We ate burgers not once, not twice, but three times this week. Yes, in the middle of December, as everyone else is baking gingerbread cookies, drinking warm eggnog and singing Christmas carols, we are eating barbecue and French fries. And you know what? It is damn good.
Sometimes what we refer to as traditions is great. Knowing that every year, around the same period of time, you will be found doing the same kind of stuff is comforting. I believe it is part of what I like to think of as the simple joys of life. The first snow, the Christmas tree, Elvis singing he’ll have a blue Christmas without me. These are very fun things that make me get through the end of the year. The last few days before Christmas are especially exciting, since we usually can’t wait to get on vacation to finally enjoy some rest and fill up the house with the sweet smell of chocolatey threats.
This year is different. This year, I haven’t been able to wait until Christmas to get some rest. I had to take an unplanned week off before the well-deserved holiday break. It sounds fun. It wasn’t. For those who never got to experience it, a forced pause is often accompanied with a deep sense of guilt coming from the impression you are letting your team down, as well as a profound feeling of failure coming from the impression you are not strong enough to put up with the stress of the daily hustle. Despite waking up without an alarm, it has nothing to do with the peaceful sensation of vacation time.
Yet, I am glad I went through it. Breaking the tradition, taking time off before I was supposed to and I intended to, led me to reflect a lot. It gave me the opportunity to reconsider my priorities and reconnect with my true spirit. After weeks without really tasting anything, without feeling hungry because of anxiety, I realized that what I was eating was pretty boring, and that what I was crazing something tastier (mmmmm, burgers). After weeks fully focused on work and school, without any second thought about what I should be doing, I realized that I needed something more, and that I am craving for more space, more passion, more heart. That time off work made me realize that I am either expecting too much out of work, or more precisely out of a job. I believe we are getting confused, and that confusion is transforming our decision making into a much too complex process. We are taking our job, our career, our vocation, for our work, forgetting that our real work is simply (yet as we know simplicity is often hard to reach) to be the best human being we can be. We are following the lead, doing what everyone else is doing, singing Christmas songs along and eating candy canes, without asking ourselves if what we really want is a burger, even in the middle of December.
As I was lying on my yoga mat thinking about all that, I also realized that if this was true, then it also means that I will have to work hard, not only 9 to 5. I will have to take my time to listen, to be able to hear my own voice. I will have to be present to myself and to others. I will have to fully accept what is, starting with myself. A lot of haves, but with definitely as many rewards. Those rewards won’t come in the form of a raise or a diploma though, and I will have to carefully pay attention to how they show up in my life. A spontaneous laugh with a friend, a warm compliment from my mom, a sweet hug from my sister. Subtle intangible rewards. Delightful and precious.
That’s what happens when you get to go on a forced break in December. You end up eating burgers and opening up your heart. As long as you don’t mix things up too much and end up eating your heart in an open burger, I am fine with it.