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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

ABCs and PhD's: Time for a recharge
June 2, 2010 - 6:30am

It’s damp. It’s dreary. As I write this, I look out my window and fog obscures the mid-morning light. After a teasing May taste of summer, the sun seems to have disappeared and with it my get-up-and-go. Why should I be in such a slump when I’m thankful for so much in my life? It’s after days like these that my brain thinks the middle of the night is the best time to stir the stew of worries in my head. No concern is too trivial—“The basil plants I paid $1.25 for are shrivelling up! What’s happened to my career? Those wrong notes I sang in choir last night were so embarrassing! I’m a bad parent—am I raising future axe murderers? ” This kind of thinking just makes everything worse, and of course I feel tired the next day.

The current June-uary weather we’re having here in the Pacific Northwest certainly doesn’t help my mood. And the funny part is I just had a vacation to a warm sunny place! I should be fired up and ready to take on the world. Instead I’m dealing with a case of the blahs. My drained batteries are fortunately rechargeable under the right circumstances. Unless I’m in the right frame of mind, though, tried and true tricks to get me out of my funk don’t work. My rechargeable batteries (apologies for the obvious metaphor) only accept a charge if they’re configured in just the right way. It’s not enough just to find the recharger; I have to be ready to receive the charge. Or sometimes it takes a push to overcome the stiffness to mesh the connections.

Reading for pleasure often works, but I learned I have to be careful about content. The other day I treated myself to some reading just for fun, a nice short story to give myself a little break. Unfortunately it was all about a guy who’d lost his zest for life and sat around watching TV and eating extra meat pizzas. Great. This was not the uplifting escape I needed. Before reaching for chocolate, well maybe just a bite, it was time for plan B.

Despite the constant drizzle I forced myself to get out for a jog around a local lake. I fought a mental battle of wills: “It will feel so good once you’re out there.” versus “It’s too rainy. You’ll feel isolated, with no one else around.” Somehow the pro-activity side won, and I was soon feeling better. Life was everywhere! Yellow irises were in bloom along the lakeshore, warblers sang and flitted in the brush, while swallows dive-bombed clouds of midges above the water. Everything was lush and verdant in the misty rain, not at all dreary. I ran into plenty of other joggers and walkers; perhaps they too were trying to lift dampened spirits. I was glad I’d left the iPod behind so I could better connect with other people along my route and hear the thrushes singing in the salmonberry bushes. Everyone and everything seemed happy and unconcerned about the rain. Thirty minutes later, soaked and sweaty, I felt reinvigorated.

This week has been a reminder that although vacations are great, I have to schedule in daily re-energizing breaks of some kind, even if it’s just something small or a half-hour out of the day. The weather may bring me down this week, but next time it could be something else beyond my control. Maybe by this time next week the clouds will have parted and I’ll be lamenting the fact that I’m behind because I just want to spend all my time outside enjoying early summer! Worse things could happen. If I just remember the little recharges here and there I’ll keep the blahs at bay. Meanwhile I’ll celebrate the life-giving rain so essential to the coastal environment here. And I’m sure my kids will be up for some puddle splashing and slug races.


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