I heard rumors. People said, "take a real vacation before you start grad school, because you'll never have a summer again." I took the counsel too lightly. "I'll be fine," I assured them [myself] confidently, "I know how to avoid burn-out." And the moment I realized that I had survived my first year of graduate school (by who knows what means), summer plans erupted.
I was going to go camping/hiking/state-hopping every weekend!!! I was going to have energy during the summer -- oh yes.
Turns out, I've been working a lot of 10-12hr days 5-6 days a week, barely making an appearance at some wedding events and taking a whopping 2 days off with H.K. to enjoy nature, lakeside, and isolate ourselves (for the most part) from our work.
Almost none of my "summer plans" have come to fruition. I haven't visited loved ones in Colorado, I haven't yet been far enough north to see one of the greatest people on earth, and my shot at seeing my family this summer weighs on their being able to come down here. Also, no camping has been achieved. Much to accomplish before late September...
When people said "you'll never had a real vacation again"... I suppose I didn't understand that that meant "you'll hardly ever have a free weekend again". Semantics.
But as long as other people can forgive me, it's okay. Because I love the small peppering of time I have with H.K., I love my new porch garden, I love being able to work through my large stack of leisure reading, and I love drowning in science.
I have been having more frequent bouts of depression recently. It hits me at night, after a 11-hour work day when my eyes are inflamed (see "blepharitis" posts) and all I want to do is be with H.K. and sink into the couch/bed. It is then that my mind slows down and I realize how many people I've blown off lately and what a shitty friend I have been and how in the world I thought I could meet all the social demands I had set for myself.
When this happened two nights ago, I unloaded in "drunk-dial" fashion on my dearest friend,Liz. Master and Ninja of all things Life -- particularly mindfulness and self-acceptance in terms of chronic illness -- Liz helped me to find some perspective.
For more perspective, see this article. Only after reading it have I been able to piece together my position on the social bailing that has made me so upset lately.
I have had a very difficult time explaining, not only to other people but to myself, why I have the energy to work 60-70 hours a week but not to socialize. It comes down to two things: 1) I am a troglodyte, and 2) I absolutely love my work and am bewildered that I am actually healthy enough right now to do it. The latter of these, as you may have guessed, is the more pertinent.
Having had Crohn's disease for ~14 years now, I have experienced many lows and highs. During the lowest lows, I am bed-ridden, emaciated, and in consistent immense pain. But during the highs... there is freedom. There are windows of time when I can do whatever I want to with the energy that I do have. And I chose to do science, because I love it almost as much as I love H.K., and I am compulsively -- sometimes obsessively -- driven by it. It is much harder to find windows of health that allow me to embrace research than it is to find the stamina for being with people I love. It may seem backwards, and/or fucked up, but I take advantage of my rare working windows at the expense of socializing. It has nothing to do with my love for people. It is simply a reflection of my passion taking precedence where/when it can.
The above article explains this conflict well. You do what you can, when you can. Sometimes your body bails on you and plans change. Sometimes you overestimate what you will be able to accomplish and things further down on the list get put off or dropped.
Just because I am working does not mean I am healthy. It means that I am healthy enough to do some things, but not everything.