For the first time in recent memory, I feel relaxed.
I have more things to do than there is time to do them. I’ve been chronically running around. I’m behind at work with no hope of getting caught up anytime soon.
We took Saturday off completely. Recently we’ve been spending all weekend every weekend running errands and getting food ready for the week. This week we drove up to the city and visited a museum. We got bi bim bap and local ice cream and walked around a park and sat at a playground and didn’t run a single errand. Because, if we hadn’t, we still would have felt like there was nothing to look forward to in life outside of work and chores.
I want to feel guilty on some level (probably on the Catholic upbringing level) but I can’t. There is and was no end in sight to the work and the chores. I’m all for getting things done first and taking breaks later, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. Free time is taken in uneasy unpredictable chunks spent checking a blog or doing emergency childcare. But sometimes it’s important to schedule in that fun relaxed family time too. (Lest you think we’re neglectful parents– our kid is fully involved in family chores– he’s not neglected… he’s just learning how to cook and clean and shop as a family unit. And playdates aren’t exactly relaxed. He also gets just mommy time on Sundays when DH is at board gaming and just daddy time on the day I teach an evening class.)
If you believe the Whitehall and other studies, chronic stress leads to elevated levels of cortisone which leads to all sorts of chronic diseases and a weaker immune system. Now, we’re not chronically stressed like much of America– we have more control over our own destinies with our education and precautionary savings and we live in environments where it’s pretty much safe to go out even at night. We don’t always have to be watchful of danger. But it is also easy to forget to remember that we can and should relax. We don’t always have to be thinking about work or struggling to get everything done.
So I don’t think I will regret Saturday. I did it for my long-term health. I’m ready to attack chores and work with renewed purpose and vigor. A day off on occasion reminds us why we’re alive and why we do what we do. And most importantly, it reminds us that there’s life outside of work.
When I was doing my dissertation, my mother told me to work 6 days a week and do nothing work related on the seventh day. For working 7 days a week leads to burn-out and insanity, not to mention unfinished dissertations. The same is true for a tenure-track professor. Though life as a true grown-up may require that more time be spent on chores and so on, it is important to note that chores don’t always count as not-work. Sometimes a true vacation, however small, is required. That, and ethnic food not available in one’s own small town.
What do you do to remember why you’re alive?