Saturday, June 18, 2005
Summer of Slack
I have realized that throughout my life, I have welcomed a friend into my life as a regular companion. Now be careful because this companion is neither tall, dark, nor handsome. Okay, maybe a little dark. This companion is stress. Stress from taking on too much in comparison to the amount of time available in a normal person's day. Stress for tackling time sensitive deadlines on a regular basis. Stress from responsibility. Stress from worrying about breast cancer and all the implications I so regularly like to complain about or, at the very least, mention.

Some say there is a connection between stress and breast cancer and others dispute it. At least we know with some certainty that stress compromises our overall health. Any compromise in our health could have an impact of recovery and survivorship. So although it was never really healthy for me, it is certainly much worse for me now.

I had an idea that would change this all around. I knew I couldn't completely break away from stress. It has been a willing and faithful companion or quite some time. I knew I couldn't break it off cold turkey. It just isn't my style ( seriously, I brought a parting gift the last time I broke off a relationship! Who does that?). If there was a way I could plan a trial separation or even separate vacations, I might welcome the lifestyle change so much that I could envision a life apart from my faithful companion.

Over a month ago I closed a post with a teaser of impending news regarding my "summer of slack." Somehow I not only lost sight of that post, but also the concept. I planned for it to be my new credo, my new lifestyle, just part of the new me. Why does it feel like I am about to say the "new Jan Brady?" Well, maybe it is, just without the wig, the long blonde hair, and whiny attitude (Beware! This is what happens when you watch too much television while growing up). But I digress . . .

I think it is not too late to save the "Summer of Slack" credo. Officially, summer has yet to begin, right? Doesn't it fall on Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year? I think it is right around the corner on June 22nd. That gives me three whole planning days for a Summer of Slack.

This is what I envisioned:

1. No overtime (what we salaried folks like to call administrative time). I tend to put a few of these hours in every week, routinely working past the closing bell and often a few hours over the weekend as well. And although this weekend called for a big bundle of these hours due to emergency situations, I'll call it an anomaly, and plan (outside of emergencies) not to stay late or donate my weekend time.

2. Limited teaching. I enjoy teaching. It challenges me on a completely different level than my full-time career or volunteer projects. It takes a significant amount of time in preparation, class time, meetings, grading, etc. To do it right, a lot of time needs to be set aside to be available for students and to continue current research so that I am well prepared for class in general knowledge of the subject material as well as the lesson materials I have prepared. This summer I am teaching just one class on Saturdays and it will be done in five Saturdays (one down, four to go). I've taught this class so many times before that it comes very naturally most days. It's a good summer class.

3. No other consulting. I have broken this rule a tiny little bit already by having one job this week. But it's tiny. Two hours. I'll make the presentation and be gone. Done. Achievable with minimal stress and then no more for the summer (or possibly beyond).

4. Play time. There should be copious amounts of play time. Play time out doors, play time in doors, play time away from home, play time at home. Life should be simpler, easier, not so stressful.

5. Lots of exercise. I would like lots of morning walks and/or plenty of gym time. It always make me feel better and energized. No exceptions. No lame excuses. I want to log enough miles on foot, on treadmill, on bike, on elliptical that a comparable number of miles would get me to Canada before Labor Day.

When I look this list over, all I am doing is replacing the time I spend doing for others with time spent getting and keeping me healthy. That isn't really slack, it's hard work in and of itself. But for me, a constant doer, giver, achiever, it feels somehow like I'm slacking off. Apparently, along with a schedule adjustment, I need an attitude adjustment to pull it off.

Whatever it takes, a summer of slack is just what the doctor has ordered. So excuse me while I go play . . . or not work . . . or go exercise . . .
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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