off my weekends and planning social get togethers. I shall take my ‘lost’ day as a reminder of how important it is to listen to my inner self as it seems to be quite good at asserting itself when it absolutely has to.
This day reminded me of the lesson I had taken on the day I almost died. No matter what our work, job or circumstances are, we are all living within a construct that humans have created – it is not real. Yes, we have to take part, like actors, in order to live and survive however we should never lose sight that if we are taken out of the equation, even for one day, the earth keeps happily turning without our participation. Knowing that, in the whole scheme of things, as individuals we are not essential to the existence of the planet is pretty liberating and the realisation does keep everything else we take on and do in perspective.