A number of years ago I had cause to do a little research on workaholism for a class I was taking on “Work and Community.” I remember that one of my sources said that it is not the workaholic who is unhappy but everyone around them. However, about the same time that I found the source alluded to above I also found the following, which was attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and which I often keep posted above my desk (a space for which there is a great deal of competition):
Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgement will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgement . . . Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more if it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.
Frankly, I have never found a better argument for regular breaks and vacations. As a lover of my work fully cognizant of how it is, as David Whyte says, one of the three marriages we make in our lives, it makes sense to me to treat it with sufficient respect to avoid obsessively focusing on it and to renew oneself so as to better apply oneself to it and thereby reap the intrinsic rewards it has to offer with less of a sense of drudgery.
My wise grandmother used to say that a change is as good as a rest, and to some extent that is true, though a busman’s holiday is not always the best rest. It has been typical of me throughout my career that I have tried to combine work and leisure by building vacation time around a conference or special training. That isn’t always the best solution, though conferences are often held in beguiling locations and there are plenty of opportunities for side trips, I find that I become distracted by the fascinating people and ideas I encounter at these educational events and the “vacating” can tend to be forgotten again.
Just now, I am taking some time off to complete the first draft of a piece of writing that is important to me. However, that writing is also energized by my work and is about work and how it forms and informs us. During the this time, I have also indulged in restorative personal pursuits and today it seems that the fog has begun to clear, perhaps because it is spring and the peas and radishes are finally leaping out of the ground.
One can become haunted by a problem one is trying to solve. I have learned over time to shut the ghost in a closet and go out to play for a day. In my city and nearby surrounds, I have turned up dozens of ways to sink into deep relaxation for a day. Some days ago while looking at pictures and videos from a vacation to the other side of the world last fall I was reminded of how closely connected I felt while so far away from my work. It is our orientation to the time away that makes the most or least of the break.
With that in view, my mind drifts north to a quiet bed and breakfast hotel with a beautiful view of the wild water tucked away in an otherwise busy city. It is a short walk to a jet boat that can whisk me away for a day to a different world. It might be time to go and let the sea air straighten out my thoughts. The work that I love is coming again with its wants, its needs, its conundrums, and fascinations.