Yes, this is a photo of the center console in my van. I’m sure somewhere there is a “Blogging for Dummies” handbook that says, “don’t start a post with an ugly picture,” but it’s a good thing I’ve never been one to closely follow the rules. Typically I wouldn’t attach enough significance to the screen in my van to warrant snapping a picture, but last week when I was parked in the hospital garage by 10:05 for a 10:15 therapy session, you better believe I documented the feat. You see, Landry and I had just returned to her regular therapy schedule following a two-week break for the holidays. I hate being late and feeling rushed and, before our break, I found myself feeling much more frazzled than usual and just a bit like my head wasn’t in the game so to be at our first session of 2022 in time to unload the car and take our time getting to clinic felt like the fresh start I intended for when taking time off.
A typical week for us, minus any doctor’s appointments, is to do five sessions with six different therapists (co-treating is a beautiful thing). In nearly three years this was our first intentionally-scheduled long pause. I have cancelled sessions here or there for various reasons, but until now, our only other extended breaks in therapy have been for hospitalizations, which hardly constitute a break. I must say, if there is a group of people just as flexible as, if not more than, the parents of disabled children, it is their therapists. As constantly as our schedules are disrupted for the unexpected so are theirs because, chances are, on the day there’s a kink thrown into our plans, those plans included therapy.
There are 168 hours in a week so spending six of them in therapy doesn’t seem like much, but the schedule can be overwhelming. When the driving time for in-clinic sessions or clean-up time for in-home sessions is factored in, it adds up. The mental toll is a whole other story and I’m not above saying that I’m not always up for it. Prior to taking our holiday hiatus I felt myself getting more tired than usual. Not just physically tired, but that bone-deep mental exhaustion that only comes with trying to maintain a busy schedule or keep up with endless demands for too long. I was irritable and becoming frustrated easily. I was chronically running late for sessions, which I hate. I was forgetting accessories and equipment that make therapy more beneficial. Quite frankly, I felt a bit like I had a one-way ticket for the Hot Mess Express. Destination: Irreversible Burnout. Not something I like to admit, but I wouldn’t be keeping it real if I left it out. So do you know what I did instead of pushing through and making things worse?
I stopped. Not for good, but for a good two weeks. I didn’t even try to juggle our therapy schedule with having Chandler home from school. We took a long break. We rested and we enjoyed each other without the added stress.
The best part? The world did not end.
One of my favorite reminders is, “you can do anything, but you cannot do everything.” And, in my ripe old age of 34 (please note my sarcasm), I’m learning to add: even if I could do everything, it’s ok if I don’t WANT to do everything. As I was preparing to write this, I looked up synonyms for the word “break.” Many on the list I knew, but one that surprised me was “breathing space.” We were not meant to burn the candle at both ends until there’s nothing left. A flame will not survive when deprived of oxygen. We were meant to create space for breath, to come up for air. Breathing space.
None of us are short on demands; you don’t need me to tell you that. There are things that we can put down and there are things we can’t. I mean, these people in my house expect three meals a day and some clean clothes from me; I should probably continue feeding and clothing them. It’s not feasible to drop everything for two weeks at a time, but I do think it’s possible to take short breaks from some of our responsibilities without things spiraling out of control. It sounds counterproductive, but sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to do nothing at all. And when it’s impossible to do nothing at all, let’s settle for less, even if just for a brief time.
We are much more valuable to ourselves and our families when we are as refreshed as possible. I wonder how different this year could be if we let it be the year we do less of what keeps us unnecessarily stressed and more of what keeps our cups full? What if this is the year we let less, in general, become more? More time, more patience, more love, more peace, more of all the things that matter the MOST. I love the sound of it, but I know it’s easier said than done. I am thankful that I took a prolonged rest from our therapy schedule because it helped me gain a much-needed refreshment on the importance of taking a breather.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I chose the photo that I did to begin this piece because it signifies the renewal that comes only from knowing when we need a break and taking time to rest. It’s also not lost on me that the title of the song playing is, “Heaven Help Me,” because there is only one way through this crazy life and it is certainly not on my own.
I hear often the phrase “Bless This Mess.” But let’s make this the year we remind each other to add, “…But also bless this rest.”
xo – Lindsay