January 3, 2011 | File under: Advice and Lessons • On the Job
You know the feeling. You are enjoying a relaxing weekend. Although it took a bit to wind down from the work week, by Sunday your mind is decompressed and you are in full-out weekend mode. This state of bliss lasts for approximately three full hours, until late Sunday afternoon when you are inevitably reminded that you must enter the rat race again in approximately twelve hours. Enter the Sunday dread.
During my years as a lawyer, I became intimately acquainted with the Sunday dread. I hated the work week. I lived for the short time I had at home each night after work, and —- more significantly —- the weekends.
The countdown would begin on Monday morning. Like running in a marathon, the thought of the distance that separated me from Friday afternoon seemed daunting and insurmountable. How would I make it? Did I have it in me? I resorted to tactics that would allow me to mentally break down the week into smaller, easier palatable increments: I just need to make it until lunch and there will be relief; okay, one day down, four more to go; Wednesday, we’re halfway there. Slowly, the hours would pass, a day or two, then Thursday would come around and the finish finally appeared to be in sight. I would collect every bit of strength I had in me to push through to the end, breathe a big sigh of relief, and congratulate myself on completing the journey.
The next two days were a reward for my perseverance. A mix of recreation and necessary household activities, those two days would fly by at lightning speed, a pace unknown to me during the work week. Sometimes the lingering effects of work called for a brief detox to rehabilitate myself from the week. Saturday mornings were often spent flushing out negative thoughts and massaging out annoying kinks.
By Saturday night, I felt like a new woman with a new outlook on life. My husband noted that my demeanor transformed completely —- I would sit up straighter, my face looked less haggard, and my eyes twinkled in a different way. I floated along on Cloud Nine taking in the experience as though I had just been reintroduced to humanity. Everything was enjoyable, even those mundane errands I never appreciated very much before I began working.
Before I knew it, Sunday evening would roll around. I would be immersed in my weekend life, and then, suddenly, like a tinging pain, Monday would call to me. You mean I have to do this AGAIN??!! It was a terrible feeling, one that cast an ominous dark cloud over the rest of my weekend. By the next morning, I would again be engaging in pep talks with myself: “You can do this.” I usually needed my husband’s assistance with this.
The sense of dread I experienced was surely a sign that I had been careared. Yes, disappointment over a weekend’s conclusion is a common feeling, but this was different. Such an intense, negative reaction to the passage of time is not normal and my subconscious mind was trying to tell me something was terribly wrong. On Monday, I would think of a million other jobs I would have rather been doing than my own. Sometimes my stomach would be in knots as I faced the week, rejecting the reality ahead. I felt physically ill. I used to think these feelings would pass or that I would get used to them, but it never happened. The dread never disappeared until I quit my job.
Do you experience the Sunday dread? The intense, crippling dread that does not subside until you are liberated again on Friday? Do you brush it off as something you must simply endure, or rationalize that your situation really isn’t that bad? If you do, don’t ignore it. Is your job worth the weekly torture it causes you? Would changing your situation help?
Sometimes gut feelings are more powerful and insightful than rational thoughts. The Sunday dread is one of those feelings that can speak volumes about someone’s career. It’s a call for help from deep within. Will you answer?