Time off – quality and quantity

I’m trying to get into the habit of not working at least one day a week, writing the odd blog post in advance and staying off the computer. I’ve had a lot of years where a whole day off each week has not been a reliable feature. One of the problems with being a self employed person who is not earning a vast amount, is that it never feels safe to stop. Improvements in my economic circumstances have certainly contributed to feeling like I can have a day off, as increasing issues with exhaustion and mental health made the need for it all the more pressing. No one can run flat out forever.

In the last week, a friend introduced me to the idea of time contamination, and the way in which women don’t reliably get time off. After all, when I step away from the computer there’s still meals to sort, parenting to do, cleaning, laundry, and often this is on my mind. Time contamination is the idea that even in our free time, we’re still thinking about responsibilities to others and things we should be doing, so time off isn’t wholly free. I do this, pretty much all the time.

I don’t know how to stop. I don’t know if I should stop. Would it be ok to stop? What might go wrong if I’m not paying careful attention to everything, all the time?

I don’t know.

I have read plenty enough stuff about freeing yourself from all of this to live in the moment, and I suspect that may work if you don’t have the kind of ongoing responsibilities that need ongoing attention. It’s a way of life designed for people living simply in a monastery, and that may need bearing in mind. It’s not compatible with vulnerable dependents of any variety. It’s not compatible with a job that can’t be firmly boundaried and safely ignored out of hours. It’s not compatible with living with someone who needs you to be paying attention to things – and generally people do, pets do.

There are always things to figure out, to learn, to do better next time. Things to plan, to remember, to notice. The life I have depends a lot on doing this well, day to day. For me, paying attention is a form of caring. If I don’t know what’s going on, how can I get things right?

I have questions to ask about the degree to which I hold myself responsible, and the degree to which I am not allowing myself to step down. There may well be better balances to find, that still seem honourable to me, but do not require my total attention all the time.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Time off – quality and quantity

  • bish

    I think living in moment now does not automatically preclude planning for the future. I’m a great fan of the Now, the immersion into what is, right here, right now, but I know that to enjoy it fully I have to have prepared for it. In preparing for the now, then, I experience the now, whilst simultaneously setting the shape of the now, soon… has your head exploded yet? I ought to say though that living in the now is a lot easier now that the now holds less planning… I’m going for a lie down now.

  • angharadlois

    Hmm. This resonates very strongly indeed. I think women are particularly prone to being brought up to feel this way, no matter how enlightened and helpful and supportive our partners.
    In terms of work, I am quite lucky – I literally can’t bring it home with me, and working with stuff from centuries ago gives a wonderful sense of perspective on time, so there’s rarely pressure to work longer hours. But at home I find it hard to relax, feeling that everything I do – including doing nothing – is done at the expense of some other thing I could be doing. Creativity is usually the first thing that suffers because it is so easy to characterise as an indulgence, when really – as I have been learning – it is vital.

    One thing I have noticed over recent months is my sort of default-setting for anxiety: this kind of time pressure is the perfect focus for all those feelings. I’ve got much better at taking a breath, looking dispassionately at the situation and asking myself “is it REALLY that bad?”; mostly, it isn’t, and relaxation ensues. The issue is often not how much I have to do but how able I feel to cope with it, and feeling unable to cope became a habit after it had ceased to be a reality. So, if abundant time is a state of mind, this is how I find it.

  • spirited13

    Ah, don’t we live in a sea of guilt! I bet we got taught this by our parents! It’s hard to be a responsible adult without being guilty for something we should have done….or not done! My suggestion is….don’t worry….reach one hand over your opposite shoulder and give yourself a pat on the back….you certainly deserve one! And remember to BREATHE! Ha Ha! Blessings, Barbara xxxxx

  • Oakwood Leaf

    Thanks for the great post. It challenged me as I also work from home which, of course, means that the desk, phone and computer are only ever just down the hall. Also, as a parish priest, there is always something else that I ‘could’/’should’ be doing or someone I could be visiting etc. The irony is that when my day off comes round, the sightly more relaxed pace of the day gives my brain the space to think through all those work projects I haven’t had time to focus on in the rest of the week. Hope you find some ways forward!

    • Nimue Brown

      I know a few vicars, it does seem to be one of the jobs that never really gives you a day off. I suspect most people have no idea how intensive it is, and the all things to all people aspects… I have huge respect (and a bit of awe) for anyone working this way. All power to you, and I hope you get some proper time off too!

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