What You Learn on Your Day Off

21 Nov What You Learn on Your Day Off

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 21.11.22


There is a moment in each holiday when you can feel like maybe this whole relaxation thing is just too stressful and you’re tempted to give up and put your work pants back on.

I almost pulled the plug on this mini break away before it even started. (As I write this I can wriggle my toes and feel the sand stuck between them so, spoiler alert, I made it in the end.) I had a job booked up north – one night only – and decided to go earlier and stay later to do… well, nothing at all. Sleep, read, walk, eat, stare at things.

I can tell when I am nearing burn-out. The voice in my head (the one we all have with that endless running commentary) turns into a right cow. I’ll be in the shower in the morning, minding my own business, and she’ll be all, “You shouldn’t have done that, you’re stupid, and also everyone is stupid and also mean, and I bet nothing goes right today, see, shampoo in your eye, typical.” And it takes a fair bit of energy to shush her which is a pity because you’re short on energy which is how she got in that mood.

So a little break away, a change of scene, waking up without an alarm seemed a sensible idea. But all efforts to clear my agenda for a couple of days were thwarted and the day before I packed my bag I realised I’d also have to pack my laptop, a box of research notes and a long To Do list with deadlines attached. Maybe just cancel the motel and stay home where I keep the stationery and the coffee? Also, the cat had seen my suitcase and he looked sad.

But I pushed on and I can tell you that ten minutes out of the city I felt my shoulders drop, and 30 minutes into the 3 hour trip I was singing and grinning, two of my favourite things.

There is something about geographical distance from the location of your usual routine that makes even routine things feels a bit sparkly. I can look up from my GST spreadsheet, see the ocean and listen to the waves for a minute, and the association of these things makes totting up the columns almost a joy.

All the work feels fun – the gig for a roomful of lawyers, even my business emails have a certain joie de vivre.

I’ve also had one of my epiphanies.

On other holidays, once I’ve relaxed, slowed down, noticed how bright the colours are and begun to feel time as something vast and full of choices, I’ve tried to sort of … bottle that feeling. “Remember this when you get home,” I’ve thought, “take this holiday feeling with you, try to live this deliberately and with this much pleasure all the time.”

But of course, you go back into your old routine. Which is when your internal monologue will grab a chance in the shower to suggest you’re a failure, that you’ve let the magical holiday feeling slip through your hands.

But of course it has – it isn’t possible to live like you’re on holiday when you’re not. Instead, it is enough to feel it mindfully at the time, to know you are capable of relaxing into yourself when you get the chance – for a week, or a day, or even an afternoon.

Heading home now to plan the next one.