This afternoon, as usual, I was heads down in work. I have a very busy, and often challenging job, which I love, but sometimes I am so focused on my task at hand, as I jump from virtual meeting to meeting and file to file, that I forget to pause, to look up, to take a break. Like millions of people around the world, for the past 16 months my home is my office, and my office is my home. It’s sometimes hard to separate the two sides of my life. On days when work is particularly busy or, I’ll just say it, demanding and stressful, it can envelop me. I forget that something sweet, and relaxing, and mentally healthy is just steps away: the blueberry patch.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic there have been many research studies, papers published and articles written on the virtual workplace or how to balance work and home life, or for women in particular, the tremendous stress we often feel to perform at work and take care of our family. I openly admit that I have a lot on my plate. I love that I have a job where I am respected for my experience and skills, where communications is playing a central role to materially contribute to the success of the business and I am given an opportunity to write almost every day. But as I sit in my home office, when does the work day start and end, and when – and how – can I find time for me? How can I refresh and feel good about myself?
The first way I’ve done that is to escape the city in the summer. I recognize that I am very fortunate that I can do this. I’ve spent the past few weeks living – and working – from my husband’s family country home deep in the mountains in Quebec. I am mere feet away from a beautiful (yet freezing cold!) expansive lake, where the air is fresh and the sunsets are magical. While I work most days from dawn to dusk, when I remember to look up, I see a magical vista. But I rarely take a break.
Today I actually walked away from work and took a short break this afternoon. Which brings me to the blueberry patch. I am surrounded by wild blueberries here. Some years the land is barren, and finding just one blueberry is a challenge. But this year, with our warm spring, that had just enough rain, the conditions were perfect for the patches surrounding the house to bloom and grow. My husband and I, along with his mother, were on a mission last week to pick enough blueberries to have a pie on the weekend (my pie post is for another day. My husband bakes the BEST pie. I am not exaggerating.). I joined them in the evening, after I stopped working for the day, when I was often exhausted. We succeeded. We picked those blueberries and wow was it worth it.
This week we’re on a mission to pick some more, to have enough for him to bake yet another blueberry pie. But this week is different. I looked up at my stunning view early this afternoon – at the mountains, and the lake, even my filthy dog who flitted past the window as she stalked another chipmunk – and I saw the blueberry patch. I decided that I deserved a break. It was healthy for me to walk away from my work and clear my head, in the blueberry patch.
And that’s exactly what I did. I stood up, grabbed a plastic container and walked into the centre of a huge patch of gleaming bright blue berries. As I sat there (yes I sit in the dirt when I pick blueberries!), in no time I released all stress from my body. It was easy to pick each blueberry, with so many of them clumped together on their delicate branches. I’m careful to only pick the blue ones though. The very immature green berries sit closely packed in beside the maturing purple and fully mature blue.
In about 20 minutes I had picked about ¾ of a cup of blueberries and it was time to return to work. I felt a sense of accomplishment, that I had contributed to our next pie, and that I did something healthy for myself with a short break, outside. And yes, I had a little snack too. I mean really, how can I not eat just a few as I pick?
The wild blueberry patch is a bit of a legend within my husband’s family. Picking the most blueberries is a competition some years, and licking your plate clean after you have consumed your piece of wild blueberry pie is a must.
For me, the wild blueberry patch is an escape. It energizes me and makes me feel happy. I learned today that it’s an important part of my work day. I work better and am more productive when I walk away and take a break. As I think about it, the blueberry patch is a metaphor for a mental health break while we work in our homes. It is sweet, healthy, and just steps away.