Once upon a long time ago, when my son was 2 or 3, I was freelancing as a writer and a production artist. I lived in Chicagoland then too. Only then Chicago was a hub of educational publishers. I never had to want for work to do, and yet, I was always working.
Some of that “always working” was the good old Midwestern’s, “hard work never hurt anyone” work ethic. Some of that “always working” was the freelancer’s, “you never know when or if the next job is coming.” Some of it was the helper’s, ” they have a deadline and I can help them meet it.” or “they need someone with my qualifications, and they really need it.” Then again, some of that constant working was a combination of more subtle forces — fear of a lacking bank account, love of the work and the way it engaged me, and freedom from the need to plan another use for my time.
Whew! That’s a whole lot wrapped up in constantly working.
When I began a full-time job with a publisher, I moved to Texas, and for four months, I lived alone until my family sold our Illinois house. Though I brought work home with me each night, I still found I had time to do other things.
One Friday I rediscovered bookstores. The luxury of time in a bookstore — when no one is waiting and no obligation is pressing for me to go — is a decadent pleasure. WHoa! At 2 in the afternoon, I was ready to hide somewhere to be looked in all night, forever. Doing work was the farthest thing from my mind. When I left hours later, I picked up food on the way home, I made a lovely dinner for myself. and I sat down to eat with one of the pile of books I bought. The work I brought home still in my briefcase.
I read that book all weekend. I carried the same unfinished work in my briefcase back to the office on Monday. From that day forward, I still took work home on the weekend, but it came home with a tacit agreement.
The weekend is my time. Except in a rare case of emergency, I’ll bring the work with permission not to do it. Sometimes doing some work feels good — it’s nice to get a jump on Monday. But I also like knowing that I can leave that work in my briefcase all weekend. The deal is no guilt for not working.
Now that I work at home again, I have no briefcase I fill daily — only a list I make on Friday. But I keep the relationship with that list the same. I pick whether to deal with the list items on the weekend or wait until Monday. . . .
It’s my weekend and now and then, it’s a great idea just to have one.