Well, this is it. My last week to myself. I have dropped my son off at school and have returned to my bright corner of the kitchen. The corner I have written in, morning after morning, for the past 15 months. My sanctuary. My silence. My home.
Next week, I will spend three mornings easing into work. By mid-October, I will have returned to the office full-time, with its cacophony, its milling people and voices and ringing phones and demands. And bosses.
Am I ready to go back? I’m not sure. I think so, or at least, I am no longer at the edge of whatever abyss I was at. I can no longer justify being on stress leave. I know the environment remains toxic, charged with politics and ambition and things that really don’t matter to me. That will never change, though it might be better in other offices. But I don’t have another job right now, so back I go. And I like to think that because politics and ambition and others’ priorities don’t matter to me, I will be able to stay outside them, disconnected. I’d like to think I will just go to work, do what I’ve got to do, then come home.
I’ve heard so many stories of people taking long breaks like I just have and returning to work changed, different, with a new outlook and new priorities. I wonder how long that lasts. Do they end up back where they started or have they really changed? I’d like to believe they are able to apply the lessons they’ve learned during their time off. I’d like to believe that I really will approach things differently. From now on, and not just for the first few hours or days or weeks.
I have a good friend who once took 18 months off work. That was five or six years ago. He still lives by the changes he made. He has a healthy perspective and healthy priorities – his family comes before everything. We used to sit next to each other before I went on leave and it would have been great to return to a workplace with him there, reminding me that whatever I might get into a tailspin over really isn’t all that important. Unfortunately, he’s gone on to greener pastures.
But I have some great friends that I will be returning to. Friends I can call on to remind me of my priorities. To prompt me to go for a coffee, a run, or to take a break. To remind me that the crazy stuff doesn’t matter. They are my allies in the sea of personality clashes, unrealistic demands and misplaced self-importance.
Yes, I’m nervous. But that will serve me well, too, I think. It will keep me in the moment, keep me aware of the decisions I’m making and hopefully remind me to check-in with my boundaries and with what I know is a priority for me, rather than just being blindly swept along by others’ interests.
And more than this, this attempt at positive thinking, returning to work will give me new fodder for my writing. And since writing is my priority, that can only be a good thing. Right?
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, conjure up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage:
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head,
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide;
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height…
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit…
~ William Shakespeare, Henry V