12 April 2011

A fallow period

Inertia. As I'm sure you'll remember from your physics lessons, it's the tendency of a body at rest to stay at rest.

It's a tendency I know well. I'm in a period of unemployment – let's call it a fallow period – and not for the first time. I've had several periods ranging from a month through to almost a year when I haven't worked, either because of redundancy (such a brutal phrase!) or because I've been working as a contractor and the contract has come to an end.

The whole 'not earning money' thing is a bit of a bind. But at the same time, there's a certain luxury to the sudden wealth of free time. The kind of free time I long for when I'm on the treadmill of commute–work–commute–sleep–repeat.

In the case of my present situation, I knew this fallow period was coming several months in advance; the project was coming to a close and there was no chance of the contract rolling over. Because of the nature of contract work, which requires contractors to start pretty much immediately, I didn't look too hard for a follow-up job.

Towards the end of the project, I was working long days, and I was too exhausted to throw myself into the soul-destroying process of jobhunting. And because I was lucky enough to be earning enough to tuck some money aside, and have been unemployed before, I wasn't feeling any immediate panic. I just worked my butt off until the final day of the project, celebrated the end with my colleagues in the time-honoured way of going to the pub and drinking way too much, and said goodbye to work at the end of March.

Something else I know from previous experience is that when I'm back at work, I'll look back on all this wonderful free time and berate myself for having wasted it watching daytime TV and farting around on the computer. So once the wrap party hangover cleared, I drew up a list of things to do to keep myself busy and motivated. None of it was very exciting. Fix up the garden. Take broken appliances to the tip. Revarnish the front door. That kind of thing. Dullsville. But it was all stuff that needs to be done, and by being productive, I reasoned to myself, I wouldn't lapse into inertia, and the momentum would help to drive me towards my next job.

A week and a bit on, the list is still there, and largely unmolested by strike-throughs. I've spent most of the time sleeping and, well, watching daytime TV and farting around on the computer. I justified it to myself – I'd been working really hard; I haven't had time off in a very long time (my last holiday was 3 years ago); I have enough money to keep me going for a few months. And I'm doing some dog walking for a charity (The Cinnamon Trust, a very good cause, so check it out if you love animals and have free time) so I'm not a complete waste of space, right? Frankly, I've enjoyed every minute of it.

You're not watching Loose Women again, are you?!
But now there are annoying pinpricks of conscience threatening to burst my bubble of lazy self-indulgence.You'll regret not making more of this free time when you're working again. The money won't last forever. You have no excuse for not cleaning the house or doing the gardening. The sun is shining so what are you doing indoors? It's like Jiminy Cricket has come to stay. And by god he's a nag.

The longer I remain in a state of inertia, the harder it becomes to move again. And the sooner I start moving, the easier it will be to keep up the momentum. I can already see the dangers of indulging much longer.

It's mid-day right now, the sun is shining and Jiminy is nagging. And where am I? On the sofa, computer on my lap, writing this. Time to hit 'publish' then dust off that list and tackle it anew. After all, the whole point of letting ground lie fallow is to keep it productive, not to let it dry up into wasteland.


  1. I completely empathise with the niggling conscience - as a freelancer it's hard to balance working/generating new business/wanting a bloody holiday. I've realised that I almost certainly won't have the 'retire at 65' path ahead of me. I consider I'm taking my retirement in instalments now.

  2. Tell me about it. I'm a stay-at-home-mom at the moment. We have LOADS of time on our hands, right? After all there is the saying "to sleep like a baby". Just a pity that niether of my babies ever heard of the saying. I'm too tired during the day,to do anything more than the basics. Keep writing, it keeps me going ;-)

  3. Reading your blog is like living my very own 'Future Echos' episode of Red Dwarf.

    Except I'm not a woman, or American. It's not really the same at all...but knowing that on May 13th I'll be doing exactly the same thing makes this, oddly, captivating.

  4. Give yourself a break - you worked really hard for a really long time. If you were up at 7 everyday, worked hard in the house and garden, then fell into bed tired, once you were back on the treadmill you'd berate yourself for NOT taking it easy when you could.

    I do understand the nagging thing about not having a job though - that's what will spoil your enjoyment. Although, it has only been 8 days...!

  5. Just what I needed to read on my last day at work :)

    I should work out some way of making this flash up when (rather than if) I starting wasting my time "farting around on the computer" over the next weeks.

    That said... daytime drinking sometime soon?

  6. I hear you sister! Last time I had a stretch of time off work, my days gradually deteriorated into creeping on facebook and playing spider solitaire. I hated myself for it even as I clicked 'new game' instead of getting out of my pyjamas to leave the house.

    But you know what? Even though I felt guilty for 'wasting' that time, I'd just come out of a gruelling job and my body and mind *needed* to switch off. You had an insane year! Allow yourself a few weeks of well-earned guilt-free down time. At least wait until the amount of 'wasted' time has exceeded the amount of bloody overtime you worked this year!

  7. Thanks everyone for your comments (and for enabling my laziness ;-) )! Graham and Hushky, I hope your 'fallow periods' are enjoyable and the new jobhunts go well - and of course, Graham, yes to beers. :-)