Sometimes being efficiently productive means logging off

I did something I haven’t done since probably my Freshman or Sophomore year of high school.

I closed my laptop on December 24th, set it aside, and didn’t even touch it until January 3rd, 2022.

Probably because my husband also had the week after Christmas off because we had plans to meet up with our Scout group to go whale watching on a Wednesday, which meant my husband would only be working Tuesday and Thursday that week so instead – he decided to take off the entire week.

Which he hasn’t done for 10+ years.

Ok scratch that, he did have to take 2 weeks off due to a severe concussion last February.

But this week off – he wasn’t on bed rest.

It was glorious.

About halfway through the week – I felt the guilt-shame cycle rev its engines.

I was spending my days reading books or putting together puzzles. Which is crazy to me. Not the book reading part. But the puzzle part.

My mom and husband have been trying to get me to help with puzzles for years. And I kept shooing them off.

My brain isn’t wired to do puzzles.

But I said screw it and helped with 3 over the last week.

The first one, I watched my mom dump out all of the pieces haphazardly and then lean over the table to put them right side up as she found the edge pieces and handed those to my husband who was diligently at work.

I gasped. How can people do that? That is chaos.

So I persuaded my mom and husband to let me take control of sorting the next puzzle we did. I was confident that my way would be more efficient.

They complained. And said my way was silly.

So the second puzzle – I took command of sorting the freshly unboxed puzzle pieces. One handful at a time, I flipped the pieces over and sorted them into their main colors, or patterns. I easily found the edges for my husband as he took control of that…again.

And once all the pieces were grouped by colors, my brain took a deep breath.

But as I was hyper-focusing on putting sections together – it hit me that sure, my way was more efficient – pieces of similar color and patterns were close together – but I still had to hunt for some.

My sorting process had minor flaws. For instance – my husband tried to help but he ended up not following my idea completely so there was a huge pile I never got around to sorting.

But it was still efficient.

Until I realized that part of the experience of putting together a puzzle – is the hunt.

The hunt to find hidden pieces amongst an ocean of randomly sorted puzzle pieces.

Part of the experience of putting together a puzzle – is the relief when you finally find that missing piece, that hidden piece that you haphazardly threw onto the table and flipped over as you were on the search for the edge.

Once that realization hit me square upside the head – I acknowledged the guilt-shame cycle of doing nothing productive for an entire week…and before I gave it the green light to consume the rest of my week – I told the cycle to fuck off.

Because dammit – screw efficiency sometimes and screw productivity sometimes.

Not everything has to be efficient.

I enjoyed that week off so much that I was READY to get back into the grind Monday morning.

Of course – I woke up at 10 am because I was dizzier than a trout on a playground merry-go-round and barely got a load of laundry and a load of dishes done.

Still not sure if I was feeling like a Cirque-du-Soleil dancer without the training because of a final side-effect of the Moderna Booster or because I just spent a week eating every sweet thing I could find because HELLO! Calories ate in the last two weeks of the year definitely don’t carry over…right?

Anyways, I spent the last week of one the biggest years of my life – in complete and total – sloth mode.

I finished reading 4 novels. I helped finish 3 puzzles. My husband and I finally did some major cleaning in our house that has been put off for years.

I woke up when I wanted to. I went to sleep when I wanted to.

By the way – I am no longer a night owl. Staying awake past 10 pm while also being coherent the next day is becoming harder and harder. And that’s WITHOUT alcohol.

The only responsibility I did not shut down on Christmas Eve – was making sure our girls were fed and the dogs ran.

I went into the holiday break with the idea that I would still be working. My to-do list hasn’t taken a day off in decades.

I haven’t taken a week off just because in, well, ever.

Because for the first time, I am my own boss.

Granted – I couldn’t afford to take a week off. At least not financially.

But mentally – that was the best week ever. That was a week I didn’t know I needed until I was already halfway through it.

But by the time I realized what was happening – Monday morning was coming fast.

I spent more time last week laughing, and not just laughing – but deep belly laughing that causes side aches for days – laughing.

Last week would not have been possible had I not taken a leap of faith 6 months ago.

So this time next year, I am going to be writing about how I spent the last week somewhere not at home because between today and Christmas Eve – I will be doing everything in my power to ensure my husband and I and our girls and our dogs can take a week off to just exist without expectations and responsibilities.

Adventure on with Curiosity,
-Kelly Steele

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