Lessons I Learned While Furloughed

I felt that all too familiar anxiety monster creeping back in on only the first few hours of being back to work. So I knew it was time to regroup and identify the differences. What is it that immediately makes my muscles tighten when my routine finally returns?

I would have thought getting my routine back, the one I so desperately begged to have back in the first couple weeks of the Federal government’s partial shutdown, would be a huge wave of relief. I thought I thrived in my routine, until I had the forced opportunity to shake it up. I was living day to day so mechanically, that I was forgetting to take a moment and really enjoy my life around me. In these past few weeks, I’ve learned to let go and let God. I’ve been able to enjoy my strong, peppermint mocha coffee in the morning at my own pace versus dumping it in to a travel mug and running out the door. I’ve explored my cooking skills and became inspired to put effort into our meals. There has just been so many lessons that this shutdown has taught me. Some practical and some more emotional. And as this is much easier to admit with our paychecks on their way, I really appreciate these lessons.

Take your time seriously. It’s yours and only yours. Don’t lend too much of it out for things that don’t fill your cup. Of course, you have to take care of things out of necessity, but keep room budgeted for things that bring you joy.

Budgets don’t have to be boring. Who doesn’t like keeping money in the bank? Well, that might be me. I’ve never fully grasped the concept of a savings very well. My younger years could be described as having a hole in my pocketbook. As I’ve added years to my belt, I’ve actually really enjoyed stacking the dollar bills up in our savings. It’s almost become a game to me. The numbers grow, my motivation grows. I tend to ride that motivation in waves though. So this shutdown was a really great reminder about how important that budget game is for us.

Be kind. Give the little you have and receive it back tenfold. Have empathy. I witnessed so many acts of kindness during the past few weeks, that I think my heart grew 14 sizes. I know this sounds a little nuts, but I encourage you to try something here. Let’s say you are having a really rough week and you decide- forget this- it’s time to do something for me that will make me feel better. Maybe that something is a Starbucks coffee or getting your nails done. Think about how much you feel like those things could REALLY turn your week around. Now I encourage you to do the harder part, one that most people don’t think too much about, and give that blessing to someone else with no strings attached. I’d be willing to bet that small gift will turn your week around faster than any expresso or manicure ever could. The world needs so many more people being kind.

True friends and family know exactly how to support you in the way you need- and this is a very valuable lesson. Some of it may have been more validation of the people in our lives than anything, but I couldn’t imagine the shutdown without them. I despise asking for help and my true friends know this about me. The best thing they did was love me for that and, now that I look back, I realize they snuck in ways to help me. They did this in ways I wouldn’t have realized that it was an extra hand. Dropping off extra groceries, inviting us to meals, acting as if they wouldn’t use the grocery store gift card, giving me things to do to stay busy, being down to just hang out around the house. As I reflect on the past few weeks, I realize exactly how important it is to surround yourself with your people. And even better, they accept my efforts for paybacks. The lesson in all this was to make sure those people you include in your tribe are best fit for the job.

As my routine may be going back to normal, I plan to value things a little more. I don’t want to get caught back up in the hustle and bustle and forget these lessons that I learned. I want to take my time with my morning coffee, I want to spend more hours laughing with Bryan, I want to take the time and learn how to do new things. Routine may make living with anxiety easier and safe- less energy spent on fighting the unknowns. But, at the end of the day, is that really living? Is that fighting back against my anxiety or letting it control my life? There will still be days that all I can do is fall into my routine, but while I hold the light of energy- I’ll use it to light the way into a new level of healing and a new level of adventure. I have a renewed energy to really love life.

Being furloughed really rocked my world, but maybe- just maybe- that’s what I needed.


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