Learning How to Take a Break

Mon 22 – Sun 28 Aug 2022

The week gone has been a difficult one. Indeed, the first half was a real crash and burn. An elderly friend had a fall and ended up in hospital. I picked up an infection which has made me feel low. And I have had to take a break from my beloved gym. Dave got back from Germany and was immediately involved with caring for our friend. Meanwhile, planning was ongoing for when I leave my current paid role once my contract finishes in Dec.

There’s the old saying that ‘We make plans and God laughs’. That is so true of last week for me and life in general for all of us. We can’t plan for the unexpected and these are often the things that force us to reconsider our plans forcing us to take a break from our well-ordered, planned, and expected existences.

But no-one promises it will be easy or painless

There are many things we love and are addicted to such as food, drink, drugs, sex, gambling, etc. But we can also be addicted to lifestyles (perhaps even ones seen as ‘healthy’) and expectations of what our life is going to be like / what the future holds. Giving up these things, or even just taking a break from them, is never easy.

We all know we need to massively break from our current way of living to save the planet. And I need to work out what needs to change in my current life to enable me to recover, re-orientate, and re-find energy, ambition, and put my head in a good place. That means some things I enjoy and some aspects of the future I thought would happen have to be paused or totally rethought.

cardboard boxes

Family and Friends

A crisis

Big thing last week was a friend who is an elderly man living on his own having a fall at home. On Monday, another friend was worried enough with not being able to contact him to go to his flat. There she found him stuck on the floor perhaps for 24 hours. I had spoken to him on Saturday night so optimistically thought he might have been out shopping or his phone had stopped working which is why he wasn’t answering. Sometimes it is right to assume the worst even with the possibility of being wrong.

Our friend ended up spending a couple of nights in hospital. I can’t fault the speed of the ambulance coming nor the wait and treatment he had in hospital. As with so many older people, the key thing he wanted to do was return home. One of my big achievements last week was persuading him to stay in the hospital on Monday night and not discharge himself.

Dave has stepped up brilliantly

Dave came home early from his holiday in Berlin on Tuesday morning and really stepped up to support our friend. He spent time with him at the hospital and then took him home. Fortunately the occupational therapist came very soon after our friend arrived back at his flat. This led to identification of many trip hazards as well as the ordering of some new equipment. Ultimately, perhaps something good has come out of a situation that was traumatic for both my elderly friend and those of us who are around to support him.

Health and Efficiency

Health signals

On top of all this drama, I didn’t feel well on Monday and I decided to get it checked out. This meant forgoing my plan on Monday afternoon to see the Surrealism exhibition at Tate Modern. But good thing I did get checked out with my hospital doctor, my glands were up which I hadn’t realised. The advice of the doctor was that I was fighting an infection and need to ease up for a bit. To take a break from my current lifestyle as it was not good for my health. This doesn’t mean a permanent change but at least time for a pause so I can recuperate and recover.

teddy is ill

A break from the gym

One of the key aspects of taking this break was not going to the gym. I did a session on Monday morning before my medical appointment. But I decided to skip Tuesday and Thursday. Did I miss it? Hell, yeah. But to take a break and so get better / recharge your batteries really means doing something differently or even stopping doing something completely. This is difficult. I enjoy the gym and I want a better body. But as the old saying goes, if nothing changes then nothing changes.


So I have basically been keeping everything low key. Early nights, good sleep, eating and drinking sensibly, just chilling rather than trying to do stuff and getting stressed. That has been the week gone. My glands are still up so next week I will try to keep it easy still but I must also do some exercise even if it’s just long walks. Think I may have to give the gym a miss for a couple of weeks. But the return will be sweeter when it happens.

when only bed and rest can help

Work Life Balance

Taking a career break

I stated in my blog two weeks ago how I have decided that I won’t seek to extend my current contract when it ends in December. You can read about it here. Fundamentally I’ve decided to take a break in order to replenish my work batteries and rediscover my passions.

Had a great catch-up with an old colleague who is leaving her senior charity job. She got it just right when she said she was proud of what she had achieved but there was a lot more to be done and it probably needed somebody with more energy than she was currently able to give.

I genuinely think so many of us have had it harder with the pandemic than we realise. And now the impact of the cost of living crisis combined with whole new challenges like what does hybrid working actually mean and how do we make it work? My suspicion is that many of us are pretty worn out and need to take a break.


Learning to let go

Meanwhile, though, I still have a job to do. Yes I will be leaving in Dec but before then I need to keep on with the good work we are doing. And, as importantly, support the thinking on what comes after me.

When a person leaves, it is often a great opportunity to make changes. This can feel like an analysis of things that haven’t worked out as well as expected on their watch. But it’s important not to take this as personal criticism.

Indeed, if I had wanted, I could have made an argument to carry on and see through the new changes. But I think for my own good and the good of the important work that is being done, it would be best to give someone else a go. Perhaps someone who will do things better than me. And the key thing may be someone who wants to do the role full-time; I really don’t want to work full-time ever again if I can afford to. I feel that level of burn out after +35 years of working life.

Thinking about the future

I’ve started to think what this career break will look like and what I’m going to focus on. These are some of my ideas:

  • Become more proficient in languages
  • Undertake some of the mass of free courses to develop my tech skills
  • Really focus on losing weight – tackle the many reasons why I overeat
  • Explore exercise beyond just going to the gym
  • Spend time with my parents, friends, and partner cos they won’t always be there
  • Explore how I can live more frugally and without having such a negative impact on the planet
  • Travel but without just jumping on and off planes – see places with minimal environmental damage
  • Immerse myself in art and culture
  • Rediscover my spiritual side

Obviously I will need to return to paid work at some point. My savings will only last so long. But hopefully by taking time out to explore options then I will come back re-energised. And I may even be able to find something that brings in money linked to the things above or some other things I haven’t thought about yet. Perhaps I will also rediscover my love of volunteering – that disappeared a while ago as I feel so knackered.

Books and Reading

Ghost Stories

This was the book I finished last week. It’s basically a collection of ghost stories by classic authors put together in 1982 for sale exclusively in Marks and Spencer. And there are some absolute classics here. They are very much of a sort, stories primarily from the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Although many of them are hard to locate in time. Classic ghostly visits in old houses portending death or wanting revenge, and such forth. Fascinating how the nature of the horror story has changed now with mobiles and CCTV. Overall a group of stories that are not really scary but wonderfully atmospheric of a lost age.


Personal Development

Languages: you don’t need to take a break from everything

One thing I am not wanting to take a break from is my language learning. Of course, I feel demotivated sometimes and skip my daily Duolingo lesson. But I still find it challenging and stimulating plus it will help me in the travelling that I plan to do in the future. So I chug onwards with at least one language lesson everyday. The focus is Spanish and, to put it simply, I really enjoy it. Why take a break from something that develops you and helps stave off dementia? I suppose if I was overdoing it but that definitely ain’t a problem at the moment.


How to tackle the cost of living crisis: stop buying new things and so undermine capitalism

One thing I have realised recently is that so many people get excited and fulfilled by buying things. Obviously that is the nature of capitalism – it relies on people buying stuff and production increasing. But equally obviously that is screwing the planet as we always create anew rather than reuse.

What we actually need to do is to get excited by NOT buying stuff. We all need to get a kick when we take a break from capitalism and refuse to consume. Or linked to this, rather than creating demand to ensure something new is produced, we gain objects through reusing, recycling, and repairing.

We all know there is a cost of living crisis. And in no way do I down play the poverty that many face. But we know we live in a world of over-consumption. Energy is wasted all the time. Unconsumed food is thrown away. Let’s all help save the world and tackle the cost of living crisis by challenging the foundations of capitalism and not buy new stuff so that it doesn’t have to be created in the first place.

recycling symbol

The Week Ahead

  • Got to recover physically so I am going to take a break completely from the gym
  • Wednesday and Friday at work, plenty to do – thankful that I can work from home and avoid the commuting
  • Really want to start to explore the reasons why I am over-eating. Won’t be easy to break from the reasons that mean I can’t reduce my food intake but I have to try.
  • Still reading Ishiguro’s ‘Klara and the Sun’ which is great. Also dipped into a wonderful collection of short stories about the Doctor Who related anti-hero Iris Wildthyme (definitely one for us geeks).
  • Resting and recovering means no galleries or museums to visit. Plus minimal shopping for anything. But I will continue with my daily language learning.
  • Me and Dave will make sure our elderly friend is OK. Basically we are talking daily phonecalls and even visits. We can’t overlook radio silence ever again.

And Finally…

If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit

2 thoughts on “Learning How to Take a Break

  1. I was in UCLH for a few days last month (when I came back from Greece pneumonia rescue & hospitalization) and it was Pride Month.

    I could see the stripy flags flying on all the UCL buildings, and I thought: that was you Billy, you did that!

    1. Really sorry to hear you have not been well Bri. Thanks for the compliment but don’t think it was my doing alone LOL. It’s pretty amazing to think how a few of us kept the flag flying during the whole AIDS / Clause 28 / Thatcher period. We must never take for granted what we currently have. Take care.

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