Nov 4, 2023 filed under Humility.

Calm businesswoman

My spiritual director just told me he’s taking a couple months off. No appointments, no travel. Just time to regroup and recharge.

He’s a very busy man, as are many retired priests. He celebrates Mass at a retreat center, leads retreats, and counsels a lot of people, including people in serious trouble. He writes a blog.

People constantly demand his time. Just like us.

Something important sets him apart from many of us, though. He believes that the world will not stop turning if he steps back for a while. There’s humility in that.

No Way!
But wait, you say. I have tiny humans to keep alive and a business that helps me do that. I can’t take two months off!

Okay. So how about a day? And not even a day off work—just a day off from expectations, discouragement, and feeling behind.

What if?

One Woman’s Victory
I was inspired to try this by Elizabeth Bard, author of Picnic in Provence: A memoir with recipes. (I’m a sucker for ex-pat adventures in France.) She writes:

“I’m a perfectionist , which means I am often ungrateful. I expect too much—of myself, and of everything and everyone around me. I often forget to give thanks for the many gifts life has given me: a son who smiles all the time, a man who can tile a floor and recite poetry, a family who loves me even when I bite back, friends who can finish my sentences, neighbors who reach out with a helping hand, a job that engages my head and my heart, and a new, glorious landscape to explore.”

So she decided to take the day off. From herself. Her plan looked like this: “Today, I will not feel behind. I will not worry about being a better wife, mother, daughter, housekeeper, or writer. I’m not making a fancy dinner. I’ll be having quite an ordinary day, but I’ll be thinking and thanking—instead of fretting and fixing. We all need one day a year when we meet our own expectations and allow all the world to be as it is instead of exactly how we would like it to be.”

When I read that, my shoulders melted away from my ears. I exhaled. I put down the book and blinked. Could it really be possible to take a day off from my expectations?

Um, yes—since they are of my own making!

But how?
When I tried it, I found that it was impossible to do from the inside of my own head. It’s not easy to get out of a mental rut by thinking about it, since we’re using the same equipment that got us there.

So I tried writing down my accomplishments, big and small. A kind of reverse to-do list. And that revealed the problem: a habit of discounting or mentally brushing off a lot of accomplishments as unimportant. As if they didn’t count.

Like making a list of three contacts to touch base with (no “should” today!) and calling one of them. In writing down the one, it becomes something concrete I did to move the needle in my business and keeps me from focusing the two that didn’t get called.

The payoff
When I saw in black and white what all I had done in a day, and thanked God for it, and intentionally made it okay in my mind, a feeling of satisfaction and gratitude took the place of the mild panic that had so often lived there before.

It’s become my new habit. I notice the difference when I forget to do it. It’s as if God is now smiling on my efforts and telling me, “It’s enough, sweetheart. List or no list, I love you just the same—and you are mine.”


10 Responses to “Take a Break From Yourself”

  1. Michalyn Bethke

    May I also suggest a short time of repeating an aspiration ,like “Come Holy Spirit “ , maybe for a minute or so …. Sometimes I need something so “ not cognitive “ that I don’t even have to think . Thinking is tiring .
    I also tried to memorize a prayer or two by Fr. James Blount , eg.: “ Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ , save us and the whole world “ …. Or the Surrender prayer : O Lord God , I surrender myself to You completely , now and forever . Please take care of everything “.
    Connecting with God , surrendering to His Will and chatting with Him through these short prayers., “takes me away from my aloneness “. . Aloneness in dealing with a stressful job or way of life is difficult for me . So , a short time of prayer , gives me the break I need .

  2. Barb

    Very glad I read this. That quote, “I am a perfectionist, which means I’m often ungrateful” rings so true for me. And that is not the way I want to approach life! Thank you for bringing me something very important to consider today.

  3. Judith

    Much needed today as I’m feeling the effects of not saying no and taking on too much. I have the privilege of working in a school and are afforded the privilege of non attendance days periodically. I plan to take a me day when available. I also want plan to slow down during Advent, find a journaling, daily scripture series offered through various Catholic websites and say no to any upcoming requests of my time.

  4. Judith E. Lyons

    Excellent advice/plan, Rose. I think I suffer from somewhat the same problem. This gives me a path …

    Thank you and may your day be filled with blessings!
    Judy 🥰

  5. Barb

    I always enjoy & learn from your posts! Thank you!
    Lots of help Jeff needs.. ive mentioned him before..please oray he can do a work at home job..for now.. cannot find anything else.
    One more thing.. could you pray I make right decision about bypass surgery on my leg. I’m scared & depressed. May need to leave my part time job .. bakery clerk.. almost 30 yrs. I love people.. pray I can give it to God & accept whatever needs to be! Thank you Rose!
    Barb S

  6. Jenean Jones

    Rose – I’ve been writing a gratitude list every night lately. It’s become a loving practice. Helpful reflection of my day. To remember, I am enough and God loves me in spite of how many things I tick off my to do list.

  7. Tom Roberts

    There are situations where one cannot take time off. From personal experience as a caregiver respite is an illusion as in “There’s help out there.” The key was to find pleasure in what I had to do. That was linked to attending the earliest possible daily mass, 6:30am and getting the message.

  8. Witzell

    Never heard of taking a day off from myself….don’t know if I really know how to do that, but I’m going to try and see what happens. Thanks Rose!

  9. Debbie

    Looks like we all were in need of this and I have come to do this without realizing that I am doing it. If that is possible. As I was reading the original and all your comments, I was thinking, I do/ have done that…stepping away is like a breath of fresh air in the winter.

    Thank you Rose and the rest of you ladies.

    Many blessings,