At the Chalet for Two Weeks [en]

[fr] Au chalet pour deux semaines. Pas mal de réflexions sur où j'en suis.

I’m at the chalet for two weeks. I brought Erica. Last time I came I left her at eclau, and she fell ill, and my neighbours had to scramble to get her to the vet. I was ill too. I figured for two weeks it was worth it. She and Quintus still don’t really know each other, as she lives outside and at eclau, and he lives upstairs in the flat and only comes outside for a few minutes at a time, with me. But they’ve “seen” each other (quotes as Quintus is blind). There was growling and hissing early on, and then I prevented contact for a bit. Lately, when Erica comes to say hello to Quintus, he hasn’t growled or hissed. She’s cool. He’s old and lame and suspicious. So, maybe I’ll introduce them at the chalet. If it doesn’t go well, Erica can stay downstairs and outside, and Quintus upstairs. Quintus doesn’t go downstairs anyway.

I wasn’t planning on writing so much about the cats.

I’m at the chalet, for two weeks. My first real holiday since becoming gainfully employed. My previous two attempts at holidaying failed because of my friend giardia lamblia. I’ve been feeling slowly better these last two weeks. My last test came back negative. There’s more to write about this whole story. I don’t know if I’m relieved or more worried. It could in theory be a false negative, unless giardia in humans behaves fundamentally differently in humans than in cats and dogs. The doctor says a false negative is very unlikely, but I haven’t had a chance to confront him to the vet lab instructions linked above. More likely, what I’ve been seeing over the last month could be a post-infection GI disorder. I still haven’t tried introducing dairy back into my diet. I’m keeping a journal now, trying to figure out if I can link certain foods to the symptoms I still have (mainly gas, mild cramps, discomfort — more and more intermittent). I do not want to have IBDIBS, so I’m resisting cutting out gluten to see if it makes a difference, in a futile attempt to make it not that. I’m pretty sure it’s not that, having not noticed an obvious link between wheat and symptoms. But clearly, when I stick to rice and meat, things are pretty good.

I wasn’t planning on writing so much about my digestive woes.

So, here I am at the chalet, for two weeks, on vacation. A vacation as an employee or as a self-employed person feels pretty different. I managed to wrap up everything at work before heading out. Nothing can “happen” during my holidays. When you’re freelance, you can always get that phone call for a dream gig during your holidays, and chances you’re going to pick up the phone and talk with the client. The flexibility one gets as an independent goes both ways: more freedom when working, but less “getting completely away” when you’re not. At least, I never really managed to, except with the week I’d take in the south of France with my martial arts school, pretty much completely offline.

So, speaking of offline. One of my aims during this holiday is to disconnect. Not completely, but largely. This autumn I realised I was suffering from burnout. Starting work has been a lifesaver, because it reduced my mental load dramatically. All I needed to do was worry about waking up in the morning and catching my train. My working hours were long (factor in commuting) but the job itself was actually relaxing compared to my freelance life — particularly on the mental load front. I love my job. My job and I are a great match. I like doing what I do and am good at it. I have good relationships with my colleagues. I have a lot of autonomy, enough stimulation, and appreciation. It’s given me hope for my future and my ability to earn a living.

But aside from work, and aside from the fact I’ve been ill for nearly three months, I can still feel the effects of burnout. I read a book that was very helpful when I figured out what was going on. And it made me realise, more even than I had before, how important it is to have downtime. To do nothing. When I was playing Ingress a lot, I realised that was the problem: I had completely emptied my life of any kind of downtime. And looking back, when I ended up on sick leave for four months in my first year of teaching, that was probably some variety of burnout.

A few links, by me and others:

In addition to the issue around technology, there is social interaction. I mentioned it already in passing, and it’s something I’m thinking a lot about these days. I am a helper/fixer (I don’t know if there is a typology around that, but whatever). Many of my relationships revolve around helping others, particularly in times of crisis. I tend to put others first. Their needs before mine.

Even with my cats, sometimes. When I was trying to get Quintus’s diabetes under control, I realised that the “caring” component of our relationship had taken over all the rest. All my interactions with him had become medical, to the point of becoming obsessive. Thinking back to when Tounsi was ill, there was some of that too. It’s even more marked with humans. I’m the opposite of the fair-weather friend: I’m there during the crisis, but don’t seem very good at maintaining relationships when things are going well.

I’m giving this for context: I’m involved a lot in helping others online, and I feel this double draw of a) fleeing my downtime, and b) wanting contact above all else, pulling me towards a screen when I would actually “want” to be doing something else. (Like eating. Or sleeping. Or watching a TV series. Or simply, something for me rather than for others.)

And so I catch myself: right, I want to check Facebook/FDMB/whatever — but then, what will I do? Will I not go and eat to answer somebody? Will I put off going to bed? Will I give up on relaxing in front of the TV or going for a little stroll with Quintus because somebody needs my help?

It’s good to be altruistic. But in the era of connectedness, there is no limit to how much time you can spend on others rather than yourself.

So, my aim is to spend my holidays on myself. I’ve brought colouring books, my Kindle, my photos to sort through, and I might do a little work on CTTS, like incorporating all the blog posts I wrote for what was then the Open Ears blog, back when I was managing it for Phonak (yay, they seem to have fixed the formatting issues that made the blog posts pretty much unreadable after they migrated to the new platform!)

Also published on Medium.

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