I can sustain a hard-driving pace for a long time and perform really well. I actually kind of thrive on it. In part, I think it’s because the push to get something done under pressure — and then getting it done well — is enormously satisfying to me (even more so if I happen to get praise from the right people). It’s also, in part, due to a knack I have for maintaining intense focus for prolonged periods, requiring relatively little to keep up my stamina: As long as I can keep my apartment clean and my refrigerator stocked, and take enough time now and then to go running or see a play, I can go for as long and as hard as you want.
But, take away those basic requirements and I last for about two weeks. After that, things start to fall apart. I learned that the hard way in law school, when I would try to go all-out during the last four or five weeks before finals. And I re-learned it (again, the hard way) after joining the law firm — because this job has a way of demanding everything I can give it and squeezing everything else out of my life.
I mentioned before that the week before last was an 80-hour workweek. The hours this past week were in the mid-70s. And the intervening weekend, which I had really needed to spend getting ahead on work and putting my personal life in order, was instead spent hosting a surprise houseguest: a friend from Switzerland who decided last minute to invite himself over during his vacation to the U.S. (Normally I don’t mind houseguests, but a surprise visit on a weekend when I really had no time to give was not appreciated.)
All of which meant that by this weekend I had reached my two-week limit. My apartment was dirty, my fridge was empty, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gone running, I was exhausted, and — worst of all — I was starting to fray emotionally. (I mean, really, when I start bawling in the middle of “Glee” I know I’m on shaky ground.)
So, rather than pushing through another weekend of work, I paid attention to the warning signs and took a break. Today needed to be my catch-up day. I slept until 10:30, cleaned my apartment, and then went out and stimulated the economy. I now have a new Bose sound system (which is wonderful), a new iPod (for playing over said sound system), a new collection of pansies and cabbagesfor the pots on my balcony (the “fall” collection), and a white rhinoceros head for the bathroom wall (because, really, who doesn’t want a white rhinoceros head on the bathroom wall?).
I did not make it to the grocery store, go running, practice my choral music, plan my vacation to Paris, or figure out my hometeaching — all of which is nagging at the back of my mind, making me feel inadequate and like I’ve wasted the day. But I’ve decided to ignore that (I still have tomorrow!) and, instead, focus on the good. For the next little while, I’m just going to sit here listening to Beethoven’s piano sonatas and write about some of the things that I thought about during the past two weeks but didn’t have time to write.