Last year, during the misery that was 2020, my personal coach repeatedly advised me to take a break. At the time, I couldn’t — with the sky turned to ash, riots in the streets, and the pandemic raging around me, I couldn’t stomach the thought of stopping the many different activities I was involved in — many of them related to advocating for democracy and climate solutions. Action, as I frequently tell anyone who will listen, is the antidote to despair. It’s truly a motto I live by. And since the opportunities for despair were legion last year, I needed to stay active.
So what’s different now? Honestly, this year is still pretty bad. Democracy is hanging by a thread. The climate is still warming out of control. Structural racism is still embedded in everything. But for me, inside, things recently have shifted just a little. Even though — or maybe because — there is still plenty (more than plenty!) to do, I feel like I’m finally ready to take a pause and step back. Even though I have not one but two jobs. Even though I have a husband and a teenage son and an aging mother all of whom require my love and attention. Even though I have a house that needs a thousand repairs and upgrades. And even though I’m thinking of running for office, and I need stay up on local politics, and there is still a never-ending list of things I can do to help save American democracy, or the planet, or both.
Even though — or maybe because? But for whatever reason, the message to just relax and take a break seems to finally be sinking in.
A couple of months ago, I gave myself a birthday present of oil painting supplies, and I made the conscious decision to learn how to use them. I checked out armloads of books from the library on oil painting. And I started visiting museums with a friend who was newly freed from an unhappy marriage — both of us reaching for a new, fresh start.
Then last week I discovered that one of our local museums has an amazing collection of oil paintings — so I decided I could carve out the following Friday to go visit it. As that Friday has drawn closer, just the idea of it makes me happy. “I have to do (fill in the blanks tedious task) now?” I say to myself. “OK, but on Friday I can just sit and paint if I feel like it!” Or, “I have to stay stuck inside today? OK, but on Friday, I get to go to the city and be outside!” Knowing that that treat is waiting for me at the end of the week makes everything feel somehow lighter, and easier.
Of course, it does mean I will have to compress all that work into a shorter week. And, one could always argue that this is why the labor movement fought so hard for the weekend — they gave us a blessed two days in which to relax. But the reality is, there are expectations and responsibilities on the weekend as well. Those are the days I run house-related errands with my husband, or meet other family obligations, or pay bills, or attend weekend events. My weekends are rarely my own. So the thought of a Friday that was mine, all mine — a day to do with as I wished, to not check email or reply to work or volunteer requests… that sounded heavenly.
And then, earlier this week, an even more radical idea sprang into my head: why not carve out every Friday, for a month? What might that feel like?
And so — a Month of Fridays was born, as a kind of experiment. For the next four Fridays, I will set an auto-responder, and go do something wild and wonderful I’ve been wanting to do. Tomorrow, it will be a visit to the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. (Followed by a pro-voting-rights rally — because it’s fun and social and because, well, just because I feel like it.) The following Friday isn’t scheduled yet, but I’m thinking I might go to the beach. I haven’t decided yet.