As a public school employee for 25 years, I enjoyed the unwritten perk of an occasional "mental health day", a day which might be planned in advance or might be spontaneously taken when the alarm clock went off one morning. It was understood by my colleagues as an absolute necessity on occasion; we were careful not to take them so often that the principal could call us on them, but we did get 12 sick days per school year and if we had enough stored up, we felt free to take one mental health day every few months. I'm sure that judiciously-taken mental health days saved more than one teacher or counselor from nervous breakdowns over junior high kids' behavior!
All week long I've been eying my Thursday somewhat apprehensively, trying to get as much done as possible in advance so that I could afford to take a full day and go to a ministers' cluster meeting in Port Townsend. These meetings are always enjoyable; we have conversations that range from Gnosticism (today's topic) to the more mundane details of congregational life and my North Sound colleagues are great company.
But today I woke up knowing that I didn't want to go. A couple of good reasons: it just hasn't been possible to cram everything into Monday through Wednesday so I don't feel I can take a full day off and a windy night foretells a windy day on the Strait, meaning that the passenger ferry that plies the Sound between Whidbey and Pt. T could well be canceled, leaving me stranded on the other side.
So those are reasons, but I always feel uncomfortable about bowing out of something I am expected to do. And, along with the relief of having taken the day back, I'm feeling---what? guilty? not really, because I'm not shirking a duty like program or lunch or some such. wussy? sort of, because non-ferry-riders don't always understand the vagaries of ferry travel and might consider me overreacting.
Regretful is the best I can come up with, because I don't want my colleagues to think I care for them so little that I am unwilling to take these risks to see them. Our cluster meetings are supposed to be for self-care, as much as anything, and it's usually true for me. But factoring in the times and the tides involved, it becomes an exercise in over-extending myself. And that, I know, is not self-care for me.
I tend to get sick if I get to a certain point of over-extension without building in some relief. And this week has been particularly stressful, with weather, rehearsals for the Ms. Kitty onstage auction item, the auction itself, for which I am sponsoring a chili cookoff, and preaching on Sunday---a sermon which has yet to progress beyond the opening story.
So to quote Martin Luther the original, "Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other. Amen.".
(Sort of melodramatic for a mere mental health day, I know, but whatever works to salve my conscience!)