11 Aug Unplugged

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly, cover date 31.7.23


This birthday just gone, I gave myself the gift of a weekend lolling about in bed with some books. Something about a day reading under blankets feels extremely indulgent but honestly, once you push through the puritan guilt, it is magnificent.

There was a shimmering moment midmorning on Sunday when I pulled the blankets right up to my chin and wriggled down into the pillows and for a moment felt entirely connected to the child-version of myself. I may have shivered with an emotion very close to glee.

As a kid, I could spend a whole winter weekend reading in my room. No big deal, no one seemed to mind. I suspect I even strung out the odd cold or tummy bug a few extra days so I could stay home from school, underneath the eiderdown, reading. I vividly recall one particular week off school, in bed with ‘The Wind In the Willows’, a large block of Milky Bar chocolate and my very own Chapstick lip balm which were such a perfect trio of pleasures that even now I can’t see or taste one of them without thinking of the other two.

The best bit of university, apart from working out who you are and what sort of world you want to live in, is the compulsory reading. It might look like you’re doing not much of anything, hunched over a two bar heater in your damp flat, but actually, reading this novel is kind of your job right now.

And then there’s a long bit in your life when you can’t flop around with novels. You’ve got work and kids and the dinner won’t cook itself. Reading is done in that bit before sleep, and the purpose of the book shifts from expanding your mind to calming it – though you hope for both before you drift off.

Somewhere in here you get the idea that lying about with a book in the daytime might be lazy, or something only old people do and gosh, are you suddenly lazy and/or old?

Or is this entirely what you should do because you’ve been dancing from one thing to the next and a bit of stillness is just what the doctor ordered. If not literally, then maybe literally if you don’t start doing something nice for yourself that also lowers your blood pressure and calms your heart.

My birthday had other joys, too – on the Friday I gave a talk I really enjoyed, had ice cream and op shopped with my favourite daughter, went for a long drive with Lucinda Williams, and had beef cheeks and creamed parsnip at my favourite restaurant with my favourite husband. There were gifts from family, flowers from friends and messages from grandchildren. All the major food groups were represented.

But then I unwrapped a weekend of “unplugging”. No social media, no emails (ok, I read enough to be sure there was nothing there I needed to read), and no news bulletins. As well as books, I caught up on favourite newsletters and, when I had to be upright to make snacks, listened to favourite interviewers like Kim Hill and Charlotte Ryan. Absorbing the things I’d intentionally picked rather than being bombarded by stories I didn’t actively choose.

And then back to bed and books with my plate and glass, with space here and there for a bit of a think. Which is when it occurred to me that all this “unplugging” was what my great-grandmother would have simply called, “Sunday”.