Taking some time out

2018-07-26 06:01

I WAS recently forced to take time out. Proper time out. It’s a concept that is anathema to many of us.

Switching out and disconnecting from work, household chores and social duties. It was not voluntary I hasten to add. It was the result of a rather daunting surgical procedure and its ensuing recovery period. I was an invalid. My worst nightmare, came true. Many of us live such frenetic lives that the idea of a total switch-off can be unnerving. It feels like a waste of time. What is it about many of us in Generation X who abhor self-indulgence? Could it be that the books we read as children described such hyperactivity in children that it became ingrained in us to work, work, work?

Every book described children doing chores. The one that sticks out the most for me was poor Laura Ingils Wilder having to do her chores, come rain, blizzard or shine. Locust plague — yup there she was tilling the ground for potatoes as the locusts crawled over her.

During the Long Winter blizzard, she was in the freezing cold shed all day, rolling hay into fire sticks, her fingers freezing off. It would be considered child abuse nowadays. Our parents also made us do chores, lots of them. Chores were part of life. No meal was a free ride. There were dishes to clear, wash, dry and put away. We mowed the grass, did the washing and tidied up. It was good for us. Anyway, I digress. So what does one do, when one can do nothing? I had great plans. I would journal my recovery. I would start planning that novel. I would read intellectual tomes. I would exercise my mind, if I could not be rushing around physically.

But, when it came to it, I found I hadn’t the stomach for any of that. I even battled to engage with a full-length feature film at first, such was the effect of the rather marvellous painkillers I was prescribed. My reading was confined to books which induced comfort, like the mashed potato or warm custard literary equivalent. I borrowed Gerald Durrell’s Corfu Trilogy and this sweet book kept me company during many long nights when sleep was very evasive.

I chuckled out loud in the dead of the night, immobile in my hospital bed and afterwards at home. During the day, I swopped the pages of the Durrell antics for the TV remote. And, with time to channel hop, what a feast of television I found.

I watched documentaries voraciously, on all different topics. From a look at the British music group Pulp doing a concert in their home town, to a look back at the heroic Zola Budd’s run-in with Mary Dekker.

I marvelled at animals around the globe and visited refugees in Gaza. I sat wide-eyed at the antics of the Kardashians and Bonang, and watched fascinated as I followed the journey of a Mormon family, with three wives and lots and lots of children. I held my breath as the Thai cave rescue was broadcast, whooping with joy at the news that the children had been brought to safety. And, for the first time ever, I watched soccer. Tons of it! I held my breath as nations failed to score and rejoiced when they did. I shouted instructions to players and yelled out what they should rather have done. I mocked those writhing around on the ground unnecessarily and picked sides shamelessly, changing my allegiance at will. I chastened those who sang their anthem without passion and took the side of those who belted out their anthems, misty eyed and proud.

I was showered with kindness by my family, my neighbour and friends, and was taken care of beautifully. Meals were provided, treats materialised in pretty packets. Words of encouragement offered and advice dispensed. I had to have things done for me, a leap of letting go of my most precious independence. At first I needed help with aspects of showering, dressing and getting food. I had to be driven around.

I found that once I learnt to be patient with myself and my slow recovery, my confinement to home was a blessing in disguise. It presented a chance slowly to, at a comfortable pace in the safety of my most familiar environment, find my feet again. And what a gift that has been. • Stephanie Saville is the deputy editor of The Witness.


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