Last April, just after dinner, Brian sat me down on the couch and said something that was the equivalent of the heart-stopping phrase,
“We have to talk.”
I remember this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, followed by the thought, “Oh no, what have I done?”
With the passing of my sister, Debbie, in February, we had both been through several brutal months, trying our best to survive as she slipped away from us. Neither one of us were getting much sleep, both of us deep in our grief, and I was finally back at work trying to tackle not one, but three, gigantic projects.
In the sweetest, most gentle voice, Brian began to share with me his massive concern for my health and wellbeing. With tears in his eyes, he told me he really felt that if I didn’t stop the long, intense hours and stressing out so much, he was afraid I would get very sick and possibly even “work myself to death.”
As someone who has always been able to accomplish major things, juggle lots of simultaneous projects, and withstand huge amounts of pressure, I normally would have just assured him that I could “power” through this period and deal with it all.
But there was something in the way he was approaching the conversation that made me stop and listen. With his sincere, openhearted vulnerability, I really, really heard him.
And, I got that he was right.
I was no longer the person who could do it all. My nervous system was shredded. I was out of “reserves” and running on fumes.
As I sat there, trying to take it all in, trying to figure out what to “do” about my situation, I remembered something Debbie whispered to me in the middle of the night:
“Take more vacations.”
I spent the next several days looking the calendar, trying to see when I could take a vacation and for how long.
And then it dawned on me: I didn’t just need a week or two on a tropical island. I need a big, long, extended break. I needed to rest, rejuvenate, re-boot, and re-think the rest of my life.
On August 1, I stopped working. Completely!
I turned off my cell phone and put it in a drawer.
I turned on the auto-responder to my email and then recorded a new voicemail on my phones to announce that, for the next six weeks, I would be completely, totally unavailable, and I began my sabbatical.
One of my ongoing thoughts was: What if I get bored? How would I fill my days? Could I really do this? Completely unplug?
I am happy to report, yes!
For the past eighty-three days, I have been sleeping in, taking naps (for the first time ever), reading lots of books (some of my favorites have been The Dalai Lama’s Cat and Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel The Signature of All Things plus several James Patterson mysteries). Brian and I are playing tennis and taking tons of beach walks; we’ve traveled to Bora Bora, Italy, and Romania; I’m cooking more and resting a lot.
Every time I’d get an idea for a new project, I’d sit down and close my eyes, breathe deeply, and wait for it to pass. If the idea persisted, I wrote it down and then forgot about it (for now). I’ve worked with my doctors to restore my energy levels, had many visits with the acupuncturist and chiropractor, and my amazing partners at Evolving Wisdom gave me a huge gift of many massages.
During this healing time, I decided to reinvent how I “do” life.
One of my biggest aha moments is that “I am now experiencing a new kind of aliveness that is not fueled by adrenalin.”
Without the tyranny of a to-do list eating up every minute of my day, I have made time to have some deep, meaningful conversations with several girlfriends who I’ve discovered are also “hitting the wall” and ready to make major changes. We have all admitted to being “busyness addicts,” and we may even start a support group!
In the past, I often defined myself by my work, and I hate to admit this, but my ego took a lot of pride in “just how much I can accomplish” in an hour or a day or a week.
Years ago, when I worked as Deepak Chopra’s publicist, he used to call me “speedy,” and I thought that was a good thing! Too bad I wasn’t listening more closely when Deepak was telling me how stressing out causes jittery platelets which is not good for your health.
I am eliminating the word “work” from my vocabulary, and I plan to spend half my time diving into projects that provide me creativity, fun, freedom, and offer some level of contribution and prosperity.
My biggest fear is that as I begin to return to the real world and begin some projects, my old habits will emerge. I expect that there will be days when I slip. Days when I begin to spin out of control or get caught up in the delusion that anything that I am doing is more important than taking care of myself.
These will be the days when I need to remember my commitment to being a Wabi Sabi Love artisan—someone who finds beauty and perfection in her own imperfection. Just as I am now re-writing and shifting the story of how I “do life,” so must I find compassion for the part of me who still thinks she can do it all.
Arielle Ford is a gifted writer and the author of eight books, including her latest Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Finding Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships and the international bestseller The Soulmate Secret: Manifest the Love of Your Life with the Law of Attraction. She has been called “The Cupid of Consciousness” and “The Fairy Godmother of Love.” She lives in La Jolla, CA with her husband/soulmate, Brian Hilliard, and their feline friends. Learn more about Arielle by visiting www.soulmatesecret.com and www.wabisabilove.com.