lockdown and leisure

a sabbatical rest, day 148

kathmandu lockdown, day 27

The near-total lockdown here continues, and, from news reports today, will be extended again. It’s been a month now, and it has given me a chance to imagine what it might feel like when I retire in a few years.

I don’t expect to quit being productive; I’m not wired that way. Neither is my friend Quentin Schultze, who retired from teaching a few years ago and calls this period of life his “rewirement.” I like that. I hope to keep working, but to work differently, as I’ve explained.

But the lockdown has given me an opportunity to think about rest, too, and what that might look like. I’m on sabbatical, which is historically an ideal rooted in our need for rest, although it doesn’t feel like that. There are expectations, however minimal. I’ve stayed pretty busy since we arrived in February. But lockdown helps you think about rest differently.

A typical day now provides time for work and leisure, and I’m not particularly good at the latter. We get up early since Katie has four weekly meetings in the US that fall between 5 and 7 AM local time. We have tea and granola with fresh fruit before or after her meetings, and then take a walk to a market or grocery store during the period when we are allowed to be out, between 7 and 9 (grocery shopping only).

Many days we buy a kombucha and pick up a pastry (sel roti made with rice flour) at a little shop next to the organic food store. We sit and enjoy these treats by a pond on the way home. Depending on what we need (or want), on other days we go to other stores or markets in other directions. When we get home, we have a meal shake and take our vitamins.

Then it’s time to read or study for a while or have a Nepali lesson online (thanks Baileyna). Then, after a light lunch, we have work to do. Calls, correspondence, writing, some of the things I described in my last post. Then an afternoon snack, a walk up and down the stairs in our building, a late supper. Perhaps a little TV (streaming). And then to bed.

But frankly, this doesn’t fill the day. That is where learning to rest comes in. I do have normal patterns of resting, of course. For one thing, I compartmentalize well enough that I can literally turn everything in my head off for a morning or even a day. And for several years I’ve practiced power napping—laying down for 20 minutes and getting up to go at it again.

But these seem like survival strategies, just ways to recharge and get more done. I find I lack is any concept of rest for rest’s sake, a philosophy of rest that embraces it rather than collapses into it. But long lockdown days are teaching me to think about rest differently. To actually rest differently. I’ve taken one or two long naps a day. I’ve even read three novels since lockdown began, all by the same author. It’s been a long time since I’ve read three novels in a month. And I’ve done it without staying up all night, which is what I’ve often done before.

Resting seems to be helping. I’ve been sending (mostly) weekly updates to the kids and grandkids. I’m even reading a couple of books related to work, as opposed to (and in addition to) articles I find online. I have a queue of Audible books on productivity that’s I’ve been ignoring. And I feel more rested than I have in a long time.

I know this will end soon, and, in fact, I hope it does. I’m eager to get back to a new semester and new challenges. But while I’ve been waiting for a flight out of here, checking the Embassy website daily, I’ve been thinking about how little I understand leisure and how it might fit into the years ahead.

If I define leisure as “not work,” it opens up time for celebration, creativity, and companionship. Provided I get better at prioritizing rest than I am now. There is some overlap between things I’m thinking and the list last week of new ways to be productive. But perhaps that is the goal, a time when work and leisure cannot be distinguished from each other. Anyway, here’s a list:

Time with words. Just for fun. So, recommend some books in the comments below. I want to write a sonnet using only Anglo-Saxon derived vocabulary. I joked with someone online this week about being in a play. I don’t think I would have even thought of it if I weren’t stuck on this (beautiful) balcony.

Time with family. We have 11 grandchildren, none of whom live nearby. Spending time with them (and their parents, of course). It is relaxing to just hang out with them. And I should do more of that.

Time with Katie. We are coming up on our 47th anniversary, and it keeps getting better. Anyone who knows me knows I already make time with her a priority, but the next phase of our lives should provide more time together. And that means more rest. She is a true sanctuary. (And one of my favorite parts of a lockdown.)

Time with God. Faith grows, especially as you take time to look back and see how faithful God has been. Good rest comes from learning to rest in Him. And the best rest comes when you actually do it. Learning this takes time I don’t always take. But I look forward to when time with Him is more of every day, the true and living promise of a living and resurrected Christ.

None of this constitutes a full-orbed philosophy of leisure, of course.

Figuring that out would be work.

What about you? What have you learned about resting. And how have you learned it?

2 thoughts on “lockdown and leisure”

  1. I’m learning that rest isn’t always sitting in my favorite corner of our couch with a cup of coffee and scrolling through apps on my phone (that’s what I used to think). It can be taking a walk, sitting still, taking a drive to see something new, or cutting greens in my garden. These are things that take my mind away from worry, over-thinking, and comparing myself to others (who are perfect). And, I need a time of rest every day to “be present” and love others well.

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