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Emails to my Therapist

Celebrating with Idleness

Dear Nicholas, With all plans scrambled by Covid,  I forgot to take a vacation this year and instead have worked, steadily, barely pausing to look up, from my laptop on my sofa. On the late afternoon of December 10, I ran out of gas and came to a halt. I’m still halted, seven business days later. It seems that for this year’s Christmas I’m celebrating with idleness.

I thought that if I paused,  I’d pitch into household projects, but no, nothing so ambitious.


My to-do list includes


*easy gossipy reading (The Daily Mail, Melania and Me)

*coloring pictures in a coloring book

*playing in the yard

The Crown, The Queen’s Gambit



*jigsaw puzzling

*patting the dog

*wondering how long I’ll dare to loll around

Carlo sets a good example


A Regression?

This list makes me sound like a sedentary third-grader.

Being self-employed, I have the freedom to over or under-work, as long as I’m meeting deadlines. I’m prone to overwork, probably typical, if not 100% true of the self-employed.

I was happy I could work at home and wanted to make good use of the time. In recent weeks I knew I’d been running on thread-bare tires, but didn’t slow down until two friends urged me to stop, take a break. I did.  I stopped, took a nap, then slept eleven hours that night.

A Languid Yule

This idleness at home is a strange sensation. I didn’t set a date for when it will end, but I think it may well continue until the New Year (with perhaps a glance or two at my book-in-progress.)

The combo of Covid and idling makes for an unusual Christmas. It will be just Bob and me and some take-out turkey. And we’re scheduled to have a fierce winter storm Christmas day. The holiday will be quiet and cozy and lazy.

My Indian Christmas

I had a quiet Christmas once before, the winter I spent in Varanasi researching my novel Sister India. I was the only tenant in a two bedroom guest flat. In honor of the day, the housekeeper Sakhai hung a garland on the frame of my mosquito net. He and I didn’t speak each other’s languages, but the meaning of his gesture was clear. I found a Christian church and went to a very long service–all in Hindi, of course. Back in North Carolina, I wouldn’t have gone to church; I’d have been unwrapping presents with my family and over-eating.

In Varanasi, I was invited for dinner Christmas day at the home of a professor at the university that was hosting me. A thoughtful invitation. He and his wife were so late picking me up, though, that I’d given up on their arriving. Yet while I waited, I didn’t feel free to leave the silent apartment. Eventually, they showed up; I enjoyed their company and Christmas felt restored.

Indian Christmas star lanterns

This Christmas, I feel as if I’m being restored. It’s not what I expect of this usually wildly busy season, but it’s good.

And I hope your celebration is everything you want it to be, with some excellent surprises.



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  • kenju
    December 22, 2020 at 3:14 pm Reply

    It sounds as if you have broken the code – productive living can be put on hold – and picked up later with no adverse effects. My life is very busy; I’m not able to do what I’d like, but making do. If I didn’t have books and the laptop, I might go nuts.

    Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to come, Peggy.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 22, 2020 at 3:46 pm Reply

      I like the idea of breaking the code, though I may be a bit late doing it. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, kenju!

  • December 22, 2020 at 6:26 pm Reply

    Good post Peggy, it’s neither the best nor the worst of times, and taking a break may still be the best Christmas present you give or get. I’m glad to share the break with you here at home – haven’t yet lit upon a gift to give myself = I always like to ask folks to give themselves a gift no one else knows they want ot need, you can’t buy it in stores ‘tho money might help it happen, and no one else can give it to you. It’s not something to figure out, but rather ithe idea will just appear while the front of your mind is wandering or doing something else. And when ya’ find it, you’ll know it feels Right. Wonder what it’ll be? Happy Holidays to All, bob

    • Peggy Payne
      December 22, 2020 at 6:49 pm Reply

      I’ll be especially interested to know what yours is, Bob.

  • Robert Braxton
    December 22, 2020 at 11:31 pm Reply

    We upgraded our Internet service (multiple of 10, to Giga-), cut the cable television cord, first we watched Netflix streaming “the Social Dilemma” at the end of which (what I term “the altar call”) I Robert Julian jettisoned Facebook, which may not be an option for many. I felt not the sharpest knife in the drawer to be surprised to learn that I am (we are) the Product – in FB in particular. Breaking up (hard to do) but here we are. Meanwhile a dear friend in NJ is holed up in the hospital, with C-19, serious business. We are hunkered down, wash hands, wear mask face covering, when kissing “good-night” in Queen size bed I ask “are we socially distancing” (a joke). Soft laughter then off to sleep-land and night dream fantasy.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 23, 2020 at 11:41 pm Reply

      Happy Hunkering, Bob. I’m glad you’re staying safe and I wish your friend well.

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