Here’s what I did over the break:
It was the best Christmas ever, frankly. Just me and my husband and my daughter, literally competing to see who could stay in pajamas the longest. No travel. No parties. No plans. Once, I took my daughter skating. Once, we made brunch for my sister and her family, and walked the dog together. For two weeks. Munchkin was out of school for two full weeks, and the University of Waterloo shuts down–lights off, heat off, buildings locked–for a little over a week, and then we booked vacation time around that. No work email. No writing catchup. No winter course prep. N – o – t – h – i – n – g.
One day, I had to go out to teach a yoga class, and I did my hair and stuff. Husband said, “Oh, um, are you wearing more makeup than usual? Is that, err, blush or something?” and after we had a look in the mirror it turned out that he’d got used to my face with NO makeup on it. N – o – t – h – i – n – g.
Monday morning, I opened my office door and it was like I’d never been there. The sun looked beautiful through the window. My pile of books looked appealing. I was ready.
There was time to make supper, to eat when we were hungry and not in the 20 minutes between rushing here and rushing there. There was time to go for runs–three a week! We read books and snuggled. My face unclenched. I napped nearly every day. I let myself laugh and cry and be tired and be silly and stay up late and talk on the phone and read books and watch TV and just let my own body and soul’s needs dictate what came next.
I’m ready to be back at work now. I felt satisfied the minute I sat down at my desk again, as though pulling up my chair to the table at a nice restaurant, anticipating what would be laid before me, ready to tuck in.
It’s a great feeling. We should all have this.
And I feel like it needs saying as well that I did not arrive to work on Monday to 400 emails and missed deadlines and hair-on-fire accumulated crises. I just didn’t. I had set a vacation message on my grad email, I had got all my grading done beforehand. If I had been hauling ass all through the break, I wouldn’t, really, have been any further ahead on anything urgent, and I would have been significantly behind on sense of peace and rest and connection with my family.
The world doesn’t end when I take a break, and in some pretty important ways, it renews itself.
I’m tempted to write the legitimate disclaimer here that of course it is truly a privilege to have access to paid vacation and steady employment and at one job so we’re not juggling everything all the time. And that’s true. But the amount of sleeping we all did over the break–the eight year old included!–and the total resistance to formal plans we all had seems to indicate something necessary and primal. Down time. Rest, I think, is a privilege in the way that indoor plumbing is a privilege: not everyone has it but everyone absolutely should, and it’s a goal we should work for, collectively. What I can do with my privilege right now is to make sure my piles of shit don’t roll downhill: I won’t email my coordinator at night or on the weekends or over the break. I won’t give grad students last minute deadlines. I will give my colleagues plenty of notice on things we need to work on together. I will model moderation in my work.