On the Road to Recovery

I haven’t worked out since returning from the Women’s Fitness Summit last weekend.

At first, I wanted to use that against myself. I started to repeat it to myself, saying things like, I can’t believe I haven’t… or I have to do this and finish that AND I haven’t even…

I started attempting to justify the fullness of my plate, but that was like playing right to the #noexcuses troll that lives in my brain. Sure, I have had to attend team-building with my new coworkers and go to work for planning sessions and complete preparation for the first night of the graduate class I’m teaching, and sure, my house is a mess and I have yet to unpack from the two trips I took in August, and yes, I have so many drafts that I want to flesh out into posts to queue up for my two blogs. I let all this work me up into a familiar stress panic. At work, after a pretty full and productive day of planning, I rejoined my teacher roommate in our still messy classroom. I looked around at the clutter and the boxes and the bare walls, completely overwhelmed by everything I had to get done for my graduate class, for my home, and for myself, and trying to figure out where to fit in everything we would need to do to make our classroom look less like a storage shed and more like a place students could learn. And, you know, sit. (And I haven’t even…)

Sure, my inner #noexcuses troll growled, you’ve got some stuff going on. But you know there are women out there with all that going on, plus they’ve got kids, plus they’re cooking dinner every night, and they just finished crushing their workouts…and their houses are got-damn spotless.


Don’t be fooled by that smile. This guy is a JERK.

“Ok,” I heard myself saying. “I’ll just go home now and get everything done and then I’l come back really early tomorrow – like, how early do you think I can come in? Probably not 7… – anyway, I’ll come in early tomorrow and I’ll get started on this, and it’ll be fine because everything will be done tonight. Yes. That is what I will do.”

My roommate looked at me the way you look at someone who has just walked into a grocery store and started conversing with a bag of potatoes. Gently, she reminded me that we still had time before the students arrived to clean and set up. “It’ll get done,” I heard her say, but faintly over the turning wheels of my stress-induced planning.

Later, she sent me this reminder:

Rule #1. No stress over bulletin boards and posters. There are WAAAYY more important things to focus on.

i.e., lunch.

On my way home, I texted back and forth with my friend and former colleague. I had mentored her when she was a new teacher, and she’s an ever more amazing asset to her school: bringing in new exciting programs, taking on leadership in thoughtful ways, getting students to enjoy and understand history. There have been some huge, unexpected changes at her school, the kinds of things that would understandably cause a lot of stress and anxiety. She was texting me from the shore (yes, I’m from New Jersey), telling me that she was in “full relaxation mode” through the long weekend.

Hey! I thought, screaming to be heard over the whirring repetition of my to-do list in my mind. She got that from me! And I dimly recalled advising her about watching the amount of stress she would feel the need to take home or volunteer for, encouraging her to take full advantage of the vacations and breaks available to us. I stood on the curb for a moment, pondering, until Troll barked at me to get my ass in gear and get started doing all of the things.

You can imagine how the evening went, I’m sure. I got most of the graduate class to-do list done, but stayed up late trying to get it all done. None of the cleaning got done. I didn’t work out, but I did make myself feel bad about it several times. I sat hunched over a notebook just past midnight, eating pork jerky for “dinner” and having a debate with Troll over whether I should go to bed and get some rest or stay up (“power through,” I might have said to myself) and get the work done.

I went to bed, and woke up the next morning in a different headspace. I allowed myself to hear what had been said around me the day before: my work roommate assuring me that we had time and that the work would get done, my friend enjoying a week of relaxation instead of trying to dive headfirst into the stress right now. The work will get done. The stressful situation will be there. I can handle it, but I don’t have to handle it all in one day.

They were saying what so many smart and strong women had been saying at the Women’s Fitness Summit: let yourself recover.

Recovery is an essential piece of training, and of living. You can’t make progress if you don’t make time for yourself to recover. And having just come from an amazing but emotionally demanding weekend in Kansas City, to jump right into work mode and keep adding onto the pile of Things I Must Get Done Or Else Everything Will Be Terrible? Instead of giving myself time to recover, I was only going to create more to recover from.

Really stressed out is kind of my default mode, but it’s not a productive or sustainable state. Fifty item to-do lists, late nights getting it all done, carrying around a mean little voice that constantly reminds me I’m not doing enough…it leads to inefficient work, incomplete nutrition, and guaranteed failure. I’m not going to get fifty things checked off on that list in a day, ever. I’m only creating a situation in which I disappoint myself. And despite what my younger self would like to tell you about procrastination and last-minute brilliance, that late night scramble does not yield my best work. I might feel proud that I got something done, at first, but soon enough I’ll be down on myself for only turning out something “passable.”

So, I haven’t worked out since returning from the Women’s Fitness Summit. I came home and realized that I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to get it all done, and I understand that the best choice for my health is to give myself some time to recover from the weekend and from the stress of this week.

#noexcuses troll is not happy about this. Somewhere out there, Troll reminds me, there is a woman who has gotten through her whole to-do list, and fed and clothed her children, and started dinner while crushing an Instagram-worthy workout, and her house is got-damn spotless. Maybe, somewhere out there, that woman exists. She’s awe-inspiring.

But she’s not me.

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