The all-too-elusive “day off”

December 4, 2019

I don’t have a job, but I work damn hard. Every day is long and full. Some days I go to medical appointments; some days I see friends, though not as often as I would like; some days I stay home and work on a long list of tasks. None of those are relaxing. Even when we don’t work traditional jobs, we need days off. As I sat down to write today, this felt familiar, so I did a quick search on this site and found that I’ve written about this before. In fact, I’ve written about this several times, and the past two were last December and the December before that. Hmm. That might be telling me something.

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I have been making more of an effort to give myself space for relaxing time. In August, during a couple of abnormally not-incredibly-hot weeks, I took several afternoons to sit outside and read a book or work on some writing. It was lovely. But a full day? That was rare.

This week we got a snowstorm. In the Boston area this isn’t odd, but it doesn’t usually come so early. I saw the forecast, looked at my calendar, and decided that I needed to take advantage of the strange weather. I was exhausted. I needed a break! And I had a big week coming up, too.

So I took a day off. I didn’t feel too sick to do things; I simply didn’t do them. I puttered around the house. I did some laundry, but now that I have laundry in my apartment (such luxury!) that’s not much of a chore for me. I chatted with a friend via video for a couple of hours. I spent at least a couple of hours reading a novel. I baked cookies. I watched the beautiful snow falling outside, clinging to trees and coating cars. My plan had been to spend a few hours watching tv while crocheting in the afternoon, but somehow I never found time for that. I still did it after dinner, though, like I do almost every night.

Several times during the day, I felt at a loss. I was supposed to be doing something, right? What was I supposed to be doing? What was it? I kept looking at my “to do” list for the day, which is always on my desk. But this time, it was mostly empty, just containing reminders to clear snow off my car, read a book, relax.

I somehow filled the day, and felt so good by the end of it. I needed that. The next day came part 2 of the storm and I wanted to take another day off, but I had too much to do. Still, it was a reminder that I need this. We all do. We need days when we aren’t trying to get lots done. I may not do a lot in a typical day by most people’s standards, but for me it’s a lot. It’s now 3pm and I have made several phone calls, gone to physical therapy, gone to the bank, answered some emails, eaten lunch. For me, that’s a lot, but it’s more than that: it’s the obligation. What I need is days without those obligations. Days of freedom, where I can do whatever I want, whenever I feel like doing it. Again, I think that we all need that sometimes.

Not to sound like a broken record (do people still even know what that means?) but I’m going to make an effort to take more days off. So far, I have succeeded in giving myself afternoons without obligation. Now it is time to give myself more full days without obligation. These will be days for myself, with no appointments, no plans, no lists of tasks to be completed. It can all wait. One more day won’t cause problems. It’s time. So from now on, I will aim for one day off every month. Wish me luck!

Do you take days off like this? Do you find it difficult to schedule them in, or easy to do? Please comment and share your experience with days off while disabled.


Taking a day off

October 27, 2018

There’s this idea that every day is a “day off” when you don’t work a full time job due to disability. And in some ways that’s true, if you define a “day off” as a day that you don’t work 8 hours at a paid job. But anyone with a disability knows that’s totally not how it works.

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Days that are not days off:

  • Days that I have one or more medical appointments. Between getting ready for the appointment, driving to and from the appointment, the appointment itself, and the research to follow up on the appointment, even the shortest appointment is never all that short. I often have to rest for anywhere from 2 hours to the rest of the day after an appointment. It’s not unusual to wake up and do nothing but get ready for the appointment until it’s time to leave the house, then get home and be too tired to do more than eat a meal (if that) and watch tv. It can kill a day.
  • Days that I have nothing scheduled and feel obliged to get shit done around the house. I used to think of this as “day off” when I worked a full time job. The difference is, back then I might spend a few hours getting shit done, then go out and do something fun with a friend at night. Now, I can do one or the other, not both. So spending the day washing dishes, doing laundry, cooking, paying bills, and handling paperwork is definitely not a day off. Bonus: I usually forget what a toll these “easy” tasks take on my body, and end up feeling like crap by the end of the day.
  • Days that I run errands. Again, this used to be a great “day off” activity because I could get stuff done, then have fun later. Now, I use up my energy with groceries and other errands, and get home feeling too tired to do anything else. Worse, if the errands involve big stores with a lot of walking and florescent lights, I often feel especially sick at the end of the day. Worst of all is clothes shopping, where I usually don’t even find what I need, but feel sick afterwards.
  • Days that I don’t do anything “productive” or fun because I feel like crap. That’s called a sick day, not a day off. And it sucks. Big time.
  • Days that I try to get things done but have too much pain, brain fog, or energy drain to get anything done. I spend the entire day trying to do stuff, then finally give up because nothing is getting done. By the time I give up, I feel even sicker than I had before, plus I feel guilty for having “wasted” a day.
  • Days I deal with medical or benefits paperwork. It’s true that I don’t work a paid job, but if I got paid for the many many many hours I spent dealing with affordable housing paperwork, SNAP paperwork, fuel assistance paperwork, health insurance paperwork, emailing with doctors, researching treatments, researching diagnoses, or any of the myriad other stuff I have to do, I would probably earn enough that I wouldn’t need those benefits. Some irony there, eh?

Do you know what is a day off though? Today. Today was a fantastic day off! Here in the Boston area, we knew a nor’easter was coming. It’s warm enough that we knew it would be rain, not snow, but it was still going to be a nasty storm. I didn’t have any plans scheduled aside from dog sitting. I figured it was the perfect day to stay home and be cozy. I ran my errands yesterday, so I wouldn’t have to do it today.

I set myself 3 goals for today: (1) Finish the novel I’ve been reading so I can finally find out who the killer is. (2) Bake the apple crisp I’ve been wanting to make – mostly so I can finally eat the apple crisp. (3) Cuddle with the dog.

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It was such a beautiful day. I did end up doing a couple of things on my to do list, but only because I had time and felt like it. There was no rush. No pressure. No guilt. You know what else I did? I cuddled on the couch with that dog above and finally finished my novel (damn, I should have guessed she was the killer!) I made the apple crisp that I’ve been wanting to make for a month (doesn’t it look yummy?) and managed to not eat too much of it. I walked the dog outside, but otherwise stayed in. I wore cozy clothes all day. I watch a little tv. I relaxed.

And you know what else? I didn’t stress out over anything! No stress, no worry, no guilt, not concern. I didn’t do the million and one things I need to be doing this week, and that’s ok! Too often, I spend every day pushing myself to “be productive” until I burn out, feel lousy, and have to spend a day resting. It’s so much more pleasurable to rest before I get to the point of feeling like crap!

I have been trying to do this more often. Mostly I fail, but every now and then, like today, I manage it, and it’s amazing.

Tomorrow I have plans to see a friend in the afternoon and to do some phone banking from home at night for the upcoming election. I’m sure that in the morning I’ll try to do some of the myriad items on my list. But thanks to the relaxing day I just had, I will feel rested and relaxed and ready to take it on. Or I’ll remember how good today felt and I’ll choose to have some more quiet time instead. Either way, it’s a win!

What are some days that aren’t really days off that I forgot to list above? Please let me know in the comments! And if you haven’t taken a day off lately, be sure to do that soon. Because we all need that sometimes.


Taking a real day off

December 27, 2017

There’s this interesting thing that happens when you have daily symptoms.

Back when I worked, I would have these things called “days off.” These were days that I didn’t work. Sometimes I would hang out with friends. Sometimes I would do something fun on my own. Sometimes I would use the time to clean the apartment or run errands. Generally one day each weekend would be a day to just hang out and relax: no errands, no chores. It was great!

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Now that I’m too sick to work, I don’t go to a job, so every day is supposedly a “day off.” The thing is, I still need to take care of my health, run errands, clean the apartment, and all that other stuff. That became my job. And I try to do a little work to earn some money here and there. That’s my job, too.

The big difference is, there are no set hours. And I never know which days I’ll feel up to running errands or earning some money or any of that other stuff. So that means I now have 2 kinds of days:

  • Days that I feel like crap.
  • Days that I try to be “productive” and get stuff done.

Here’s the problem: that means I never take a “day off.” Every day is either a day to feel sick and do nothing by try to take care of my health, or a day to wash dishes, cook meals, go grocery shopping, do some work that earns money, or see a doctor. Sometimes those days might include seeing friends, which is awesome. I love hanging out with friends! The problem is, in my current state, hanging out with a friend is a fun day, but not the kind of “day off” that I really need to rest up.

I don’t rest up, because any time I feel halfway decent, I feel like I have to take advantage of that by doing as much stuff as possible (without overdoing it, of course.)

I’ve been feeling burned out lately. I know I’ve been doing too much, but when I try to take a “day off,” I fail. I end up doing laundry or trying to work. Half the time, I end up wasting time by scrolling through Facebook or something else unhelpful. Then I don’t get stuff done OR get any rest. It’s just not working.

Until this week.

This is an odd week. You see, just about everyone takes off Christmas from work. A lot of folks take off the entire week from their jobs. Some stay home and others visit family. But for me, Christmas isn’t a holiday. A couple weeks ago I did a small Chanukah lunch celebration with my family, and that was it. I baked cookies for it. Very simple.

And then this week, the world around me got quiet. The Jews were going out for Chinese food and movies (I did go out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve, actually,) the Christians were celebrating Christmas, and just about everyone else seemed to be busy with something family-related.

As I was setting up my to-do list for the week, like I always do, something occurred to me: there was almost nothing on that list that had to happen this week. Sure, it would be nice to get that stuff done, but the list never ends, and those things can happen next week instead. So what if I didn’t do them? What then?

As the light bulb went off over my head cartoon-style, I felt relaxed. It could all wait!

I have been dog sitting since the week before Christmas. (That’s him in the photo.) I have watched this guy a couple times in the past, but having him for a week and a half was different. I fell in love. I am so sad that he’s going home in a few hours! It turns out, he was the perfect companion this week.

Normally Christmas is a lonely day for me. I spend a lot of time alone, but it feels different when everyone I know is busy doing fun things and I’m not. But not this year!

This year, Christmas was the day that I FINALLY took a day off. I started it off wrong. I tried to “get stuff done.” I found myself scrolling through Facebook to procrastinate. Then I realized that it was the perfect day to just rest. Not because I was too sick to get off the couch, but because I just needed the rest.

I settled on the couch. I had my knitting in my lap and an adorable pup curled up against my leg. I watched hours of tv. I ate leftovers (no cooking!) I let the dishes sit. It was the first time in ages that I felt up to washing dishes, but let them sit anyway. How decadent!

I left the apartment only to walk the dog. Thankfully, he was happy to stay in most of the day. We snuggled and played. I watched more tv. I did more knitting.

And by the end of the day, I felt relaxed in a way that I haven’t in a long time.

Finally.

My challenge now will be to do this more than once a year in 2018. In fact, my goal is to do it to a small extent once a week. That will be one day a week that I do something fun just for me. No stress. No to do list. If I feel up to going out and taking a walk, that’s ok. But at least once every other month I will have a day at home to rest and relax and not do anything more than knit, read, and watch tv. That’s my goal.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. I’ve spoken to friends with chronic illness who struggle in the same way: when they feel good, they feel an obligation to do as much as they can. And that means never having a “day off” to just do their own thing. I feel like there must be a solution out there for this problem, but I have no idea what it is.

So my questions to you are, do you ever feel this way? Have you found a way to take regular days off that works for you? And if so, what is it? Please share it in the comments because I would love to learn from you!


A day off means something else when you have a chronic illness

April 2, 2014

For most of my life, “a day off” meant a weekday that I didn’t go to work or school, wasn’t in bed sick, and could do whatever I wanted.

About a dozen years ago I took “a day off” for the first time that didn’t involve any travel. I didn’t go to work, I got extra sleep, I took the car in for some work that needed to be done, I cleaned the apartment, and I indulged in some hobbies. By the end of the day, I felt fantastic – rested, relaxed, and productive. I remember it so well.

These days “a day off” is a completely different animal. For one thing, I’m not in school or working at a job, so that’s not relevant. Instead, I spend a lot of my time dealing with health issues. I can never get away from my health problems; those are and will always be with me. I can almost get away from some of the logistical issues, though. And I can ignore the “to do” list that needs doing.

I woke up feeling horrible. I’m more exhausted than I have been in a while. So many muscles ache that don’t usually ache. I woke up not wanting to do anything. Luckily for me, I didn’t have anything scheduled today, medical, social or otherwise. So I decided to take “a day off.” There’s so much I should be doing, but I’m not. I should be making phone calls to find a therapist. I should be dealing with a form from my lawyer. I should be doing laundry. I should be changing the sheets on my bed. I should be taking a walk on this rare sunny afternoon. I should have put food in the crockpot this morning. I should be getting a long-overdue haircut. Doing even two of these things would make me feel very productive, but instead I’m not doing any of them. No, instead I’m taking “a day off.”

Here’s what I have been and will be doing:

  • Took a shower at 4pm. I put it off as long as I could, but in the end I felt sort of gross and decided it was worth it.
  • Emailed with some friends (but ignored all of my other emails.)
  • Fill my pill boxes for the week. I do this every Wednesday. I don’t want to do it, and I’ve been putting it off, but it really has to be done today.
  • Watched tv. Will watch more tv.
  • Read my book. Will read more.
  • Knitted. Will knit more.
  • Writing this blog post.
  • Ate leftovers. Will eat more leftovers
  • Will wash dishes. Because there’s no one else to do it.

I haven’t decided yet about my physical therapy exercises. I should do them, but I’m just so tired, and they take so much effort, and it’s my day off, so I don’t want to even think about it. But I know I need to.

So at the end of today, I won’t feel rested, relaxed, and productive like I did that day 12 years ago. But maybe I won’t feel any worse than I did when I woke up this morning. If that happens, I’ll consider it a successful day.


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