Self-care sounds too woo-woo, too self indulgent for a lot of folks.
It’s something, they think, that’s for other people as they are too busy doing important things.
Alex thought exactly that. She had an important job filled with meetings, constant texts, Slack messages and phone calls. Constant access yet no real connection to any of them.
24 hours a day the messages came in and Alex usually jumped into reaction mode. It irritated her family and really kept her from connecting with the people she was actually physically in the same room with.
Something had to give but Alex was so caught up in it she wasn’t even sure where to begin.
Luckily on a recent weekend visit home her grandfather reeled her in. As Alex and her cousins entered their grandfather’s house he greeted them at the door with a basket to put their phones in. “What? Are you kidding Pop?”, Alex said. No he wasn’t. “Turn them off and put them in the basket”, Pop replied. .
Pop was going to teach his grandchildren some boundaries whether they like it or not. He was laying down the law and there would be a dinner without cell phones.
While Pop portrayed it as a lesson in boundaries and civility he had a bigger idea in mind. They were used to him having a glass of wine and then talking to them as adults even when they were just kids. But this time he went a bit deeper.
He spoke to them about their own lives and taking care of themselves. That being attached to cries for attention or help 24/7 was letting other people be in charge of them. It was time they understood that setting boundaries was about their own personal leadership.
After dinner Pop asked them to join him in the back yard – he had chairs set up already and they continued the conversation. It had a lighter feel and the joke telling started.
Alex said that her grandfather was hardly a woo-woo kind of guy but that two people he had worked with had died from heart attacks. They were dedicated workers from an older generation who totally adapted to the on call 24/7 mentality. In fact, they each had held the same job – one died and then the next one did too. Now no one would take on that role. It was constant pressure and they paid with their lives.
Alex and her cousins lingered a little longer on this visit. She admitted it was hard to picture someone dying from a job. She also admitted that there was no denying dinner and the entire visit was really nice with out everyone checking their phones.
Linking personal leadership to work boundaries seemed to click with them. It gave it more meaning. It was permission and empowerment simultaneously to be the leader of their own lives.
“It doesn’t own you – the phone or your job”, Pop told them. “The power is your choice, your decision, your personal leadership.”
“Sometimes Pop really get’s going when his got his grandchildren as an audience”, Alex told me, “yet it is the wisdom that only a grandparent can give that really get’s listened to – especially when the phones are off.”
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