Monday, February 24, 2014

The Art of Work and Play

A Lesson in the Importance of Rest

Writing, I am seated in a green-upholstered armchair, the legs of which are painted a rich dark brown. The chair is, if I’m to venture a guess, Edwardian in style (certainly not Victorian). I am alone in the living room of my mother-in-law’s house, where I often retreat to write during my visits. However, the boom of the television in the sitting room at the back of the dwelling ricochets off the listless walls. It is the last Saturday in February, late in the afternoon, and there is a calmness that hovers about. That tranquility is proof that I have left behind, if only temporarily, the hustle and bustle of the metropolis that is Toronto.

The last two weeks have left me drained. Exhausted, actually, and I’m not sure why. It could be the demands of my day job. Or the cold, bitterly cold, February weather. Or the more frequent nights of inconsistent sleep (lately it seems that I’m more conscious of the honking horns and police sirens wailing at two or three o’clock in the morning). Maybe it’s a combination of all of these things. The bottom line is that I’m exhausted and, tired of feeling tired, I am learning despite a certain reluctance the importance of rest.

Outside of my day job, I’m trying to adhere to a rather rigorous and demanding schedule in the pursuit of a dream. The good news is that I’m working steadily through a difficult rewrite. I’m back running again, even if it is only two days a week on the treadmill at the gym. I’m also trying to read more, picking up where I left off two years ago in terms of reading through all of Iris Murdoch’s works.

So there are days when I simply need to rest, when I need to let myself do nothing. And that’s not easy, especially when I find myself often looking to the future and where I hope to be. But if I try to keep working when I’m exhausted (or more aptly, burnt out), the work, or more precisely my writing, won’t hold up later on. It’ll be tired, stiff, lifeless. I end up procrastinating and fretting over my inability to work. The funny thing is this: when I take time to rest, to let my body and mind recharge, I am able to come back and tackle my artistic projects with a new vigour, see their worth (or lack thereof) from a new perspective. Once again, there is a natural ebb and flow. It is still, for me, a question of balance.
Louisa May Alcott puts it this way: “Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and you prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”

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