When does a break become too much break?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I had my fair periods of bursting productivity. I completed my step-one fixed step training at work ahead of time, aced my French exam, went to the class twice a week virtually, wrote more than 20 poems for my portfolio website, revamped my childhood bedroom to an adult workspace, started a new obsession with houseplants and even created Excel spreadsheet to document its well-being updates, got myself a piano keyboard and taught myself from zero, regularly read papers and articles about planetary geology, started volunteering again, and the list goes on.

Yet a few months later, here I am, spending all my free time in the last few months either cuddling with my cat or binge-watching some shitty TV shows because I’ve run out of the good ones to watch. There’s no crap left to be given for things other than these two. Work hasn’t felt stimulating in a while either – and I probably haven’t been very receptive to new challenges too recently. I didn’t even have the willingness to spare some time to write here again. I gained some weight because I don’t exercise, I haven’t put my skincare on in months, and I’m only capable of the bare minimum of household tasks in the house, i.e. drying clothes and vacuum-cleaning. I’ve let my parents water my houseplants, a few died, and it’s been a month since the last time I checked on each one of them carefully.

I understand that while the world and the lives within are not heading in the directions we all want, we just have to bear and live with it. And in these lacklustre times, it wouldn’t be surprising to feel like you haven’t done much for quite some time. I know I should just give myself a break.

Yet when does a break become too much break?

And it’s not like I am currently grieving so that I get to use a pity card as an excuse. Logically, I have no emergency reasons to be sad, although living with family members who owe each other a lot of explanations from each other’s unresolved baggage comes with its own daily challenges. But at the very least, it’s not like I’ve just lost a loved one or something of a resemblance to make me deserve to hit a pause in life. I just… don’t feel like doing anything.

Because of it, I get mad at myself. I accuse myself to be lazy. I don’t know if I am, or is it something else I am experiencing. I get mad at myself for “not living my potential to the fullest,” I guess, which makes me hate myself even more for internalizing a sentence that sounds straight out of a capitalist society.

I keep telling myself that while many other people seem to be getting their stuff together, maybe it’s because they have no other choice anyway. Whether to feed their spouse and newborns, pay their mortgage and other house bills, pay for their toddler’s pre-K, support their parents and siblings, or so forth. While I, on the other hand, pretty much come to work simply because it’s a normal, basic adult thing to do. And I’m obviously grateful for the privilege of having none of those burdens. Although I would admit, a little short-term goal about something I genuinely want to do or have would be nice to recalibrate my everyday mood and willingness to be back kicking asses.

At the same time, it makes me wonder; have I always considered my worth based on my productivity?

I guess being busy and multitasking was the only way I knew how to live my day-to-day. So when I limit myself to perform only one 8-to-5 task every day, it feels like I’m not progressing. It feels like a few steps backwards from who I already was, whom I had hustled to mould myself into as well. My 8-to-5 job is almost the only thing that makes me not feel like a complete garbage since at the very least I do something for a greater good and get a paycheck out of it.

But even if I want to be productive, I do not actually feel like doing it. And it reminds me of another saying that goes, “The difference between a success and mediocre person is the ability to work on something when you do not want to.” Again, it sounds to be the tagline that the capitalist corporations would try to sell us into. But regardless, I do believe that there is some truth in having to manage our willingness despite the lack of it to reach for something better.

I guess it mostly upsets me to think of all the wasted time and potential I could’ve used to learn about all the things I’ve always wanted to try but never got the time to pick up. And to think that my current existence probably produces more carbon footprints and other waste than what I can compensate by my contribution to life in general is also unnerving.

The thought of living a life without the urge to reach for something more than what your current life already is is such a foreign and unpleasant concept to me. Especially because, what if this phase eventually shifts into a prolonged habit, and in turn becomes a comfort zone, where I refuse to grow out of it?

I do realize, however, that a mediocre life doesn’t mean a bad one either. It doesn’t mean such life is meaningless or that those lives are not worth living. It just bugs me to think that while I’m not currently suffering more than most of us are, I’m behaving like I’ve gained the right to become a couch potato.

Maybe I need a boost. A motivation or a purpose for me to get up from my bed and do something other than my 8-to-5 job – which I haven’t done quite enthusiastically as well recently. It used to be the longing for travels for me, but we’ve been strapped down to our home for one and a half years now and there is no sign that it’s going to change anytime soon. I guess I will be writing another piece on this is why it becomes important to do something you genuinely feel delighted about every day, so that you’re not constantly looking for a way to escape every once in a while, i.e., through the vacations and off days – because we’ll never know when, how, or why that chance is going to be taken away from us. And now that the getaway opportunity’s gone, how does one cope with their day-to-day reality otherwise?

Or maybe I don’t actually need a boost. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s something more fundamental than a stimulus to escape this vicious cycle of feeling bad for not doing enough → actually not doing enough because of it → back to square one and so on.

Fingers crossed that I find the answer soon.

14 comments / Add your comment below

    1. Ahh, I think this explains! I always assume I feel burnt out, but it feels different because I’ve felt burnt out before. I suffer enough but I’m not constantly stressed out. Thanks for the reference and hope you’re doing much better!

  1. I think it’s okay not to be productive all the time. You need to give yourself a break. We are all exhausted in the head during the pandemic, and remember every person is different, so you don’t have to feel bad about yourself for not doing much.

    I also like to get busy myself but I enjoy a day (mostly Saturday) where I do absolutely nothing. It’s my form of self-care 🙂

    1. Yup, it’s just that I haven’t felt committed to do anything at all lately, so many times I don’t even feel productive at any moment. Taking a day off once a week is a self-care indeed, but when your mind and body feel like turning off for the whole week and even more, it really starts to feel like the complete opposite. It also feels like I’m giving myself too much break already, hence the guilt. But I guess that’s just part of surviving the pandemic, right 🙂

  2. Pantesan aku bacain kok comment lain pada muncul tp komenku ngga muncul, kayaknya dlu sempet gini jg sih 😅

    sampe aku lupa isi komenku apaan. Oiyaaa btw kak nab ngilang setaun tp terus muncul dengan banyak postingan 👏👏👏

    1. Yang ini juga masa marked as spam Nad 🙁 kok jahat sih WP..

      Haha iyaaa ngilang setaun awalnya karena overwhelmed sama hobi-hobi baru dan kehadiran anabul, eh lama-lama ngilang karena beneran gak mood ngapa-ngapain. Trus sekarang jadi tumpe-tumpe kan curhatannya.. Karena cuti seminggu juga sih, kebanyakan waktu luang jadi ya nulis aja terus huaha

  3. why you have to be so hard to yourself? relax.

    Aneh rasanya, karena di sisi lain, aku yang seorang kepala rumah tangga, yang mesti menafkahi keluarga malah jadi terlalu relax dengan belum nemunya kerjaan lagi.

    Malah di situasi seperti ini, aku jadi banyak berkaca ternyata hidupku selama ini.
    Awalnya, aku marah sama diri sendiri karena merasa gagal, dan susahnya mendapatkan kerjaan baru membuatku banyak berfikir… kenapa aku ada disini dengan situasi seperti ini, rasanya apa yang selama ini kujalani terasa sia-sia. being jack of all trades ternyata ga ngebantu banyak. in fact, i feel i’m not good at anything. at all

    i’m not sure that i’m a good photographer, or even a blogger. or coding (lulusan tek.informatika yg gagal)

    Tapi pelan-pelan, aku tetap mencari pekerjaan sambil berbenah diri. mulai belajar time management, mulai menganggap diri sebagai seorang freelancer, apa yang bisa kubuat dengan kekosongan waktu ini. apa yang bisa ‘kujual’ yang hanya bermodalkan internet dan sedikit kreatifitas. Dan content creating adalah satu-satunya hal yang kupikirkan saat itu.. sampai sekarang.

    Hingga suatu waktu aku punya pemikiran, “mau sampai kapan hidup begini begini aja? ketika nyari kerjaan atau nyari uang itu susah, apakah cuma itu aja yang dipikirkan? ga mau gitu jadi orang yang bermanfaat untuk orang lain?”

    Pelan-pelan, aku mulai menemukan visi, mulai bisa connecting the dots from my past, kira-kira ilmu atau wawasan apa yang bisa kuberikan kepada orang yang memang butuh dengan apa yang kuketahui dan miliki sekarang. ga usah semua orang, cukup beberapa orang yang memang bisa terbantu.

    dream is a goal with plan. having a dream is good to move us forward.

    But a real life is not as simple like that. sekarang aku ada diantara kebutuhan mendapatkan kerja untuk mendapatkan penghasilan tetap dan personal project tentang content creating yang tentunya ga akan serta merta langsung menghasilkan duit. but i’m moving towards it, i have to.

    Lagi-lagi, closing statement-nya adalah, semoga komen ini nyambung dengan tulisanmu, kalo engga. ya… maafkan, hehehe…


    1. Tbh, segini tuh udah improved banget in terms of “being so hard on myself” dibanding saya versi lebih mudaan dikit lho. Karena recently lebih menerima aja kalo memang this year, like last year, won’t be a great one, but at least I’m staying afloat. Perihal ini, ku cerita juga di post yang “Practicing acceptance for guilt-free stagnation” – malah jadi promosi kan hehe.

      Wishing you a bunch of luck for your upcoming steps! Memang sih jahatnya pandemi ini selain the deadly virus juga bikin suka bertanya-tanya soal self-worth kita, misalnya. Tapi percaya aja bahwa everyone’s having their own battles, our struggles are valid and normal. Nobody is currently living their ideal lives – kecuali misal billionaire yang emang anomali aja ya. Sebetulnya bagus kalo memang bisa relax, karena dengan gitu ya jadi bisa mikir lebih jernih toh?

      Anyhow, fingers crossed kita tetap waras dan menemukan alasan-alasan tuk tetap hepi in spite of the collapsing world around us ya..

      1. aaah… kenapa sih kata-katanya bagus amat. i love the way you craft your words, apalagi dalam bahasa inggris, mengingat itupun bukan bahasa ibu. tapi kayak second language.

        ya, meskipun seringkali aku jd bingung sendiri mau komen apa, tapi aku menikmati setiap paragraf tulisanmu, in english.

        Please, write regularly…. i will subscribe your newsletter if i have to.

        1. Mudah-mudahan ada waktu dan niatnya nih untuk nulis regularly. Tapi gak selalu ada bahan juga.. Dan ku emang mottonya quality over quantity banget meski sekedar blog yang nggak ada profitnya hehe. Justru biasanya banyak bahan tulisan kalo lagi banyak masalah idup… Tapi masa harus di kondisi gitu terus ya biar bisa nulis haha

  4. Hahaha… ya mungkin karena hobinya adalah nulis curhat, jadinya pas ada masalah aja rasanya banyak yg pgn dicurahkan dlm bentuk tulisan.

    Padahal aku jg kan pengin tau banyak tentang your thoughts about many things, tentang kenapa suka tanaman misalnya, atau kenapa fotografi?

    But, you do you lah ya… aku disini sbg fan cuma bs berharap kalo salah satu blogger favoritnya ini bs nulis secara reguler.

    Mungkin buat masukan. Ketika kamu lagi banyak ide tulisan, jgn langsung keluarin semua, dijadwal aja, misalnya sehari bs bikin 4 tulisan krn lg mood, dischedule buat dipublish tiap hari sabtu, jd ada new post tiap minggu, dan kamupun bs punya banyak waktu selama 4 minggu untuk cari ide nulis lagi atau apapun.

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