As some of you may have noticed, I was conspicuously absent from these pages last week.
The reason for that is simple: I took a week off.
But did I, really?
During my week of not coming to the office, I instead puttered away around my house, accomplishing things. This, in some ways, was just as exhausting – mentally and physically – as my full-time career is.
Instead of talking to people, documenting what they say, researching background and context for that conversation, taking photographs to represent the story they are telling and then sharing the story of that conversation with the public so they can be better informed about what’s happening around them in their town, I was taking inventory of all the small repairs that were (and many still are) needed on my family’s home and chipping away at getting them done.
It should be noted that I had houseguests for most of the week who had been evacuated from Fort MacMurray (one of which has a career in building maintenance, which certainly helped my cause when it came to completing the work, but it also meant I had less time in which to complete the work itself, because I wanted to spend some time not accomplishing things so we could also properly enjoy each others’ company).
Now, I’m not going to claim that I didn’t enjoy working on the house last week.
I learned a fair bit from my building maintenance friend, who showed me how to replace a piece of pipe in a wall, re-plumb a drain under a sink and change electrical outlets without electrocuting myself – among other things – but I certainly wouldn’t call my time away from the office “relaxing.”
And we need “relaxing” in our lives.
I could cite all kinds of studies that show the brain can only exhaust so much cognitive power before needing to be recharged or how your mind is like a muscle that needs downtime in order to strengthen it or whatever comparison you’d like to make, but I think it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that mental fatigue is a real thing.
That’s why we sleep, after all.
In fact, when people asked me how my week off was and I told them everything I accomplished with a proud smile, they looked at me like – and some of them even said aloud – “that doesn’t sound like a vacation.”
I told one person I very much respect about how I’m already looking forward to my next batch of days off so I can actually relax a bit, and he told me to make sure I’m “precious” about it.
“Sometimes you just need to be selfish about that kind of thing,” he said.
So, I guess this edition of Mike’s Musings is me trying to convince myself to do that. The next time I have time off, I’m going to accomplish fewer things and the things I do are going to use skills I already have so I don’t use much brain power learning something new.
Okay, so that was the extent of my pep talk, for now.
I’ll let you all know if it worked after the next time you don’t see my name in the paper for a week.