A Break

A break.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

I am taking one this week.

I know, I know, here I am – writing and telling you that I am taking a break. But, we need to talk about breaks more. We need to normalize resting instead of working our asses off 24/7.

I am hitting the pause button this week. When my world came crashing down in 2018, I realized that:

A) I was terrible at taking a break.

B) I neglected myself to care for everyone else.

C) I kept myself busy and distracted so I didn’t have to sit in my pain or feelings. 

Even as a wanna-be-athlete growing up, I always felt guilty about the rest day. Or taking a break at practice.

Go, go, go! 

Harder, harder, harder!

Faster, faster, faster! 

Hustle. Hustle harder. Repeat.

That’s how I lived a good portion of life.

Can you relate?

Admittedly, I struggled with resting and relaxing – even a year ago. But I was forced to lay down and be still when I had ankle surgery in Feb 2019. I wasted no time cruising around on my scooter the moment I got home, but I still had to take a break from work. I still had to be mostly still, especially when the shocking nerve pain took over my body once the nerve blocker wore off from surgery.

Then, I went straight back to my old ways – stretching myself thin, overbooking myself, and forgetting where I was supposed to be unless it was marked on my calendar and I had reminder emails. I kept saying, “I need an assistant!”

But what I really needed was to slow down and to stop saying YES to every work project, every request, every message, every meeting, and everyone else except myself.

I laugh when I think about back surgery because I think the universe was like, “SISTER, you did NOT learn your lesson from ankle surgery and you won’t like what is about to happen next, but I have no other choice. You have not learned your lesson yet.” 

So then, in the middle of the night on Monday, I rolled over wrong and ended up in undeniable pain. I lost feeling in my left leg. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move without screaming in pain. Justin told me to try to stretch and I basically told me to EFF RIGHT OFF. I made it downstairs and thought, “Ok, I will fight through until morning and go see the pain management doctor…” Then, the pain spiked again. I damn near Army crawled my way to the truck and he drove me to the ER. Cooper thought it was SO much fun.

“YAY!” He said at 3 am in the truck. “We are going to the ER! This will be SO MUCH FUN!”

I wanted to laugh, but it hurt. So, I just smiled and cried at the same time.

They put me in an ER room. They gave me a gown to wear that was made for a 12-year-old or incredibly small woman. It barely fits my full figure frame. I was pissed. You either get a child-size or the option for a killer whale – that’s it.

The doctor had given me some pain medicine and anti-inflammatory medicine to see if that could help and I could feel my leg or walk again.

Nothing was working.

The pain was unlike anything I could fully express.

I would rather deliver four babies back to back than feel how I felt.

The doctor said, “You look uncomfortable in that position, would you want to try moving?”

“I can’t!” I said. But then, I stood up to accept the challenge.

I screamed as I stood up almost expecting The Hulk to emerge from my body.

The robe fell off, obviously, it was barely on. Then, I screamed. I lost all balance and fell completely back, yelling and practically naked. No one said anything. I think everyone wanted to laugh and they were afraid to open their mouths in fear that loud laughter would emerge.

The doctor looked at Justin and said, “I think we will admit her.”

Then he looked at me and said, “There is no way I can let you leave, especially in this much pain and lack of function in your legs.”

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I got admitted into the hospital and had back surgery the next day to remove a chipped disc fragment that was building up with scar tissue and calcium – and sitting perfectly on my sciatic nerve. I was terrified and scared most of that hospital stay.

The day of my surgery, Cooper came to visit. He said, “Mom, it was really sad that you were in so much pain. But remember when you tried to stand up and your outfit fell off. Then you screamed and fell back on the bed? That was SO funny.”

He laughed and then said with a serious face, “But everything else was super sad.”

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That, my friends, was the worst recovery and surgery to date. The recovery was emotional and painful – and for once, I took that break. I hit pause. I didn’t move for many days. I was still. I didn’t have a scooter to help me escape. I didn’t have a calendar to fill up. I didn’t have a class to teach. I couldn’t do anything except lay on the couch and rest.

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You know, I’ve always said I have to learn things the hard way. Not in a cocky way. But in a way that’s like, “I believe I can do anything so why not try?”

And I do think I can do anything. But I think I can do more quality work and show up for myself and those around me when I am rested. 

I dream of resting on a beach this week, but that won’t happen. So instead, I will enjoy the simplicity of being in my own backward and mini day trips to go hiking. I don’t like bugs and I am not convinced I am a “camper” – but I have really found myself loving nature and hiking as I recover from…life?

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A vacation doesn’t always equal rest. Let me type that again and a little bolder so that this thought really sinks in:

A vacation doesn’t always equal rest.

You have to intentionally set-up your mind and environment to rest.

The week before I started teaching at Miami University full-time, we went to Disney World. It was the most stressed out I’ve ever been in my entire life. We have more emails of me on my phone and computer in the hotel room than pictures of me smiling and enjoying the “happiest place in the world” – sidebar, Disney World is overwhelming, but I was also not fully resting or relaxing. I was still performing. I was still trying to be “SuperWoman” and show up for everyone while putting on a mask for my own family.  I was not resting. I was not enjoying myself.

This week, resting looks like this:

  • Sleeping in – no alarm clocks!
  • No work emails – I turned off all notifications and even hid the red icon that tells you the number of unread emails that you have collected up
  • Exploring nature without an agenda or timeline (I mean, Justin created an entire spreadsheet with dates, times, and locations – but I am not looking at that thing once; just tell me where to be, and I will show up, honey)
  • No notifications from social media on my phone
  • Writing for myself without a word count or plan; just from the heart
  • Turning off work chat apps
  • Drinking coffee as the sun comes up (hopefully alone)!!!!!!!!!!
  • Running and cycling outside – who knows? Maybe I will finally find a place to swim (my ultimate happy place)!

I hope that the next time you rest that you are intentional and thoughtful about what YOU need to take a break.

A break in your life requires you to demand what you need – and then act on those demands.

Honor your boundaries.

Fulfill the promises you made to yourself – the ones that you are SO great at keeping for other people, yet always struggle to keep for yourself.

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Cheers to this version of myself resting up this week – the smiling one who is surrounded in love and rocking wild nail polish – with a little bit of vodka on a Saturday.

And cheers to all of us talking about resting more and taking breaks more often. This whole “hustle fallacy” is a bit overrated, if you ask this new version of myself. Don’t burn yourself out. Care for yourself. Be kind to yourself. Instead of feeling guilty for taking a break, re-write that thought and say, “Thank you for the reminder that I used to feel bad about taking a break. But I am wiser now – and I know that taking a break is best for me and everyone I love.”

Be free and enjoy yourself. Take a break, even if it’s for a few minutes today because you freaking deserve it. 

Much love,

Ashley

 

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