hiding under covers

Funny, the last tweet that appeared on my blog was an article I’d written for the website BookMartialArts.com titled “How Martial Arts Can Reduce Work-Related Stress.” What happens when martial arts IS the cause of my “work-related stress”?

I found myself in that situation at the beginning of this year. We were shutting down our old dojang and moving to a local community center. Imaging packing up a house you’d lived in for 20 years, chuck it all in storage, and move to an efficiency downtown. Also throw in the fact that you didn’t know from day to day when the new owner of your old trusty home is ready to kick you out and move in. I spent the first week of January working long hours at the office every day and spending every evening sorting, packing, cleaning, and commiserating with the other black belts. I was also making myself sick with worry trying to keep parents and students informed of our changing schedule. No one asked me to do it. I just decided that’s what needed to be done.

I also had a lot of demands at work: do this presentation, set up these classes, go to a staff meeting at a clinic, make an appearance at a big leadership retreat. Facilitate new employee orientation for 80-100 people every week. For someone who clearly prefers (and NEEDS) introversion I have a very people-focused job that requires me to do a lot of talking and being “on stage” whether it’s teaching a class or conducting a consulting meeting. I’m weirdly very good at it, mostly very satisfied with my job, but sometimes I absolutely hate it. It’s exhausting, so I take every little break, down time, day off, whatever solace I can, even if it’s just hiding in my office for a day. I don’t want to quit, but once in a while I get overwhelmed need a change.

That’s how I began to feel about taekwondo. After all these years it had finally felt like “work.” I’m good at what I do, enjoy it very much, but I was exhausted and starting to hate it. The first time I realized that I was near tears. I’d had plenty of moments of not feeling like going to class, but unless I was sick and truly needed to stay home, I always ended up feeling better once I got there. This one particular evening I felt in my gut I did not want to go. I didn’t want to quit, but I was overwhelmed and needed a change.

I drank a lot of wine in January and February.

I’m still coming down from two months of feeling stretched thin, sad, and worn out from over-stimulation. Here are some things I did that may help you if you’re dealing with the same love/hate situation and if you’re an introvert like me who seriously needs everyone to f*ck off once in a while:

Take a break, whatever that looks like
I’ve scheduled some random days off from work this month, and I already feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. As if the Universe was listening (it was), I’m in somewhat of  a self-imposed exile at home right now. I’m having some unplanned construction being done at home because my crappy glass tub enclosure decided to fall apart, so I’m hanging out in the Fortress of Solitude while two guys tear up my master bathroom. I’m still accessible to my coworkers and clients (and they sure do know how to find me), but I get to enjoy working in my sunlit home office, not wearing shoes and makeup, making fresh smoothies when I need a snack, and most importantly, NOT TALKING TO ANYONE unless I choose to. I have a few conference calls and possibly an in-person meeting at the end of the week. No presenting. Awesomesauce.

I’ve also taken about two weeks off taekwondo and concentrated on my workouts at the gym. This week I was finally excited about going back to taekwondo class. It felt fun again.

Maybe you can’t take time off from work in the same way, so take breaks (even if they are just mental) in whatever way works for you.

Set Boundaries
As much as I like to please people, I’ve learned how to say “no” or at least “here’s an alternative” in work situations. That’s taken some pressure off me and allows me more time to do quality work.

I told my parents they couldn’t spend the night this weekend while I was still having work done on my bathroom. Fine, they’ll meet me for lunch and visit another weekend.

I decided not to go to the earlier taekwondo classes to help out and teach (white belts and the occasional higher ranking sibling) because (1) I needed downtime between work and taekwondo (2) I don’t enjoy teaching really young kids–one or two at a time is fun but not the whole class (3) the last time I went to the early class I got stuck with two little blue belt boys who just wanted to play and piss me off and waste my time and (4) I suck at teaching white belts, and at this point in my TKD career I don’t have much interest in perfecting that skill. (Not that white belts aren’t awesome. They are; I just don’t want to spend my mental energy on creative but simple ways to keep them educated and entertained…especially when they’re all little kids). There are other people who are higher ranking and with more responsibility over the school who can do that. I don’t have to be there all the time…it’s taken me several months to convince myself of that.

Find Comfort in Simple Activities
Around the end of February I felt the urge to do some spring cleaning. I went through all my closets and drawers in the Fortress of Solitude (home), changed out my winter decorations to more colorful items, and cleaned out a bunch of papers in the Batcave (my work office). I feel like I have a bright, clean, fresh start in my two cozy sanctuaries (and soon a new tub and shower area).

Sometimes on an evening off or a Sunday afternoon I like to practice my taekwondo forms at home. It’s a different environment, I can listen to a podcast or music while I practice, and I don’t have to interact with everyone. It keeps my memory for poomsae sharp and gives me time to concentrate on what I want to work on, not re-teaching a color belt their form—ooh did I type that out loud? (if my students are reading this…PRACTICE ON YOUR OWN!!!)

Change Your Perspective
I don’t have to work. I get to work and be creative and write and help people learn and do things I truly enjoy (and make money, which I TRULY enjoy as well). It’s a new year and I have new and long-term clients that I get to help and coworkers I get to create with.

I don’t have to go to taekwondo. I don’t have to train or teach–I get to. I have the privilege of training under very skilled masters and a grandmaster and I have the joy of sharing what I love with other students. I’m adjusting to our new space and even learning to appreciate it. I have 7 or 8 bo dans testing for black belt next month, and I get to guide them every step of the way.

You get to wake up every day. You get to provide for yourself or for others. You get to experience life and make your own choices even when you don’t think you have any choices.

Sometimes all we need is a break to get back on track…and a glass or two of wine.


3 thoughts on “When Fun Becomes Work: How to Get The Love Back

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