Last weekend my friend Norah and I took off from our busy lives to spend a weekend at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in western Massachusetts. We are lucky and grateful for the privilege of the resources (time, control, money) to be able to take such a nice vacation.
Kripalu has limited internet access and strict rules against cell phone use in most of the building. The idea is to create an atmosphere in which people can take a break from their regular lives and from the regular stream of information and demands coming in over the airwaves (to use an old twentieth-century expression).
We both took full advantage of the break, enjoying lots of yoga, cooking, eating supremely yummy and healthy-to-us food, meditating, strolling in the woods, resting and reading.
Yeah. We should all run–not walk– to such places.
But here’s the thing: all of the lovely activities that Norah and I did– the woodsy strolling, yoga, cooking, reading, meditating, chilling and hanging out– can all be done at a much lower price AT HOME. So why don’t our non-vacationing non-getaway lives look more like this?
Here’s one reason:
We all work. We work too hard. We work too long. We work at home. We work on vacation. We work at all hours of the day and night.
Contrast last weekend with this week: Norah went to Florida Monday morning for big work meetings for a few days. She was steeling herself for having to do regular job tasks on top of these extra meetings. Let me clarify here: her job required traveling and going to a bunch of all-day and into-the-evening meetings. But there was also the expectation, nay, requirement, that she complete tasks that she would be doing normally at her job while not traveling.
And get this: the schedule for the work meetings included breakfast at 5:30am–7am, whereupon employees would be shuttled to the convention center for the big meetings.
Some of you who read the blog (and everyone who’s ever met me) know very well that I’m not a morning person. But seriously? Starting the work day at 5:30am? I can see getting up early if the goal is to commune with nature that looks like this:
But I suspect Norah’s day began looking much more like this:
But wait– we forgot about the work tasks that Norah had to be BEFORE her day began.
No, it probably didn’t look or feel like this. The image was too pretty, however, not to share. Likely it felt more like this:
What does my rant about working too much have to do with fitness? With feminism?
When work life takes over every waking (and many of the sleeping) minutes, we are unable to cope, to take care of ourselves, to take care of others, to move in ways we love, to sit still alone or with others, to cook and eat food that nourishes and delights us, to think about how to make the world better and then do something about it.
This year I’m paying more attention to when and how and how often I work. I’ve planned to go to some conferences, but fewer than last year. I’m planning fun activity trips with friends and family and fun activities at home. Sam and Tracy have blogged about their approaches to scheduling activity during their week. I had, over the past couple of years, lost my rhythm, and am paying some attention to getting it back. Or rather, finding a new rhythm. I can say now it will not involve getting up at 5:30am (except for special outdoorsy activity occasions), but I am looking for something that can stand as a bulwark against the constant encroachment of work. I know, something like this might seem like overkill:
But some structural help, to keep me from letting work seep into all the cracks, is needed.
I don’t have concrete plans yet. But my weekend away helped me wake up to the need to make some concrete plans. So for now, I’m at this stage:
Readers, what sorts of ways do you cordon off time and space for life outside work? I’d love to hear some of your plans and structures.