Sorry I haven’t emailed for nearly a month. I do feel a bit guilty, but not all that much. What can I say? It’s the summer holidays, and my time’s stretched tighter than ever and with Bert off school and a book to finish by the end of August. I know: excuses, excuses. The truth is, sometimes you just need a rest.
Rest doesn’t really come naturally to me. I slantingly admire people who can devote a whole day to binge-watching a boxset; I’m too restless for that. Mostly, I can’t even get to the end of a movie. It seems like a long time to sit still. Unless I’m completely fascinated by the subject matter, my attention dips after a while, and I’m prone to drifting out of the room fifteen minutes before the end, when the story is delivering its final payload. Meh. I get the gist.
I need rest, though. My brain won’t ever stop generating words and stories and ideas, and that means I’m constantly working. I’m not complaining; that’s how I find my earth. In actual fact, my real exhaustion comes when I don’t get the time to write. The words keep coming anyway, but I can’t process them, so they wake me up at night, and I constantly have to fight their incursions into my mind so that I can interact with the real world. If the process of writing gets deferred for too long, it makes me unwell. True rest, for me, is being able spend time with my thoughts every day, without interruption.
The ‘without interruption’ bit is key. I don’t mean people dropping into my office for a chat (although please don’t). I mean the obligation to constantly check emails too, and perform the mental acrobatics of diplomacy and understanding that this requires. I mean interacting over social media, with its tightrope of pleasures and demands. I’m not antisocial, although I know I often seem that way. I’m just endlessly existing near the limit of what I can manage. In the middle of the University year, I usually go way past that limit. Everything gets cancelled. Service interrupted.
It’s interesting to see how my sociability comes back after a few weeks of rest – my kind of rest, that is. I am beginning to wonder how old friends are doing; I’m tolerant of music again, of the bustle of cities, of social hugs. There are moments in my year when I sincerely believe that I’m a natural hermit. But here, mid-summer, I realise that instead I’m not living the life that I need to live.
The problem is, I’m not quite sure how to solve that.
See you soon,