Yesterday was the first day of the new Sweetie Saturday Initiative, here at Living A Creative Life HQ.
The Sweetie Saturday Initiative is an expansion on Date Night, which MM and I established two or three years ago, when I realized that I was starting to rigidify into a full-blown workaholic.
That was the first realization, which I’d been trying to deny for years.
The second, equally important realization was that if this wasn’t how I wanted to live (which it very much wasn’t), I was going to have to take steps now toward changing that.
See, workaholism doesn’t just go away. You can’t work yourself into the ground, neglecting self and relationships for years and decades, and expect that down the road life will magically become easier and more gentle. It doesn’t work that way.
How you live your life in the present determines the shape of your life in the future. (Click to tweet this!)
I’ve been on a journey for the past four and a half years to create the life I really, really want, and let me tell you, that life does not include burning myself out!
So a few years ago we implemented Date Night: one evening a week when MM and I would get out of the house together and leave work behind for a few hours.
I must admit I was kind of nervous about it at the time. A night off from working?? Would I be able to manage it?? Surely the sky would fall…?
The workaholic gremlin on my shoulder did its best to convince me that Date Night would be a disaster, but thankfully I was savvy enough not to listen.
I quickly discovered that not only did the sky not fall, but a few hours each week of dedicated Sweetie Time — a genuine break from work (not always easily achieved, when the line dividing work and life and identity is blurry and porous) — dramatically improved my quality of life!
A girl could get used to this! And indeed, this girl did get used to it. Date Night became an instant institution.
That said, I confess we do periodically need to revisit our No Devices policies and agreements, as both of us tend to get lax about smart phones and computers, and then Date Night becomes just like any other night and loses its power to recharge and refresh.
This is where we get to practice my Golden Formula:
Melissa’s Golden Formula: self-awareness + self-compassion = the key to everything good. (Click to tweet!)
Practicing the Golden Formula means we notice where we’re slipping, remind ourselves that we’re human, and lovingly correct forward. No beating ourselves up.
Even with the occasional backsliding, Date Night has generally gone swimmingly. Honestly, I don’t know how I ever lived without it!
Then last week MM and I were talking, and he mentioned that we almost never get any daytime time together.
He’s at his nine-to-five Monday through Friday, and spends every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00am til about 2:00pm “scribbling” (ie, writing screenplays at a local cafe).
Naturally, I champion him in these efforts to feed his creative hungers, and I applaud his commitment and consistency. By the time he comes home, however, I’m typically immersed in whatever creative work (or “work”-work) I’ve got going on, and I keep charging ahead until bedtime.
As a result, we almost never get to do daytime things together like hiking, day trips, fun shopping excursions, etc.
Hmmm…. Perhaps it was time to add some additional dedicated Sweetie Time to our week, during daylight hours, so we could do such things together.
Not wanting to interfere with his limited writing hours, I suggested that we try taking Saturday afternoons as a sort of daytime Date Night, to do fun things together we don’t have time for during the rest of the week.
The Sweetie Saturday Initiative was born.
As with Date Night, I had some initial concerns: would I still be able to get all my work done, if I didn’t have the entire weekend to catch up??
Again, the workaholic gremlin on my shoulder kicked and screamed and put up a fuss. A whole afternoon-and-into-the-evening off from working?? What are you thinking??
By now, though, the gremlin’s fears were nothing more than whispers tickling at my ear. I’ve gotten used to taking better care of myself in the past few years. I’ve been learning first-hand how much better my quality of life is when I’m not constantly busting my butt and driving myself into the ground.
In fact, I started getting really excited about the Sweetie Saturday Initiative! This was going to be so fun and relaxing!
As it turned out, we spent a lot of our very first Sweetie Saturday doing things that aren’t particularly relaxing — for example, waiting around in the Verizon store to talk to a customer service rep about upgrading my phone… Then poor MM waited patiently in a dressing room chair at the Gap while I tried on some cords.
Not the most blissful activities in and of themselves, but as we walked to the car after our jaunt through the shopping center, I marveled at how great it felt to be completely removed from my regular weekday routine!
MM laughed. “Yeah, it’s called a weekend,” he said. “Most people take one every week.”
What a brilliant concept!
Working for myself for so long, I’ve allowed the weekend concept to get very hazy. Yesterday I had renewed admiration and gratitude for my ancient Jewish ancestors, who gifted humanity with the notion of a weekly rest day. Pure genius!
In this modern era, the fact that allowing myself to take a weekend day is such a big deal may seem sort of ridiculous, but how may of us deny ourselves the things we need or desire, even when part of us knows it’s impossible to live our best lives without them?
You may take regular weekends, but maybe you don’t feed your creative hungers.
Perhaps you still haven’t figured out how to integrate movement (aka, exercise) into your day, and your body, mind and spirit are suffering as a result.
Maybe you don’t give yourself the sleep you need.
Maybe you’re caught in a cycle of beating yourself up, treating yourself not with self-compassion, but in a way you’d never treat someone you care about.
Each of those things used to be true for me.
I’ve only changed those habits (and imperfectly so) by making the decision to do so, and taking them on one at a time. And I’ve only been able to take each habit or behavior on when I’ve been ready.
We are ready when we’re ready, and not a moment before. (Click to tweet!)
By making incremental changes now, we prepare ourselves to be ready for bigger changes later. (Click to tweet!)
I couldn’t have implemented the Sweetie Saturday Initiative a few years ago — it felt too radical. I needed to get comfortable with Date Night first. I needed to spend a few years letting it sink into my head that MM and I are okay when I don’t kill myself working, and in fact we’re both better off!
Perhaps I needed a few years of meditating regularly (also known as the best self-contained self-compassion factory ever!); a few years of taking better care of myself physically — getting out of a chair and into a treadmill desk; getting therapeutic massage and chiropractic every two to three weeks, rather than waiting until I’m already in pain.
In other words, maybe before I could institute something like the Sweetie Saturday Initiative I needed a few years of treating myself better, and acknowledging that I deserve to be taken good care of.
Whatever the trajectory, little by little, layer by layer, I am shedding the unhealthy habits and behaviors that have been holding me back, and replacing them with habits and behaviors that are helping me live my best, happiest, biggest, boldest, most creative life.
I’ve come a long way. And I have a long way still to go. Welcome to life.
What’s the next step you’re going to take, in order to take better care of you?
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!