Thursday, June 18, 2009

Undoing the guilt of non-doing

So, in theory, I am on vacation for the three weeks including this one and next two.

I teach this upcoming weekend, so that's definitely work. And the weekend after that, also work. Let's say that is half time. If my life were easier to assess in terms of what is work and what is pleasure, I could say that I could work 20 hours this week, if I wanted to, and relax the rest. Or say that since I am freaking working during "vacation" I shouldn't work at all during the week. ONly there is stuff to get done, not much, but some, and well, my life just isn't that distinct.

The kinds of things which sometimes feel like work and sometimes like pleasure:
-sewing tablecloths for our wedding reception
-wedding reception prep stuff in general
-painting the kitchen
-writing, yes, writing
-cleaning the cat boxes, the bathroom, the floors

The things that never feel like work:
-watching Buffy (just about to start Season 7)
-reading (even when I *have* to do it)
-hanging with the cats
-going for a walk
-taking photos

Things that always feel like work:
-emails (even if they aren't work-related, and that's a fine boundary for sure)
-phone calls (except for very personal ones, and if I am depressed, they feel like work, but a different kind of work)
-teaching (as much as I love it, it's definitely draining, even with good boundaries)
-taking care of house repair calls, appointments, errands
-grocery shopping

Last night I spoke with a student and friend who is a "stay at home mom". We talked, because I was having some trouble with these things and was curious how it is for someone who is "not" getting paid to do her work, no matter what kind it was at home, how she felt about that. She said at first, when her boys were young and always home, she could relate to working class families, and felt underappreciated at times. "Look at me, I am freaking working full time and getting no pay," but at the same time, she said, they shared more tasks, she and her husband who worked/s outside the home. Now that both of her sons are in care, one in school the other in pre-school, she has more time to do the house things during the day so they can all relax at night. "And I am ok with that, because now that makes more time for all of us. Even during the summer, it works, because the boys are older now and can amuse themselves." Still, she said, of course she can't be as creative for longer as she wants, and it is hard, but not the same kind of hard. She even prefers summer without scheduling, free open days. She also now appreciates how her husband works so hard to ensure they have benefits, safety, paid mortgage, etc, and realizes what a sacrifice he makes.

Huh. I was on a martyr trip all day yesterday, really feeling like because I am at home a lot, whether officially working or not, I am "stuck" doing the stuff at home. This is neither totally fair nor true, of course, and was triggered mostly by a) my lack of boundaries about it and b) not doing more fun stuff for myself during the day. And a discussion with Dylan about whether or not he should keep his full time job "just so we can have benefits."

So why not do less? Why not take advantage of this time, instead of blaming the feeling that I can't do nothing on the tasks that are always hanging around regardless of how much I or Dylan do/es? The endless to-do lists of all ilk. Pick more from the definitely never to-do feeling, especially for the next couple of days, before I go to work for the weekend. Chill out. It's a choice. And one I can be especially grateful for, for as "unstable" in theory as my job is, I have a lot of freedom and choice, which can be almost paralyzing, but also appreciated.

So that's it. Nothing from the definite work list. Some tasks from the sometimes-feels-like-work list in order to get them in order. And today, lots from the not-work list. Knitting. Cat cuddling. Reading. If I do enough of those, then even weeding and painting don't feel like work. Like so many things, context is key.

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