Thursday, January 31, 2008

Taking a Mental Health Day

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!)


Chalicechick said...

((rehearsals for the Ms. Kitty onstage auction item)))



ms. kitty said...

One of the women in the congregation inveigled me into being "la chanteuse" for a house concert to be held in the coming year. She is a mandolinist and together with a guitarist friend we are presenting an evening of Hoagy Carmichael genre songs to a group of 20 people who will sign up at the auction and pay for the privilege. So we were asked to record a song to be used as a tease and we have been rehearsing like mad to record our version of Stardust. Finally that's done, with only two days to spare!

Ms. Theologian said...

My mom is a social worker, and she used to let me take "mental health days" when I was in school. They're so helpful. I still take them, though not as often as I should.

Jan said...

I'm glad you took this day for your mental, emotional, and spiritual health!

Joel said...

A chili cookoff - I'm envious!

And as for the mental health day, at least you didn't use one of these excuses.

ms. kitty said...

Hey, nice to hear from you, Neff. I hear the baby is gorgeous! I'm looking forward to meeting him sometime this year---maybe on the Fourth?

LinguistFriend said...

Well, the clergy group is probably going to talk about the Gospel of Judas, which doesn't tell us anything real about the very beginnings of Christian tradition, although it tells us about a later point in Gnostic belief. I suspected that before I read six books on it to confirm my suspicion.

Mile High Pixie said...

Nicely done, ma'am. I had an invite to go shopping with a friend, and I very much enjoy doing that with her, but after the few weeks I've had, I had to beg off and take a mental health weekend. Good for you to take care of yourself!