Focus is something I had once, I think. I’m not sure how else I was able to work full time, plus part time, plus take classes full time, plus work an internship, plus write one book and edit another. There had to be some sort of magic that I was tapping into, some superpower.
And there was. It’s called denial.
It’s not just denial in the sense that I was ignoring blatant facts. Well, not exactly. I was ignoring my own needs just because I was able to multi-task. I could work while binge-watching a show while working on discussion posts for school. I had social media platforms running all day. I read manuscripts in the tub. I was at the height of this multi-tasking process when I was living in Arizona. I was living in a familiar city, but didn’t know many people, and my husband and I only had one car. With his set work schedule (instead of the rotation he’s on now), I had a routine. I grocery shopped on the same day every week. After he left for work, I’d walk the dog along the edge of the alfalfa field that grew next to our development. When it wasn’t insanely hot, I’d sit by the pool to read (while still paying attention to Twitter). All of this felt perfect because I felt like I was finally, finally, in control of my life. There was order. I was working on making my dreams come true.
All of this made me think that I was doing what my body needed me to do. I was eating healthy, I was exercising, I was seeing plenty of sunshine, and I found the perfect doctor who helped me get my vitamin and thyroid levels straightened out. I was living in an apartment that felt like home because I picked the colors for the walls and I could afford to decorate it the way I wanted to.
But I was denying myself the rest, relaxation, and fun. I was able to make one writing group meeting and I left feeling amazing and inspired. I barely saw the friends I do have in Phoenix, but when we did we were checking out local breweries — something I really love doing. Something I don’t do now that I’m back in Buffalo. Something I didn’t do when I lived in Buffalo before.
The thing is, I worked the way I did when I lived in Arizona before I moved across the country. I’d been working full-time, whether through one actual full-time job or through multiple part-time jobs, since I was a freshman in undergrad. I was focused: I had bills to pay and I wasn’t going to let things get in the way of that. I lost friends; friends who didn’t understand that when I said I didn’t have free time, I meant it.
That’s how it is now. At least, that’s what I’ve convinced myself. Now that I’m back to functioning on a semi-normal level after my TBI, I want to deny myself relaxation. Self-care. Having fun. I feel like I need to make up for the past seven months of not being able to make deadlines, of taking classes, of relaxing. I need to focus on re-establishing my old work routine that includes taking on as much as possible.
But I need to deny myself that life again.
I want to focus on my career and work as much as possible. I want to focus on making my life everything I ever dreamed it would be. But that’s not what I need to focus on.
What I need to focus on is making sure I can keep working. That this burnout I feel after working hard three days in a row doesn’t last longer than one day. I also need to focus on not being mad at myself, or feeling guilty, if I need to take an extra day for myself. I need to focus on me, on what makes me happy outside of work.
I need to focus on figuring out who I am as an adult who doesn’t need to be working eighty hour weeks. On finding out what I love about Buffalo again. On setting up my house in a way that feels like mine.