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Taking a Break


My desk is often a sign of my state of mind. If it’s neat, and there is plenty of open space to do the work I need to do, it usually means that I’m feeling organized and on top of things. If it’s a mess, chances are I’m feeling overwhelmed and out of control of my life. These days, things are definitely in the latter condition. Papers are stacked high, books I want to read are now just falling into each other, and notes, clippings, receipts, and mail (opened and not) is everywhere.


I worked this semester (the job ends this week), I have way too many holiday-related tasks on my to-do list, and we’re both recovering from Covid. Even looking at my desk exhausts me. But, except for the Covid, I’ve been here before. I used to end every semester with stacks of papers and books on my desk, a long list of things I needed to do to get ready for the holidays, and almost always the beginnings of a cold. But I would slog through it, clean off my desk, and promise myself I wouldn’t put this much stress on myself the next year. Needless to say, I didn't always succeed.

Above all, let's give ourselves a break from whatever self-imposed rules are wearing us out.

I’ve been wondering what it would be like if I took a different approach this year, like maybe just stopping all the “doing,” and instead resting and relaxing my way through the holidays and into the new year. And I don’t say this like it will be easy. Despite the fact that I regularly advise my friends and family to “rest” and “take it easy,” this is not advice I follow myself. Over the years I have convinced myself that I feel best when I’m busy, and that I need to take care of “everything” so that it all gets done. Even I can see that this is a ridiculous way to live, and it really does no one any good—least of all me. I think deep down inside I’ve always felt like if I looked busy, none of the trouble or chaos of the world could get to me.


The result, of course, is just a bigger mess than what appears on my desk. It turns out that getting everything done, doing everything right—even being right about everything—is wasted energy. Even if I succeeded in completing every task, fought through whatever stress and fatigue I was feeling, and kept everything neat as a pin, should those really be my life goals? Doing it less and enjoying it more must hold more value than the reverse.

So, I’m giving myself a holiday gift this year—in the form of a break. I’m finishing what I have going on now through Christmas weekend and then I’m setting it all aside for a while. I’m going to enjoy the holidays just as they are—not in comparison to how I wish they were. I’m going to read, sleep, watch bad tv, go for long walks, dream about how I’d like my life to feel, think about what I might like to do next, and enjoy what’s right in front of me. Most people in my life will barely notice this, by the way, except that this blog will be on hold for a while.

In the meantime, let's enjoy ourselves, and each other. Let's have some fun and get some rest. Above all, let's give ourselves a break from whatever self-imposed rules are wearing us out. Let the desk stay messy, toss out the to-do lists, and appreciate the ride.

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