I realized the other day that my last “traditional day” at work was Friday, March 6. That’s the day my midterm grades were due to be submitted and the next week was scheduled to be our spring break. Of course, that’s not the way things worked out and I spent spring break in ways that I had never anticipated. Eight weeks later, we wrapped up exam week and everyone I know felt stressed out, exhausted, and bewildered. So much that students were looking forward to – and had worked hard to achieve – was postponed or outright canceled and no one can say with any real certainty what the fall semester will look like.
It’s a scary time and it’s not an exaggeration to say that we are undergoing a seismic shift in nearly every aspect of our lives – sports, religious services, visiting with friends, eating out, going to the movies, education, working – all of these have been affected by this pandemic.
There is some evidence that mental health should be listed among those other categories. People are struggling with isolation and fear of the unknown and tempers for many people are becoming frayed to the breaking point. Living in the middle of such massive uncertainty is not easy.
Seeing that my own mindset needed some tending to, I decided to take a few days this week to decompress a bit before diving into my next big work project. I know that I am fortunate to have a job that allows me this time – many Americans are becoming frantic with worry over employment issues, since universal paid sick leave and vacation time are not realities here. (Nor, for that matter, is either easily-accessible child care or universal health care.) Knowing that I have some advantages instills in me a sense of responsibility – I need to make sure I’m using my voice for people who don’t have one.
If you’ve read much of Splendor, you know that I truly believe that we’d be better as a society if we developed a different attitude toward time off and viewed it as a necessity instead of as frivolity. Idle time is time that permits us to recharge and recenter, which is crucial to working well and happily. and I encourage you to do everything you can to find at least a few minutes a day to engage in what nay-sayers would term “loafing.”
Your experience and desires may well differ from mine, but I can only speak from my own experience, so let me tell you how I’ve spent the last few days.
First, I made a list and spent a day running errands so I wouldn’t have my planned “days off” broken up by the need to run to the drugstore, grocery, and so on. Also, I wanted to make sure I had the kitchen stocked with the things I wanted – isolation coupled with work stress usually means I eat thoughtlessly and I wanted good food to be close at hand. (This is the same practice I encourage for an at-home spa day, remember! Look under the “Resources” tab for more.)
Once all was set and my husband was off to work (his workplace has re-opened to the public, albeit with a host of restrictions), I had the house to myself. Oddly enough, at first I had to fight the urge to be “productive” – that Calvinist streak of mine runs deep. I find it helps quite a bit to begin the day with meditation. I usually use the Shine app, but I have a number of texts that I dip into as well. (Side note – if I don’t do this at the START of the day, I can really go sideways quickly. If I were to recommend a single habit to get my head straight, it would be meditation.)
Beyond that, I’ve enjoyed getting comfortable with unstructured time. I’ve read a bit – some of a literary bent, but I’ve also really had fun dipping into my stash of Nancy Drew books – there’s something relaxing and charming about Nancy’s world of roadsters, tea rooms, and not-quite-dangerous mysteries. I really suggest you consider revisiting childhood favorites or taking up something light that you may have missed as a young ‘un. (Don’t let anyone pooh-pooh your reading material, by the way. Read what you like and if other people have a problem with it, well, darling, that’s THEIR problem, not yours!)
I’ve finally returned to Rosetta Stone and working on French. Much to learn, to be sure, but I’m enjoying the challenge of it.
I’m participating in The 100-Day Project, so I make time to paint a bit each day. I’m certainly much improved from last year! (Today is Day 45 and today’s effort is included here in the post. Seemed appropriate.)
There’s also been napping, bubble baths, clean sheets, a manicure, and today, I even played dress-up! (I had an appointment out of the house and today is cold and rainy, so I got dressed in “grown-up” clothes [an entire outfit designed around rain boots!] and played with make-up and accessories for the first time in, quite literally, weeks! Must’ve worked – the barista commented that I looked very pulled together!) I’ve made good food and fussed with presentation instead of eating straight from plastic containers. I’ve made afternoon tea using one of the tea blends from White Rose Manor that we picked up on our recent picnic outing.
In short, I’ve treated myself like company.
Please try it. Don’t save the “good stuff” just for other people – use the china for a turkey sandwich (heck, be fancy and cut off the crusts if you want to!). Buy flowers for yourself. Put cream in your coffee instead of skim milk. Take time to create, whether that’s a meatloaf, a flower bed, or a painting. Take. Time.
Take a deep breath. That delicate smell you almost missed? Those are roses.