My family has lovingly named the part where you come back from vacation, re-entry. It’s the time leading up to landing back into the normalcy of life and all of the sudden realize you have to go back to work and everything feels a little bit terrifying. And it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been away for two days or ten days, whether you’ve been on your emails the whole time, or haven’t taken a peek at your phone, it all feels just a touch ominous and before anything has even happened yet you’re feeling pulled in a million different directions.
This is what happened to me at around 3am the night before we left to come home from a vacation…I woke up and my brain started buzzing with to-do lists, conversations with people I haven’t had yet. Social engagements, leaving for the airport, wondering if I’ll miss my alarm. It’s this half-conscious, half-asleep world where my consciousness tells me I’m being crazy, I just need to sleep, nothing bad is going to happen, while my brain continues a never-ending list of all of the potential problems the world has to offer, which, it believes, are best solved at 3 in the morning.
This re-entry brain is annoying as hell. It doesn’t let you sleep. It doesn’t let you focus on any one thing and it is an expert about pointing out every single thing you can worry about from now until 2030, including but not limited to: children you haven’t even thought of having yet, work problems that aren’t problems yet, natural disasters, the list could go on endlessly.
Out of the bright blue sky, every single item on my to-do list somehow miraculously became a ridiculously high priority and life was just crushing me, as opposed to me crushing it. This is not the sleep you want for the last two days of vacation because they are also coincidentally the last two nights you will ever have to get a good night’s sleep forevermore (or so my brain in overdrive says) and it is utterly horrific that you cannot sleep. Tired just reading this? I thought so…me too. When I saw my mind doing this I desperately tried to change its course, quickly going over in my head everything I’m grateful for. I was throwing one thing after the next not giving my mind a moment to slip into its trickery of re-entry thoughts. I was throwing gratitude bullets at my brain, thinking I had outsmarted the system, until being unrelentingly grateful at high speed only made gratitude stressful.
When I was 16 I spoke in front of a crowd of almost 1,000 people for the first time. I was already ridiculously nervous and for the first time ever I was using a teleprompter. A few hours before I was going to speak, I stood on the vast stage rehearsing my speech and slowly panic started to creep into my chest. The words were rolling too quickly. I couldn’t read them fast enough. Looking down at my Dad and up at the words, my heart started pounding. Suddenly, I stopped and called out, “Dad!! The words are going too fast I can’t read that fast what am I going to do?!?!” My Dad looked at me and very calmly explained that if I spoke slower, the teleprompter would move slower since there was someone backstage listening to me and operating the teleprompter based on the speed I was speaking. Now, it’s not shocking the words were moving fast. I am a fast talker naturally, then throw in a dose of nerves and holy guacamole Batman can I fly over a speech at top speed!! I took a breath, I started over and as I slowed down, so did the words.
My mind, I have realized, is akin to reading from a teleprompter. The faster I talk to myself the faster my internal teleprompter operator scrolls through the text, but if I slow down, so does my teleprompter. Last night, my thoughts were moving so quickly that my internal teleprompter operator, I will name him Herbert, got a little slap-happy and started flying through the thoughts like mad, but as I took a breath and started to speak to myself calmly and rationally, down went my heart rate and the thoughts seem to get less panicky, too. It was like I had given Herbert a sedative, just by breathing and slowing down.
No one likes coming back from vacation. The thought of re-entry sets your internal teleprompter elf on high alert and ready for action. Re-entry brain tells you that you’ve been missing out. That you’re behind. That everyone else is ahead. That life is somehow miraculously different than it was when you last left it. And then you get up and you check your planner and there are a lot of things in there, but not so many that they won’t all get done and work, well, it’s not that scary, it looks just like it did a week ago. Okay, so it’s not the same as laying on a lounge chair for eight hours a day reading a book, but it was doable a week ago and it is doable now.
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I am not the only one with a little teleprompter elf in my mind. And if your elf is also at times a little drunk with power, please remember that this little elf is under our control, not vice versa.
It is all doable. Everything is possible. It’s okay to say no to things as you catch and it’s okay to ask for help. Re-entry is hard, so be gentle on yourself if you’re just getting back into the swing of things too and also just be gentle with yourself because today is a day that ends in y. And on all days that end in y we should be gentle with ourselves.
Happy Tuesday friends slow down that little elf in your mind and take a breath, you are worth the time it takes to breathe!