on taking a break.


How was your Memorial Day weekend, friends? Mine was great. Fantastic.

I didn’t do any work at all.

As an academic, I’ve long since gotten used to the idea that my “weekends” are actually more like “workends,” especially during the semester. In fact, since beginning my PhD, I realized that I needed to make a concerted effort to take breaks. This aha moment came two-thirds of the way through that first fall semester where I worked 8-12hrs a day, 7 days a week. I had a larger-than-usual post-mid-terms meltdown, and then was like, “of course you’re cracking up…you’ve been doing nothing but work!” And that was before having B.

Being a mom and an academic at the same time is actually lots better, because I simply can’t work 24/7. I must find efficient work-arounds to my little one’s schedule, and this actually brings much sanity. A tad bit more panic to those dedicated work times, but hey. Aren’t academics famous for “working well under (procrastinated) pressure”? Sure!

So, anyway, this weekend I finally took a leisurely break of three whole days! I didn’t really plan it that way, but at the last minute, my sister and brother-in-law needed help with their move. So Saturday morning, we helped pack and haul boxes. Saturday night was book club with my girlfriends, who have graciously agreed to push our monthly meetings to after B goes to bed. Sunday we totally slept in and were running late to church, but it was really nice when we got there. And after that we landed at my in-laws for an afternoon of BBQ, laying in the grass, and key lime pie. Monday, we hung out with my parents, sister and bro-in-law, and B’s great uncle and G.G. (great grandma).

Could I have squeezed some exam reading in there? Of course. Did I need to because I’m a bit behind? Of course.

But, I didn’t.

And I honestly feel great about it. I had the best, juiciest, most relaxed time with our friends and families! It was glorious weather and I was fully present to laugh, talk, eat, drink and just be.

To top it off, I feel more ready to dive into reading this week. I have sharper clarity.  Initially I thought I might be just making this up. However, Tony Schwartz’s New York Times essay on how taking a rest actually leads to more productivity confirmed the causality. “Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable,” Schwartz says. “The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”

As a teacher, I understand this only from my own failures at “recovering energy.” Ask my husband. At some point after mid-term, I end up in a quivering puddle on the floor somewhere in our apartment, unable to lift my head under the overwhelming weight of ALL THE THINGS. I will say this, however: a good cry is a tremendous reset.

Thank goodness there are folks out there who are working on prevention of the regular-teacher-meltdown…or even, burnout. The incomparable Parker Palmer has an entire website designated to reaching teachers and encouraging them, The Center for Courage and Renewal. One of these days I’m going to take a mini-break on the baby’s nap and instead of reading for exams, I’ll sit with my coffee and explore that site. The fabulous people at the Eastern Michigan Writing Project regularly attend to the souls of writing teachers, too. Chelsea even detailed a Teacher Spa they put on to encourage and rejuvenate teachers.

So anyway, back to it. I’ve used most of this morning’s nap to compose this blog (another form of self-care), so the afternoon nap is for reading!! (READ, Nicole, READ.) Hope everyone had a lovely long weekend, complete with a bit of rest.



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