It’s funny how the mind works. Most days, when I come home from work and try to unlock my front door, I realize I’m using my work key. Sometimes I use the wrong key in the morning as I exit my house and try to lock my door. It never happened the other way around; arriving to or leaving from my job. At least not until the other day. I was walking out of work, and because my mind was thinking about home, I tried to lock the door with my house key.
I realized my mind was somewhere else, and autopilot kicked in and pulled out the appropriate key according to my brain’s thoughts. It made me sad to think about all the times I came home to my house but still had work on my brain. I’m used to hearing that we should leave our personal baggage at the door when going to work, but it seemed I’d forgotten to do this in reverse. How many times was I still thinking about work, answering emails, answering texts, thinking about the next day while at home? How unfair to my family and loved ones. Even more terrible, it is incredibly unhealthy for me.
Every time I pulled out the wrong key in front of my home, I knew I was in work mode and that it wasn’t right. Yet I was always glad to be home. I was looking forward to being home and away from work. Unfortunately, home is often just another form of work. For parents, caretakers of elderly parents, even pet owners, or simply homeowners. “The home ends up owning you,” my mother says. Never-ending chores and tasks make home life just as busy. No surprise, the work key comes out when I step up to my front door.
The other day, however, was an anomaly; I was caught up on all the everyday tasks at home, and no one was going to be there when I arrived. As I was leaving work, I was thinking about what I would do that evening to enjoy myself. While trying to lock the door to where I work, I realized I was holding my personal house key. I was already “home” in my mind and thinking of myself. Mentally and emotionally, I had already moved on. I almost felt healthy for the first time in a long while. It made me a little bit sad for several reasons, but mostly it made me aware. I thought about how long it’s been since I’ve put myself first. It felt strange, but also, it felt right.
This doesn’t mean I’ve been happy and content since then, but it offers another tool to gauge my focus and stress level. Instead of having my mind trigger which key is used, perhaps I can have the key prompt which part of my mind I open up.