“Self-Care Week” OR “Why I Can’t Let Myself Take a Vacation in February”

I don’t know why it can be so ridiculously hard for me to stop working, but the last couple of weeks I have learned that it takes hard work to not work – hard, necessary work.

Next week, I am taking a week’s vacation.  It is completely random for me to take a week’s vacation in the middle of February, especially when my husband and children will not be taking time off.  This year, however, I have some extra vacation time and I felt strongly that I needed to force myself to use it.  (Yes, I know, poor me having to force myself to take vacation!).  But it really is weird to know I’ll wake up each day next week, bring my kids to school, and then….go back home.  This feels especially odd as we go into a church season that is especially busy and when there is lots to do.

The thing is, the theme of rest and healthy life rhythms has come up in my life a lot lately.  I run three different small groups where we have talked about this in the last month. I have taught about the importance of taking daily, weekly, and yearly times of renewal.  I have heard the words come out of my mouth: “These are times when we step back to remember God can handle things without us.”  I realized I also need to live these words, too.

So I declared this all-by-myself-vacation “self care week” and planned to take time to look after my body and soul.  I made a dentist appointment, a hair appointment, and an overdue date for lunch with a friend.  

But it was not easy for me to fully embrace this gift of a week off.  It took more work than I want to admit to say “no” to doing “just one thing.”

I am part of a team that is planning a conference the first weekend of March.  Recently,  we were trying to set up our next meeting and we were having a hard time finding a time to meet that worked for everyone. I mentioned that I wasn’t free next week. Not a single person asked why.  After a few minutes of brainstorming dates, and still finding nothing, I said: “Well, if it makes it easier, I could meet next week. It’s no big deal.  I’m just taking that week as vacation.”

And the whole group said:  “NOOOOO!!!”

Then I said: “Yes I am taking this week off in the middle of February and I can’t believe how hard it is for me not to give in and do things.”  

They all understood and encouraged me not to give in to my temptations to do “just one thing.”

Three out of four Wednesdays a month I run a small group for pastors.  I realized that if I missed our gathering for my “self-care week,” then I would miss seeing them twice this month. To avoid this, I planned to meet with them on my week off. It was only a couple days ago that I told them that I would miss next week.  They were totally fine with it.

Then I said: “Yes I am taking this week off in the middle of February and I can’t believe how hard it is for me not to give in and do things.”  

They all understood and encouraged me not to give in to my temptations to do “just one thing.”

I also run small groups every Wednesday night. I see God working in these group, and so I was also going to meet with them on my week off.  You can probably guess what happened – I told them we weren’t meeting, explained why, they said no problem.

Then I said: ‘Yes I am taking this week off in the middle of February and I can’t believe how hard it is for me to not give in and do things.”

They all understood and encouraged me not to give in to my temptations to do “just one thing.”

(Sometimes, I am a slow learner).

Finally, I had to ask myself why this was so hard for me (if you’re counting, I had planned to do not just one, but THREE things on my “week off”). I came up with three reasons.  Maybe you will resonate with them.  

I Feel Guilty

I don’t like not doing things I committed to do.  When I say “I know we usually meet this time but I can’t do it,” I feel an almost crushing guilt. I feel selfish and unreliable and irresponsible.  I don’t like feeling guilty, so I do things I shouldn’t to help me avoid that feeling. (The unfortunate thing is that when I do things to avoid feeling guilty I often end up feeling other emotions I also don’t like, such as resentment – a blog for another day).  

I Feel Too Important

I focus on the importance of the things that need to be done.  We need to meet to plan this conference. I need to have this meeting. I need to lead my group. I see the value in the things I’m doing, perhaps sometimes too much.  And the truth is…

I Don’t Want to Feel Unimportant

If I can simply “skip” something, then I have to admit that it may not be essential after all.  If I can take a week off from activities, then maybe those activities aren’t actually that important.  If I’m not needed for everything, every week, maybe what I do doesn’t matter that much.  That is hard to admit.

And.

Because I MUST admit that…

I need to take time off.  

I’m not saying that what I do isn’t significant in the long run.  But I need constant reminders that I’m not what I do.  I need to sit in the truth, regularly, that God can work without me.  I need to learn to trust.  I need to remember that the world keeps spinning when I take a breather.

(I also need a dentist appointment…)  

It may seem like a silly thing, to have to work so hard to accept this week off, and I’m not proud of how much discipline it has taken for me to do it.  But now I’m really looking forward to waking up on Monday and letting God look after things for 8 whole days.  The good news is – God can handle it.

Do you struggle with these things too?  Join me in remembering – God can handle things; self care is not selfish.  Repeat. 

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