Remember how I told you about PEP?
Well, in one of the coaching sessions I had over that weekend I was crying within the first thirty seconds.
The coach (who also happened to be a therapist) was so open. She just held the space. Judgement free. Then simply asked: What’s the one thing that would make the biggest difference to you right now?
At the time I thought I was still “handling” all that work stress. All those physical symptoms. I thought the trip to Kenya – given it was part holiday and something entirely for me – “should” have “fixed” me and who was I to “still be complaining”.
But in that moment, her question just cut straight through to my heart. The one thing that would make the biggest difference? Space.
I needed space. To be away from work. To have time off. To just be. To rest. To clear my head and my heart.
And in my response, there was no turning back. I’d spoken what I most needed and the wheels were already in motion to deliver.
A few weeks later I’d be signed off on stress leave from work, initially for two weeks, but it grew to a total of six weeks by the end.
It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Walking into that doctor’s room to tell her I wasn’t coping.
Scarier still to call up my boss and let him know I wouldn’t be coming in. And knowing that all that work that was on my shoulders would have to end up on someone else’s.
But, the most scariest of all was what happened next.
The being alone part. The waking up every single morning while my partner got ready for work and my “job” was to rest. To be still. To learn how to come down off that stress high and give my body a chance to restore.
The doctor prescribed some “doing nothing” – no Netflix at the time but there were plenty of Friends DVDs. But she was also pretty clear about moving, getting out of the house from time to time and being gentle with myself.
Looking back now I’m so incredibly grateful I had a doctor that could see through to the heart of the issue and not just focus on the symptoms. I don’t think I would have had the guts to follow through with time off work if she hadn’t given me no other choice.
This is the time in my life where I started dating myself.
Whilst I was an avid coffee snob by that point in my life, loving the café culture, I hadn’t exactly spent a lot of time on my own at cafes. And I certainly hadn’t done much of it in the middle of the day in the middle of the work week.
It felt weird. Lonely. I was self-conscious. I didn’t know if I should take a book. Or if I took my journal I didn’t know what to right or if others in the café would somehow be able to read my thoughts as I was writing.
However, on doctor’s orders (get out of the house) and on a gentle tug from my heart (I really am a café girl and the idea of it certainly lit me up) I got up every morning and went to a local coffee shop.
Over time it became second nature. It felt normal. Well practiced. I started to crave that spaciousness to sit and be.
I realised that I’d never been “alone” with my own thoughts for long enough to allow the dust to settle. And that when I did slowly but surely I could make things out again.
It felt grounding. Calming. And loving.
I was giving myself the time I so happily gave to others in my life. I was listening to myself. And, I was learning.
It’s a practice I still do to this day and it’s honestly been transformative for me. It’s taken different shapes and guises but at its heart it’s been me prioritising time with me. Because I know that when I do life itself is so much clearer, joyful and present.