On one memorable moment on Downton Abbey, the Dowager Countess Lady Violet (fabulously channeled by Maggie Smith) responded when asked about her plans for the weekend: “Weekend? What’s a weekend?”
I got that, although for very different reasons. Somehow in recent years as I’ve worked at home, one day seems to blur into another. As much fun as it is being a writer, there’s also the behind-the-scenes stuff: edits, rewrites, proof-reading and the ever-present deadlines. That’s before I dip my foot into the deep waters of promotion. Yikes. A girl could drown and there's never a day to just sleep in.
My point, and I do have one, is that the weekend seems to have disappeared. If I do book signings or events, they’re often on the weekend. Promotional travel? Weekends! In May, all four weekends involved book or writing events. First thing I know, I’ve been going flat out for seven days.
Of course, Lady Violet’s query shouldn’t have been surprising. Our notion of a five-day work week is relatively recent and must have seemed odd indeed to her. Not that the aristocracy had to worry about all the pesky work. It would have seemed odd to the Downton Abby staff too.
But over the course of the twentieth century, people got used to the idea. I have loved weekends since I started school and yet now … Where are they? Gone! Don’t get me wrong. Nothing beats the writing life and I can’t imagine what would ever send me back to the world of nine to five. I love the fictional ability of bumping off anyone who has every annoyed me in real life. I am ridiculously fond of the many fictional dogs and cats I have created. I enjoy the flexibility of leaving my own desk during the day to do whatever non-work is calling to me.
I just want a couple of days to goof off. Maybe stretch out on a chaise and do nothing for a bit.
But the idea of taking those two days in the middle of the week is hard to get used to. It feels like playing hooky! Plus there are commitments that must be met.
I get emails seven days a week and it seems like people are sending them twenty-four hours a day. In fact, this year I got emails with work suggestions and project ideas on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. To answer the question I am sure you were going to pose: why was I in email on Christmas and NYD? Well, I went online to wish Merry and Happy to friends near and far. And then …
This is an over-connected age. Some of us must be available 24/7, or we feel that we must. And a lot of us suffer from FOMO: fear of missing out. I confess, that sounds a lot like me. We can’t miss an email, an article, a blog, a tweet. Of course, we can’t read and do it all. Plus the reality is that most of us need a little down time. I definitely need time to read in order to relax and recharge. I'm not alone in that!
We need time to cuddle with a pet or a beloved small child. Time to stroll in the garden and see what's new.
or stare at the scenery. We need time when we aren’t marching to our To Do list’s orders. Time to just ‘be’. Some of us might even use our downtime to write. I often like to write on a vacation, but the secret is to be writing something that doesn’t have a deadline or a requirement attached to it.
I’ve noticed friends ducking out or ‘going dark’ for a few days because of travel, family events or whatever. Apparently, their worlds did not end. I'll take a lesson from them and also from the pooches, who seem to come by it naturally. In fact, they seem to have a seven-day weekend. Hmm.
So I am promising myself a little more time away from computer and To Do list. All right, that’s enough about me and what I need. How about you? Are you a weekend person? Do you need downtime? Can you share some secrets of how you carve out time for yourself? I look forward to stealing all your best ideas in my spare time. That’s what friends do. Maybe we'll have time to share a slice of cake.