I've realized something this week after I had a bit of a meltdown from forgetting to take a day off for weeks and weeks and weeks. I realized I'd gone at least 15 days without taking a full day off, and also, the economy has several of my clients putting me off when it comes time to pay me for my work. Last week, I had to pursue my pay from four separate gigs. One check was lost in the mail, and I had to order a replacement. The rest were late to varying degrees. I found myself working and working and working, responding to emails from folks hounding me about deadlines, with absolutely no money in my checking account to show for it. I ran around collecting money, hauling my laptop with me and writing whenever I had a minute to stop and open it up, until I felt like I couldn't speak English anymore.
I'm a terrible boss.
Being self-employed, I have no one to blame for my horrendous work conditions but my own self. I wake up early and work. I work all night. Sometimes, I don't give myself a lunch break. I won't give myself health insurance, and I won't pay myself for as many hours as I work. I underestimate my worth and set my hourly rate too low. I over-commit myself. I won't let me have a day off.
I had to go on strike this week to get me to give myself a day off. I decided on Thursday night, when I was staring at a document and fighting off tears because the words had stopped making sense, that I had to step away from the work. I closed the computer at 6:30 on Thursday night, went to my meeting, and didn't open it again until Saturday afternoon. I went to yoga on Friday for the first time in two weeks. I slept in. I cleaned my house. I went to an art gallery with my husband. It was wonderful.
I've got to remember to be as regimented about taking a day off, at least one full day every week, as I am about working. I am my own slave, and I don't work well when I'm exhausted. I've realized that I've not gone a day without writing in years. Years. If I've not been writing for work, I've been writing for pleasure. I don't want to kill that part of me, and I'm starting to see that it needs a break now and then.
So listen, Self, I'm not going to take this treatment anymore. I'm going to demand a reasonable schedule, enough sleep, yoga a few times a week, and regular meals. I'm going to go to meetings, and I'm going to stop working past 8PM. I'm going to say "No" sometimes, and I'm going to set deadlines that work for me. If people don't pay me for the work I do, I'm going to stop working for them until they do...and if the work is late, I'm not going to sweat the deadline. And that's final.