What better way to learn a valuable, humbling lesson than by having a total, unadulterated freak-out?
Having two of them.
I would know.
Though Santa was not involved, both of my personal incidents were still special in their own way, and each actually had a different fix. Yet, in the end, they both pointed to the same, spectacularly dramatic lesson about keeping ourselves successful and happy…and sane.
I present to you now…a tale of two freak-outs.
Freak-out #1: The Cave Crisis
This one happened just a few days ago. I’d recently returned from vacation and, in my infinite scheduling wisdom, had given myself a whole lot of time upon my return – almost a full week – to catch up on work. I’d planned no meetings, no lunches, no nothing.
The problem was I’d pretty much caught up on everything before leaving town, and kept on top of communication while away. And, in this quieter time of year, there wasn’t much new stuff.
At first I decided it was just more bonus downtime before the craziness of the new year. Those first few days I took myself out to lunch, read my book, facebook’d more than usual.
Soon, however, I got less motivated, putting aside even silly tasks like the dishes, my butt increasingly planted firmly on the couch. It was getting hard to breathe. My little cave of solitude was closing in.
By the fourth day I was a hot mess. I called hubbie to hear his voice and as the phone rang felt the loneliness and sadness bubble up. The second he picked up I started sobbing.
That’s when I realized how much the space around me mattered. I needed to leave the cave, to be somewhere with more action, more connection…more people.
Freak-out #2: The Family Frenzy
The exact opposite scenario came a few years ago, during a holiday visit with the family in New York.
Now, let me say for the record (and not just because Mom reads this blog) that my family is amazingly loving and supportive. Visits are filled with my favorite meals, carefully thought-through gifts and lots of hugs.
They are also filled with nights spent sleeping in my old childhood bedroom and days spent living complicated dynamics…the kind that just happen with family.
Needless to say, things can get tricky.
As the days progressed I found myself getting cranky, impatiently snipping at family members and trying to sneak away to catch my breath…but there was nowhere to go.
Finally, after an innocent comment from my sister about my particular food choice, I lost it. I began yelling to be left alone, to be without critique for just a few hours. I ran up the stairs to my old room, with its flood of memories and thin door (which I slammed. Hard.).
That’s when I realized how much the space around me mattered. I needed be somewhere quiet, safe, and neutral…a place where I could regroup and calm myself.
By now you’ve gotten the message, right?
Space matters, and most of us don’t think about it enough. It’s not as simple as extroverts needing bigger, louder spaces and introverts needing smaller, quieter ones.
It’s about knowing our needs in different situations: personal and professional, times of the day and week. It’s about knowing when the energy of others feeds us and when it might sap us dry.
Our space sets us up for success or failure (or freak-outs). We must assess, then plan as best we can to put ourselves in the right space at the right time. And if we can’t, we need to figure out how we’ll deal with it.
Which is what I did.
Two days after freak-out #1 I signed up for a co-working space and moved my budget around to get in there several hours a week. It’s already made a big difference in my ability to be the successful, happy professional I knew I could be.
As far as freak-out #2? This year, my first trip back since the unfortunate episode (and after a carefully worded explanation to Mom), I stayed in a hotel. It made a big difference in my ability to be the loving, happy daughter and sister I knew I could be.
Sure, more freak-outs will undoubtedly come…perhaps soon. But at least I’ve figured out where to go when they happen. And that’s just good for all involved.
Know that space matters…perhaps more than you think. Determine where you thrive, and when. Recognize it will change depending on your needs.
Then make your plan…and celebrate your newfound space sanity.
Now, go do good…and do it well.