Always, always, ALWAYS – when I stop actively living the lessons I’ve learned on my Diva journey, I fall back into old, destructive habits. One of the worst of these for me is perfectionism. The problem with this insidious disease (and it IS a disease, make no mistake about it!) is that it doesn’t look like you’re sick. To much of the wider world, you’re working and hustling, crossing tasks off your mile-long “to do” list like a boss and society praises your work ethic to the heavens.
You’re scorched. You’re waking up tired and going all day, fueled by too much caffeine and too much food eaten on the run, ignoring friends and loved ones to get justonemorething done, and getting short-tempered with the very people who love you the most.
Let me be clear – this is NOT what success is supposed to look like.
On the battlefield, armies have definite goals and retreat is not one of them. Oh, sometimes it’s done to pull back forces to a place of safety or even (very tricky!) to lull the enemy into following the retreat only to be surprised by an overwhelming force located away from the main battlefield – but usually, retreat is a Very Bad Thing, signifying defeat.
However, there is also something called a “strategic retreat.” (In the business world, it’s often called a “strategic withdrawal,” but the idea is much the same.) In a strategic retreat, the retreat is orderly, well-executed, and done to conserve strength and consolidate resources to attack the enemy another day, when the army is better armed, supplied, and prepared.
Divas, we all have lessons to learn here.
Since the start of the academic year, I’ve been running full-tilt with professional responsibilities, along with trying to balance home obligations, community events I care about, and maintaining relationships that are SUPER important to me. Something had to give and, unfortunately, it may have been my temper. That’ll happen when you’re juggling with knives.
I’m lucky – the only real casualties (for I have an understanding husband who refused to argue with me when I was wound up) were my pride and a travel mug that – judging from the coffee-colored streaks on my car – I apparently left on the trunk as I left class on Monday. (Wherever you are, ice-blue Yeti, I hope you’re making someone very happy.) So I scheduled an Essential – the Strategic Retreat (“SR”). It made sense – there was a day when I didn’t have class and working all the time had gotten me into this mess to begin with.
For me, there are several key tasks to setting up a successful SR – you have to do some solid prep work the day before. (Go over to the “Resources” tab, pick “Home Luxuries” and you’ll see the “Kitchen Spa” tab. [Or just click here!] That’ll show you what I mean, although that’s a very particular type of SR. Also, click here to see another woman’s view of a SR.) I laid in some groceries, made sure to have some books and movies on hand – I didn’t know what would tickle my fancy during my SR, so it’s best to have a variety – and committed to stepping back from the phone, email, and social media for a day and simply do what best pleased me.
By some standards, I was a busy li’l Diva. At the end of the day, I had played with watercolors and different brush techniques (see the paintings that accompany this post), read a Nancy Drew book (there’s something soothing about Nancy and Bess and George solving improbable mysteries), taken a hot bath, and used some of the “good” skincare products that I seem to hoard like a dragon on a pile of gold. I tried to quiet my “monkey brain” by using the Shine meditation app (the daily mediation was, fittingly enough, all about perfectionism), and taken advantage of a link a friend sent me to a 5-day “self-care boot camp” (phrases that don’t seem to go together, but I’m trying it). I also completed a Rosetta Stone language lesson and was honest with my acupuncturist about what physical troubles my stress level was causing. I stopped for a chai and a cupcake, and used the homemade rosewater I had made recently (it’s not hard – click here!) to make candied peanuts. Tonight, I gave myself permission to not cook from scratch to extend the calm a little further. For you, a SR might look very different – maybe you would sleep late, go hiking, then putter around making a complicated dish for dinner. Or maybe you’d spend an hour working the New York Times crossword puzzle and watch soap operas all afternoon. It really doesn’t matter, provided whatever you do suits YOU.
Tomorrow, I shall return to work, rested, ready, and far more sane.
And that’s bound to help not just me, but everyone who crosses my path. THAT is the power of self-care, my dear Divas.