The surprising thing about living on an island is just how much there is to do. Once my husband and I bought a house and made a long-term commitment to life on North Haven, we became a hot commodity. In addition to our jobs (teaching for me, plumbing and now programming at our community center for my husband), we serve in town government, volunteer with the ambulance crew, teach music lessons, and attempt to maintain a social life. I direct three or four plays each year, for which my husband either acts or does the sound design or both. I teach Pilates at the Y, and in the summer, ostensibly my time off, I open a small bakery and breakfast café.
That’s the way we like it. Neither of us is at our best with a lot of leisure time, and it’s not like there are a lot of places to go here to have a meal out or see a show. Typically if we have downtime at the same time we’ll go for a long walk, snowshoe, or kayak. Maybe we’ll learn a new piece of music or write and record a song. My workday ends at noon on Friday, and when I don’t have to get on the ferry for a prenatal checkup, I make a point of cleaning the bathrooms. Since sitting gets such a bad rap these days, with articles popping up all over the Internet claiming it’s as bad for you as smoking, being busy seems to make a lot of sense.
Since I became pregnant, I’ve reluctantly had to make some changes. My first trimester was rough–not Kate Middleton rough, but I would come home from work and collapse on the couch until I had to scrape myself up off it and go to play rehearsal. I couldn’t muster the energy or stomach to cook dinner, which is usually how I unwind from the workday. I took a break from teaching Pilates. Fellow emergency medical responders took pity on me and let me stay back from boat transports. I binge-watched “Top of the Lake.” And I felt guilty about it.
Even now, in the happier times of the second trimester, I have to give myself permission to take a break. After my Friday cleaning routine, my back inevitably starts to ache and cramp. Lying down is the only thing that helps it to relax and unwind, and so I do.
I realized, lying there last Friday, that for many, a day of rest is a regular and beautiful part of the week. But as a secular Jew, I’ve lost that. Saturdays are usually spent catching up on freelance assignments or participating in community events. Sundays are a little more freeform, with a regularly scheduled walk and Pilates class breaking up the day. Sometimes Sundays turn into all-day off-island field trips with students. And all of it is enjoyable, but none of it is that respite that maybe all humans require.
When I was young, my mother justified our occasional need for a real day off with what she called a Templeton. Templeton is the rat in “Charlotte’s Web.” On a Templeton, which we could request approximately once a year, we didn’t have to change out of our pajamas. We didn’t have to leave the house. And, if our homework was done, we didn’t have to do anything at all. We could watch whatever our three television channels allowed (although I think “Anne of Green Gables” or “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” were our Templeton go-tos). We could eat whatever we wanted. But just once a year. We countered our annual day of rest and gluttony with a pretty constant stream of homework, music lessons, play rehearsals and creative time.
A day of rest doesn’t have to be a Templeton, although sometimes it sounds rather nice. Through pregnancy, I’m finding a balance of activity and rest, jogging and reclining, working and settling in to watch an entire season of “The Fall” in one go. During a rare shared moment of leisure on the couch, my husband turned to me and said “it’s nice, relaxing like this.” I told him it sounded like he was trying to convince himself. He said he was, but that he was actually convinced. Me too.