WHERE’S ZAB?? or, notes on boundaries

Working a lot (at institutions that employ me— that kind of work). Work-life balance is tough, and sometimes I spend more time “at work” than is optimal for me. That’s the way it goes— every day on the planet isn’t the Zabby show. There are seasons— and trade-offs. I’m new-ish in two different jobs, which means there’s a lot of start-up energy and I’m also the junior person. And unexpected things happen (someone quits, there’s a global pandemic). The upshot is that, even though I value and generally protect boundaries around my time and effort, I can still wind up on the wrong side of them sometimes. But this condition is not fatal! It just requires paying attention to, and making decisions about. This deliberate approach can stop a “for now” from becoming a “forever”. It can stop something temporary from becoming status quo. And status quo should be something that aligns with my intentions and values.

I know that this academic term was busy, for a reason (the reason is boring). This has been challenging for me— less time for things I love and care about, less time with my partner, less time for things that are good for me (especially important in the dark winter months). I know that my schedule will not be this way again in the near future, and it will be over next week.  This fact, for me, is the difference between “ok” and “unhealthy”. When I was asked to take on more, again, next term, I said no. And that, though difficult for me, is a breakthrough in living intentionally.  I looked my boss in the eye and said NO, that’s not what I want, that’s not what you promised me, that’s not what you are paying me for. My heart pounded and my ears got hot. But I did it, and it worked. I’m still a valued and respected member of the team. And now I have a sane schedule again.

Healthcare workers (and nurses especially) have trouble with drawing a line. Because the work is direct service, it can feel selfish to say no. But protecting your own boundaries is NOT selfish. It’s crucial to letting the work be part of our lives for a long time.

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