This week, in a very circuitous session with my therapist, our discussion ranged from what I did last weekend to what my friends group looks like, and have looked like in the past. To be honest, high school and college I socialized with far more people than I do now, but even then, my “close” friend groups were probably fewer than 10 people at any given time. As I explained that I don’t have a lot of friends, and the challenges and awkwardness I feel when I try to socialize in a group of strangers or make new friends, my therapist looked at me and said, “well, you are definitely an introvert.” To which, my internal commentator replied, “You think?”
I very much relate to being an introvert. The other day, I saw a post online explaining why introverts need to prepare themselves for a night of socializing, comparing it to skydiving. It can be fun, it can be amazing, but if someone pushes you out of a plane without warning, you might not enjoy it as much. Combine a naturally introverted personality that loves spending time alone, who can easily go hours or days without talking to someone and not feel deprived, with recurring bouts of severe depression, and it gets pretty hard to “feel like” going out and doing things on the weekend. The idea of a staycation, or of a week with nothing to do and nowhere to go sounds heavenly to me. In fact, as much as I love and adore my family, the thought of a weekend where my kiddo and hubby are out all day and I can stay at home alone sounds extraordinarily blissful. Having endless hours to myself at home with music, or the TV in the background, working on my projects, taking naps, cleaning even, sounds glorious. So, when I was first introduced to being gentle with myself as a form of self care, my gut reaction was that it was permission to let myself stay at home and “relax” even more than I already was, to not push myself to go out and do things if it seemed too daunting.
There’s apparently a learning curve to the idea of being gentle with yourself, though, because these “at home,” “gentle with myself” weekends became a double edged sword. In the moment, taking naps with my toddler after sleeping in, staying in PJ’s most of the day, and maybe going out for a little while for errands or whatnot feels relaxing. As the hours and days go on, though, getting dressed in the afternoon and not having much time to run errands or try and share experiences with the kiddo made me feel like I was wasting my weekends, and that I wasn’t getting anything done. How do I balance wanting to have peace and quiet to recharge without feeling like I’ve been useless all weekend? How do I balance being gentle with myself and relaxing while still getting exercise and feeling like I’ve accomplished things? How can I force myself to push beyond my comfort zone while still being gentle with myself?
Well, I don’t have a magic answer (if I did, I’d probably be able to make millions by writing a book about it), but I do know what’s been helping the past couple of weeks. Even though it’s been hotter than I like (I seem to thrive in the 40-75°F range, which doesn’t really match up with Southern California’s forecast, outside of the “winter” months), I’ve been doing a combination of planning things that are active without being overwhelming, and allowing myself some spur-of-the-moment options. The biggest challenge to all of this, I’ve noticed, is just taking that first step, and breaking the inertia.
No matter what the end goal, for me, taking the first step is usually the hardest part of change. Newton’s first law of motion, or the law of inertia, can strangely be applied not just in physics, but also in life overall. When I’m stuck in a rut, or depression is gaining ground and has convinced me that just sitting on the couch or laying in bed is the best available choice, it takes a fair amount of “force,” even force of will, to do, well, anything. It requires more effort, for me, to call a therapist to begin therapy than it does to continue treatment once I’ve started. It’s harder for me to call the doctor and ask to go back on meds than it is to just take them every morning once I have them. Once I’ve started a path, once I’ve gotten dressed and out the door, then it’s no big deal to find something else to do and somewhere else to go.
Heading into this past weekend, there were a lot of challenging factors at play. It was (and is) way hotter than I am generally comfortable with. Then, there was the “struggle” I vaguely referred to in my last post which was, to put it simply, a wave of layoffs at my company over the course of 2 days. The layoffs brought back a lot of really bad memories from a past job that resulted in a much stronger emotional response than I was expecting, and I was struggling to process it all. The desire to just sit and mope, to stay stagnant, was strong, and the decision to start walking, to do something other than just watch Netflix all weekend was beyond difficult. But, as I mentioned last week, I did a fair amount of walking that Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, we decided as a family to go for a swim in the pool at our apartment complex after school and work, which was supposed to be followed by cooking some dinner. We had planned it ahead of time, and I was really looking forward to it, because I LOVE being in the water. By the time we were all ready to head home, though, there wasn’t much time before kiddo’s bedtime to cook what we’d been planning to have. So we took some showers and hubby cooked something super quick for the kiddo to eat while my mother-in-law came over for some last minute babysitting (I love having family close by), and the hubby took me out for a last minute date night (Italian, and it was delicious).
Saturday morning, we saw that a group of people were going to be caravaning around the neighborhood for a Pokemon Go event (yes, we play, and we’re Team Mystic; judge us if you want), so we hurried up to the meeting place and ended up meeting a few new people and having a lot of fun. We followed it up with a quick lunch, and then a trip to Balboa Park until dinnertime. Sunday, we thought of going out to my sister’s to swim in her pool, but they were in the middle of bringing the water back to clear from a greenish brown, so we invited them to our pool instead, and had another full afternoon of swimming before doing our grocery shopping. It was a very full weekend, and, honestly, far busier than any of us are used to, but I still ended up feeling recharged and ready for the week.
The weekend before that, we started our Saturday by heading down to a ranch that has pony rides and a petting zoo down near the border, and finished it with some shopping at a mall that isn’t one we normally shop at. It wasn’t quite as busy a weekend as last weekend was, but we still stayed active and spent time outside. This “active” part of each of these weekends is really the the key to how these weekends have been so beneficial for me, especially this most recent weekend.
I guess, in some ways, finding helpful ways to keep busy without overwhelming myself can really be helpful and productive in more than just the surface, physical ways. I even told my husband on Sunday evening this past weekend that, I really enjoyed our busy weekend, or at least that kind of busy weekend, and I’d like to try and continue having weekends like that. Especially if we can find ways to “keep busy” and still recharge. Up next on my summer weekend bucket list? Well, I’ve really missed laying on the beach. I guess I should dust off our beach chairs and umbrellas!
Do you have a favorite way to keep busy while still recharging and relaxing? What is it, and when was the last time you let yourself do that favorite thing?