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I always say that you really pay for it both before and after trying to take a few days off from work at a super busy time of the year.  As much as it’s necessary to take a break occasionally, the preparation for being away and the rush of returning and trying to catch up in a fast-moving work environment and a small (or not so small) mountain of email can take its toll. 

I feel very fortunate that I have very little to complain about with my current job.  For the last five years most of my work has been short-term consulting engagements, about a year or less in length, and I’ve really hit the jackpot with this current team.  But taking a typical vacation is not really in the cards for me.  I am only paid for hours worked (and pretty well paid, but still vacations are not paid). 

Doing short-term engagements has allowed me to zoom in and out of very different work environments and cultures and to learn a lot very rapidly – both best practices and things to avoid.  There’s an art to it – you’ve got to hit the ground running, develop rapport very quickly with your new colleagues, get your bearings on what’s happening and what needs to happen, and add value from Day One.  So, trying to carve out a week-long vacation, say, can be challenging, unless it’s negotiated right up front when interviewing for the position.  There’s a chance it might be a deal-breaker if it’s during a crucial time in the project.  And I don’t count my time off between work engagements as true vacation time, for my drive to network and land a new engagement is the noise that overshadows any attempt at really unplugging for a while and relaxing.  Perhaps I’ll get better at that the next time around!

I came back to work on Tuesday after a relaxing 4-day weekend with family in town visiting from Chicago.  Ahhh, when I am with them all is right with the world.  And when I got back to the office I had a very brief 10-second moment of bliss, and then the (absolutely expected) WHAMMO debrief of a ton of stuff that happened that I needed to catch up on – fast. 

This time of year is even more hectic.  The company’s fiscal year ends at the end of June, so everyone’s a little extra nutty trying to wrap things up, make sure budgets close out when they’re supposed to…oh, and come July, this place turns into a bowling alley.  Everyone (well, the employees that is) skips town and goes on very well-deserved vacations.  And it’s usually the contingent staff that covers.  This is the 4th business unit I’ve consulted with at this company, and this year actually marks TEN years of consulting here over the past 13 years – wow!  So I’m very, very familiar with the rhythms of business at this company and how the last half of June is a 27-ring circus.  Get stuff done before the fiscal years closes out AND before everyone goes on vacation!

By Thursday I was feeling pretty much caught up, enough to where I felt good carving out a (spontaneous) true hour-long lunch with my former office mate who now is with a different part of our work division.  I’m so glad we are keeping in touch!  We each had Chiang Mai noodle soup – absolutely delicious.  Curry does not typically agree with me (big bummer) but the curry in this soup is very light, and the flavors and spices make this one of the best lunches on the campus – love it!

Then I had a tiny flash of light dot in front of me.  Oh shit, here it comes.  A migraine.  K and I finished our lunches, hugged and walked back to our offices.  I swung by the first aid cabinet in our break room and fumbled around for some sort of pain reliever.  Sometimes if I pop something right when it hits it will dissipate fairly quickly and won’t linger.

This time I wasn’t so lucky.  But let me back up a minute here.  I am one of the lucky (tongue in cheek) few who are ‘blessed’ with occasional menstrual-related migraines.  Now don’t worry, I’m not going to get too gory in here about female stuff.  I just know that if I do get them, they’re going to be female hormone triggered.  Oh yay. Years and years ago in college when they started happening, my doctor prescribed a very mild anti-depressant.  I remember thinking that was odd…I have migraines, I’m not depressed!  But they worked. 

As the years went by I tried seeing if there were ways to avoid these types of migraines without depending upon a prescription.  I read that there are certain triggers (foods, etc) that might play a part.  Or that perhaps getting more exercise would help.  Caffeine, red wine, cheeses, chocolate…and for me, perhaps curry?  Hmmm, as good as those noodles were, perhaps I should have avoided them that particular day.  And then I remembered…I had a very small wedge of Brie for breakfast that morning.  Oops.  Those two foods in one day were probably not a good idea, and now I was paying the price.

I had a meeting with my manager right after lunch.  The “aura” part of the migraine was starting to increase and my vision was slightly blurred.  I grabbed my laptop, walked into her office and said “hey, I’m not trying to be dramatic here but I’m having a migraine episode.  So if my eyes seem a little out of focus, that’s why.  My vision is a little blurry but this should pass in about 10 or 15 minutes.”  We forged ahead with our work.  Like I wrote earlier, this is a super busy time of year.

What happens with these migraines, you’re wondering?  Well, in my case the tiny bright spot of light slowly turns into an oval or circular ring of pulsating, vibrating colors.  It gets wider and wider until it leaves my field of vision.  Then the after effects set in – a pins and needles feeling in my upper shoulders and back of the neck, the same feeling like when your foot goes to sleep.  Then, a little nausea.  And nope, closing my eyes does not shut out the aura. 

Thankfully I’ve been through this a few times and know what to expect.  And knock on wood, it’s never happened when I’m driving.  Or playing hockey.  Usually a good night’s sleep will leave me refreshed and with all symptoms gone. 

But the next day, Friday, my neck and shoulders were still feeling prickly and horribly stiff.  Wow, this episode was a doozy.  But I smiled, knowing I had a massage booked for later that night.  Relief!

Last month I had a massage for the first time in years.  And I’m going to try to get one once a month and see if this can bring some relief to my neck and shoulders which seem to have the weight of the world on them.  Turns out that in the month since my first massage with J, she is now completely mobile.  She brings her massage table, blankets, music and everything to her clients’ houses!  So hmmmm, this was going to be an interesting change.

I told her about my migraine episode the day before, and we agreed we’d spend the whole hour just working on my back, shoulders, pecs and scalp, not the whole body.  She set up her table in my living room meanwhile and then went into my powder room to wait for me to disrobe and get under the blankets.  Before doing this I laughed and said you know, this is a little weird being naked in my living room.  She laughed as well and said lots of her clients make that same comment!  And it’s true!  I live in a townhouse so all bedrooms are upstairs.  I’m rarely naked down on the main level in the living room, dining room or kitchen (but when I am there is always a guy involved, heh).  OK…anyway back on track here.

J gave a wonderful massage.  At first I had a hard time relaxing because, well, here I was naked in my living room (under blankets) on a massage table which was a first for me…and I realized that I prefer getting massages where I’m not in my home.  For awhile my mind was racing as I pondered everything in the living room, even with my eyes closed in the face cradle…did I dust that coffee table?  Man, I need a new TV.  Should I get new pillows for the sofa?  And on and on.  Finally, I was able to just breathe deeply and enjoy the massage.  J explained that our blood vessels constrict during a migraine, so the massage is a great antidote to increase blood flow back to my scalp, neck and shoulders. I felt so incredibly relaxed when she was done…and refreshed…and taller! 

Now, have I ranted enough about how bad the weather is in June in the Seattle area?  We call it “June-uary” actually.  And we joke that summer does not officially start until July 5th.  Yep, AFTER the fireworks shows on the 4th, which often have to adjust for lower altitudes, otherwise the fireworks will get lost in the thick, grey clouds.  Kind of sad, right?  Well, this June has been pretty crappy, save for a few sunny days.

I woke up yesterday, showered and headed out to the salon for a haircut.  I remember driving into the city and thinking wow, those are some angry black clouds on the horizon.  It wasn’t raining, however.

Fast forward an hour and the skies opened up.  Torrential, pouring rains…and wind.  We got over an inch of rain in about two hours, so say the news folks.  Unbelievable!  I was so relieved I had parked in the garage under the building where my hair salon is.  I had no coat and no umbrella…I would have been soaked through, not to mention ruined my freshly styled hair!

I slipped my parking validation ticket into the machine at the garage exit.  The garage had closed so there was no one around, and there is a chain type of door that raises and lowers automatically just like a garage door.  It opened as I drove up and I remember thinking I should wait until it completely opened, as I’m not the best judge of space and distance.

But when the garage chain door finished opening, it immediately starting closing!  I had a brief moment of panic…do I go for it or just wait for it to close and ring the attendant?

I floored my car and squealed out of there.  Keep in mind there is a very sharp turn immediately coming out of the garage, so I lurched forward and prayed the chain door would not hit my car on the way out.  And immediately got blasted with the heavy rain pouring down.  Man, I am such a dumbass sometimes.  The car and I got out of the garage just fine.

And while we’re on the topic of dumbass, I got home and realized I’d left my master bedroom window open for some fresh air.  This was long before the rains came pounding through.  Now I had soaked wood blinds and a flooded window sill!  Damn!!  Water drops were hanging off the wood.  I immediately grabbed a towel and carefully started mopping up what I could.  Ugh.  Thank goodness for that small wet/dry vac I picked up when L and I started the popcorn ceiling scraping project.  Who in the hell leaves a south-facing window open on a day like that?  Oh wait…that was me.  After vacuuming up what water I could from the window sill it was full again after an hour.  Geez we got soaked.

I’m so ready for a pain-free and dry week ahead!