A friend asked me a while ago if I was going to have a break this summer. I couldn’t really see the point when I would only be where I’ve already been for months. But then I realised I was getting tired and, actually, a break from work, at least, would be a good idea.
I realise that even having the option to take a break is a sign of considerable privilege. But I do have that privilege, and that option, so the next questions were: where, and how?
It doesn’t feel safe or sensible to try to go to a hotel in the current climate, or to a restaurant or pub, or to anywhere really. (I made an experimental trip to a café last weekend, but I had to write down my contact details even though I was sitting outside, and when I thought about what a pain it would be if I had to self-isolate for another 14 days, I decided not to repeat the experiment.)
So that’s the where: at home. However, I didn’t just want to sit around in my house all day. I don’t have a helpful hobby; I like to cook for friends, and socialise, and travel, none of which I can do at the moment. I felt a little envious of one of my Instagram friends who is taking a break with a very clear mission: to knit and read crime novels, both of which she loves. I used to knit and crochet but my hands went wonky which put paid to that, and I don’t have an equivalent passion. Writing is my hobby now, but it’s also my work.
An old friend who lives alone, and needed a week’s break from her intense job, had a genius idea. “I’m packing my suitcase,” she told me, grinning from the screen. “What – but – hang on – eh?” I spluttered. She explained that she had her suitcase out on the floor, as usual when packing for a break, and she was putting in lots of lovely things for her holiday: books she’d like to read, DVDs to watch, art and craft supplies, special holiday snacks, and so on. Then during her holiday, when she began to wonder what to do next, she would go to her case and choose from the available resources. For my friend, this created the joyful anticipation of a much-needed break, and helped her week off feel really different from the weeks when she was working at home. “I enjoyed that more than I thought I would,” she told me afterwards. “I’m going to do it again!”
I love her idea – but it didn’t feel right for me, and for a while I couldn’t figure out what would feel right. Then, in my office one day, a teetering pile of books caught my eye. My to-be-read pile of work books had grown, over the last year; there were 12 books I either hadn’t read or hadn’t read properly, which I was waiting to find time to tackle. That’s it, I thought to myself – I can have a reading week! Universities have those so I can too. Reading is also my work, but it’s a part of my work that doesn’t get enough attention, and one I find relaxing and pleasant.
So, this week, that’s what I’m doing. On Monday I read two books (they were short, I read fast, and skip-read bits I’ve already read or that aren’t relevant for me). On Tuesday I only read one chapter, but I also did an online exercise class, made muffins and a salad, had a distanced picnic and walk in the park with a good friend I haven’t seen for ages, and wrote this blog post. And anyway I was never going to read 12 books in a week – some are quite long – and it’s more about having a break than getting through the list. It’s relaxing and delightful having time to read, properly, and think.
This also got me wondering about other creative approaches people may have taken to having a break at home. If you too have been in this lucky position, and you’ve done something that might provide inspiration for others, please let us know in the comments.
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