In the past two weeks, I have done a couple of things that I have not done in a very long time.
First, I took three days in a row off work, which I have not done since the pandemic began. Second, I picked up a book at 9 o’clock on a weekend morning and read it from cover to cover without moving; something I don’t think I have done since I was a kid. Our family would head to the library first thing every Saturday morning and, when we got home, I would burrow into a quiet spot somewhere in our busy house and read for the rest of the day, oblivious to the activity around me.
What did I learn? Well, the world did not fall apart because I took some time away from my work. My colleagues survived just fine without me. The work was still there when I got back, and I was able to tackle it with more energy because I felt refreshed and re-energized.
I absorbed the book (Consequences by Penelope Lively—I highly recommend it) in a way that would not have been possible had I been reading it for a few minutes at a time while falling asleep at night. When I surfaced after my five-hour reading marathon, I could hardly remember who I was, so engaged was I by the book’s characters and their lives. I may have looked at my partner as though he were a stranger.
After 16 months of living and working in a pandemic, I, like so many other people, am exhausted. My workload, always heavy and intense, has steadily increased over that time. It has been all too easy to fall into very bad habits when working from home and, more generally, living in a state of social isolation. With travel off the table, why bother taking vacations? With no outings to movie theatres, live music performances or restaurants and few opportunities to see friends or family, why not work in the evenings as well as the early mornings? Indeed, why not just work all the time? After all, my desk is just 16 steps from my bed.
My short break from work coupled with my long day of reading taught me one other thing: I want more of that kind of time. In fact, I need it and I am going to take it.
It’s my birthday later this week, and my gift to myself is to slow down. I am going to try to learn from our cat, who never misses an opportunity to relax.
I am going to do everything in my power to reduce my overall workload, and I won’t be writing any blogs for the rest of the month. Instead, I will be settling into a comfortable spot in our backyard to read. Our basil plants have produced like never before, so it’s time to make pesto. The arts and crafts table I optimistically set up in my office months ago is insisting I pay it some attention. I have massages booked for every other week. My partner and I are heading to Wakefield, Quebec fora week to unwind.
I’m sure I am not the only one who could use a break, so I hope each of you finds a way to slow things down and unwind over the next several weeks.
See you all back here in August!