Stress and leisure

This week turned out a bit different than I had expected. I had expected to go to work but there was not much to do in Medford. Aside from the fact that I had no billing code, I already had done my required 80 hours during my Philippines assignment and so I would essentially be working unpaid overtime.

I happen to have a great friend as a supervisor and she agreed that it made no sense to drive in and out and spending my office hour on unimportant tasks and chitchat.

And so I took care of health and beauty needs such as teeth, hair, shoulder and ankle. The latter had acted up during my last few trips and the nerve damage that probably happened during surgery got worse. I decided to try acupuncture to calm the upset nerves and open the way for whatever blocked energies had accumulated.

Bill is our acupuncturist in Gloucester. He is a friend of Tessa and I trust him with my life, or any body part. Acupuncture doesn’t actually deal with body parts, unlike our health system, and this is what I like about acupuncture.

Bill observed that I was quite stressed. I tend to deny such assertions nearly as a reflex, but then he got me thinking.  It took me about 24 hours to realize how very stressed I was, and that this might have something to do with my poor sleeping pattern and how I feel after eating just about anything.

Since mid-May, or maybe I should go back to January, I have been ‘on’ without much of a break. The only breaks may have been the brief vacation with Axel in Chiang Mai and the hours I spent in forced idleness inside planes. But even that idleness wasn’t very idle, writing reports, studying assignment documents and finishing the embroidered wall hanging for Saffi. And then there was the arrival of Saffi, also not altogether stress free.  And then the complete overhaul of our organizational structure, lay-offs and funding shortfalls and my wondering where my next assignments (read: employment) will come from if not from overseas work.

If I needed to justify my high stress levels, I think I have just done so. Now the cure. I subscribe to something that can be called an ‘electronic cutting service plus.’  May Popova, who I heard interviewed on NPR some months ago, produces a wonderfully eclectic newsletter Brain Pickings.

I promptly subscribed because I liked how her brain worked. Her latest newsletter came at exactly the right time. She writes about the tyranny of work/life balance and assembled some great thinkers about leisure, then added her own wisdom, which is remarkable for a person much younger than I am. “[…] And yet the most significant human achievements between Aristotle’s time and our own – our greatest art, the most enduring ideas of philosophy, the spark for every technological breakthrough – originated in leisure, in moments of unburdened contemplation, of absolute presence with the universe within one’s own mind and absolute attentiveness to life without, be it Galileo inventing modern timekeeping after watching a pendulum swing in a cathedral or Oliver Sacks illuminating music’s incredible effects on the mind while hiking in a Norwegian fjord.” Amen to that! I am taking her collected wisdom about leisure with me off-the-grid when we go to Maine this coming Saturday.

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