How I accidentally walked away from Facebook this week

It’s Saturday morning, and I haven’t checked Facebook since Tuesday afternoon. That’s almost four days. Only four days. Four days doesn’t seem like a very long time, but it is in Facebooktime. How many of us start scrolling through a never-ending news feed first thing in the morning, last thing at night, any time we get an empty moment – while waiting in line, on the train, waiting for a friend, in the bathroom, when we’re feeling insecure and things get a little hard – or because it’s become such a habit that we’ve opened the app/website before we even realise it. We send messages on Facebook to make plans or just to catch up, get tagged and tag in memes and news articles, are invited to and find out about events. All. On. Facebook. So yes, four days is a long time in Facebookland.

I’m not entirely sure why I walked away from Facebook. It sort of just… happened? Whenever I hear about people who did, they seem to have had a clear reason and plan. They want to challenge themselves – can they do it? They have a project they desperately need to finish and Facebook is too much of a distraction. They’re going offline completely for a little while to reset. Usually people post a status update to announce their decision and to inform people of alternative contact details. Part of me thinks that’s the responsible and respectful thing to do. We spend a big part of our lives on Facebook, so if we decide to close the door on that part of our lives, it’s only fair to let people know we’re walking away so no one has to worry. I do wonder how many people would notice if we don’t check in anymore, and if perhaps informing others of our decision isn’t a little self-obsessed and narcissistic?

It also shows how many of our human interactions have been taken over by Facebook. It’s a little concerning that we have to post our other contact details on Facebook so people will be able to stay in touch with us. Shouldn’t the people that matter to us already have our contact details in the first place? And if they don’t have them, does that mean we can completely disappear from people’s lives, just like that, simply by not opening a particular website or app anymore? Does it mean that Facebook or a group of hackers can just wipe out the relationships we have with people if they decide to do so? People have a right to disappear if they want to, and Facebook itself probably won’t just be destroyed. The thing is, what does all of this say about how much power Facebook has? And, perhaps more interestingly, what does this mean for how we connect with people? Can people be replaced by others more easily? Do our relationships feel more temporary than they used to?

Back to the story of my accidental disappearance from Facebook. I didn’t have a plan. I’d thought about logging off in the past, as a challenge, mostly when I read about other people who had done it. But I never thought I’d actually do it – because it felt too scary, but also because I actually enjoy using Facebook.

If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know that I’ve been having a bit of a hard time lately.  I thought I was on the way up, but I wasn’t. This week was even worse. Mood swings, high intensity feelings – both happy and sad – in quick succession. It’s all very annoying and I don’t know what to do with it/myself. I’m not looking for sympathy or concern here – we’re human beings which means we’re not made of plastic, so we’re going to feel things and what we feel will change over time. Anyway. On Tuesday morning, I got hurt by something that happened on Facebook. I’m sure it was all a huge misunderstanding, but it happened, and the stuff that happened afterwards wasn’t pretty. While I didn’t fully realise it at the time, on some level I think I knew that it hadn’t been the first time I got hurt on Facebook. That’s when somehow I stopped opening it. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just felt some sort of aversion to it. It felt a little like learnt behaviour: Facebook equals pain, and I couldn’t get myself to log on. This is big for me – I usually have to use focus-apps that block me from accessing certain websites, and even then it’s hard. You know how if you get the stomach flu after you’ve had a particular type of food that had nothing to do with that flu and you start to associate that food with being sick? That’s a little bit what it felt like.

I didn’t leave a message saying I’d be logging off for a while because I didn’t know how long I’d be away for. I didn’ even realise I was away until I was. There was no plan or goal. Part of me thinks I should have a quick look at what’s been happening since, but somehow I’m just not interested?

Some things I’ve realised/noticed since:

  1. I realised that I didn’t have other contact details for some of the people I’d been staying in touch with via Facebook Messenger. There was one friend for whom I had an email address and a phone number from years back, but I doubted that either were still current. That’s when I realised how easy it would be for people to just disappear without either party intending for it to happen.
  2. My email to this friend didn’t bounce. I realised how nice and how much fun it was to be emailing friends! I started to think that these days we mostly use text messages of some variety or other (iMessage, WhatsApp etc.) and Facebook to stay in touch with friends, whereas email is mostly for work and annoying ads and newsletters these days. To think that not so long ago, people were worried about how emails would replace letters… Now emailing friends feels nostalgic and special!
  3. A lot of the time, I register everything (well, a lot). What I realised is that when I go on Facebook, I don’t just absentmindedly scroll through my feed. No. As I’m doing that, I’ve seen every ad in the sidebar (they change quite quickly, too), I notice people’s activity in that right hand column, who’s been online when and how many times since I’ve logged on, etc. I don’t want to notice any of this! All this information all at once makes me feel anxious.
  4. Because Facebook tells me all of these things I don’t want to know, I also know when and how often people have ignored my messages and my comments. I don’t want to know when someone’s read my messages or how long it took them to reply after they read it. On some unconscious level, often just for a split second, it makes me feel ignored and rejected. I know that’s stupid and part of me is ashamed to admit it, but it is how I feel and I’ve heard from others that they feel the same way. This is something we need to talk about. That said, I don’t always instantly reply to comments and messages either – just like everyone else I don’t always have the time or energy to engage, sometimes I forget. But the consequences remain. And it’s telling that I’ve never felt this way when it comes to emails or other social media.
  5. Not scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed has made me much less patient with other types of social media scrolling. I’ve continued to check Instagram, but while I used to love looking at all those pictures, I found that I’m just not as interested anymore as I used to and give up after just a couple of pictures.
  6. I’m checking email a lot more often! The good thing is that I get surprisingly few emails, so it’s a matter of opening the app/website, and closing it again. It’s still a compulsive need to check something, but at least I’m not wasting a lot of time on it.
  7. I’ve watched a lot less TV this week. I don’t know if the two are related at all. They might not be, but maybe there is something going on where my brain stopped needing constant stimulation by a screen?
  8. Facebook seems terrified to lose me. Since Wednesday, it’s sent me three to five emails every day to inform me that so and so has posted a picture and that so and so has posted a status update. Of course it doesn’t show me these pictures or updates. No, I’d have to click on the link and go on Facebook. Clingy and desperate much? And I thought I had issues…

So on the whole, has my accidental walking away from Facebook made a difference in my life these past four days? It’s hard to tell. The annoying feelings-stuff is still happening, but I think I feel calmer and less anxious overall. Maybe I feel this way because I’ve heard that’s what walking away from social media does to you – then again, if I feel less anxious and calmer it doesn’t matter which of these two is the real reason.

The most significant change, though, has been how I feel about other people. I I feel more secure and more at ease/peace in my relationships with people. It’s funny, because I haven’t had much (if any) contact with most of the people that I’m close to. I have no idea what some of them have been up to (no status updates or photos) and we haven’t interacted (no tagging or wall posts). For a long time I’d been convinced that Facebook was a great way to stay in touch and up-to-date with people’s lives, and to show others that you cared and were thinking about them. I realise now that it’s had the exact opposite effect on me. It makes me feel deeply insecure about my friendships. I struggle with fear of rejection at the best of times, and Facebook just really screws with that.

Will this be everyone’s experience? No. Do I think Facebook is bad? No. Do I know how long I’ll stay away? No.

Is it possible I’ll have a quick look at some point this weekend to see if I’ve missed any messages or events? Yes. Am I scared to do that? Yes.

Now, how am I going to get any of my friends to read this? I usually share my blog posts on Facebook, but I don’t really want to log on because that means I will see stuff I have no interest in seeing. I’m interested in what my friends are doing, but I’m not interested in seeing EVERYTHING – when they’ve been online last, which meme their friend of a friend of a friend tagged them in, which ad Facebook thinks is relevant to me, etc. There might be a way to connect Facebook to WordPress that doesn’t involve me actually going on Facebook, so I’ll try to figure out how to do that. I wonder if it’ll let me add some text with the link, too, that doesn’t show up here so I can give the people I know my contact details in case they need them or want to stay in touch. If it works, and you’ve found your way here and wanted to comment something on what I’ve written, please do it in the comments section under this post. I won’t be checking Facebook, but I do want to hear your thoughts.

Ahh, what a simple and uncomplicated world we live in!


I’m glad this week is almost over. It’s not been a good week. In fact, it’s been a pretty shitty week. I’ve been feeling needy and sad and worried, and while I can think of a few reasons why I’ve been feeling this way, they’re simply not good enough reasons. In fact, they’re not reasons at all. They’re stories.

I fell into the dangerous PhD hole that’s always looming right around the corner. Lying on the bottom of that hole looks like this. “Why am I doing this? This hurts. There is really no point in doing this research. No one, except for my two supervisors and my three examiners and perhaps a curious friend or two will read it. I’ve learnt what I wanted to learn, I’ve been stimulated intellectually, I’ve thought through a bunch of things, and so if no one’s going to read it, what’s the point in writing it all down and labouring over every single word and worrying I may have misinterpreted something and…” There’s a couple of things going on here. I’m bothered by the disconnect there is between academia and the world out there. Then there’s the loneliness of it all. Sitting in front of a computer, all day, every day, at home alone. No research participants, just books and articles. And then there’s the usual imposter syndrome. I’m not good enough, and they’ll find out sooner or later.

I’ve been worrying about how next year I might get kicked out of this country and what is basically my whole life. This is not news, and the worrying comes and goes. I’ve been thinking about ways I can fix this problem, but I keep going around in circles. It’s entirely unproductive thinking and worrying. I’m not making any decisions, and I’m not accessing the information I need.

I’ve also been struggling in some of my friendships. (Friends who are reading this, do not – and I repeat, DO NOT – take this personally. There’s a bigger point I’m making here, and I‘m the key issue here. Not you. Just keep reading.)  I’ve felt alone, forgotten, and abandoned. Can you hear the sad funeral movie soundtrack too? I was convinced that no one cared enough to bother trying to comfort me. Thought that no one was a big enough part of my life to even realise stuff was going on. I started thinking that if I tripped over something at home and hit my head or choked on some food, it’d take weeks before anyone realised something was wrong. I felt like I was a burden, and so I pulled away from some people and piled too many expectations on others. That made all of it worse, of course, because people can’t know something’s up if I don’t tell them, and the more I expect from people, the more they’re doomed to fail to meet my expectations. Even though I knew all of this, my feelings were real and big and intense. And they hurt. A lot.

All of these elements, and perhaps a few others, were connected. One influenced the other, and one sucky thing made another thing more sucky which in turn caused the first thing to be more sucky. Basically, it all sucked. And sucks. So much.

But. We’re talking about feelings here. Not ultimate truth. If there’s anything I’ve learnt in all of this poststructuralist theory that I work with on a daily basis, it’s that there is no truth. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t reality or real-ness to our worlds, but it’s more that there are truths, and that those are contextual. Truths can be different in big historical, cultural, societal ways but also on the level of the individual, and so while what I’ve been feeling and seeing is real, it’s not the ultimate truth.

All we have are the stories we tell ourselves. What happens is that I construct this story in my head about my life based on how I’m feeling. That story in turn makes me notice or not notice certain things, which makes the feelings stronger, and they ultimately end up confirming the story I told myself. It’s a vicious cycle. But I need to remind myself that it is a story. I see what I see, but I’m the one doing the seeing. I’m not an objective onlooker who simply knows for a fact what is happening.

I have people in my life who care. But these people have their own lives full of obligations and things they need to do for themselves. They are going through their own stuff, and they deal with that in their own ways. If I deal with things in different ways, that makes us a little incompatible at times, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care.

The PhD will probably feel like the most horrible, impossible, unmanageable thing until my submission date, and I don’t think I can change that part of the story. But I can add a storyline. Because of this PhD, I get to do certain things that I love but wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. Teach, for instance. I love teaching – my uni tutorials and my volunteer primary school ethics classes. I get to discuss ideas with students, stimulate and challenge their thinking, have my own thinking stimulated and challenged. It’s all happening right in that moment, on the spot thinking and doing and talking. No room to worry about anything else. The same goes for going to seminars in my field, and the discussions afterwards. So rewarding.

I could remember the multiple cry sessions I had this week, alone, on the couch, and one very quietly, at the gym during the meditation at the end of a BodyBalance class. I could focus on the phone calls and texts I sent to friends that remained unanswered. There’s the mess in my kitchen, the writing that is really hard, and the succulent that is dying. There are the people in my building who refuse to say hello or even look at me when we pass each other in the hallway. There’s the very stressful thing I have to do on Monday.

Or, I could think about how on Tuesday the weather was really hot and I went to the park to read, and how for about an hour I felt alive and happy and connected to this country in ways I never imagined possible. I could replay the moment I was on the train on the Harbour Bridge, just as the sun was setting. It was so, so beautiful. I mean, how am I even living in Sydney? This in and of itself is truly amazing! I could focus on the friend yesterday who listened and gave advice and how that meant everything. I could focus on the other friend who, on Monday, played devil’s advocate with my worries but who also listened, and then fixed my painful shoulder, and who I laughed with that night. (Well, she probably laughed more than I did, but it makes me happy to hear her laugh.) I could notice all the other plants in my house that are doing well and are growing more now that it’s spring. I could focus on my new desk chair and how having a pretty and comfy chair to work in might make work less painful. I could appreciate the stunning view when I walk onto my floor of the building I live in, but that I’ve gotten so used to I don’t notice it anymore. Instead of reading the mess (and smell, yikes!) in my kitchen as a reminder of a shit week or laziness or my failure at being a proper adult, I could acknowledge that even though it’s been a tough week, I’ve managed to find the energy to cook healthy food and take care of myself. I could remember there are people who plan to make time on Monday to be there for my stressful thing, and that there are others who have helped me prepare for it. I can focus on how amazing I feel when I’m doing a BodyBalance class and on having an instructor who is so, so incredibly good at it and passionate about it.

Now that I’ve started listing these good things, I’m finding it hard to stop. I have tears in my eyes thinking about all of them. There have been so many good, beautiful, happy things this week. But somehow, for most of the week, I chose to tell myself a different story.

Well, I don’t actually think it’s as simple as choice. I don’t believe we’re so much in control of how we feel and of our circumstances that we can just decide that, “Ok, right now I’m going to feel this feeling.” For instance, amongst other things, I’m pretty sure this week my body decided it needed a dangerous toxic cocktail of all the wrong hormones in all the wrong quantities. That must’ve influenced how I felt, and how I felt in turn influenced that cocktail.

But I do think we can choose to build in moments where we reflect on how we feel, recognise the stories, and reframe. Tell ourselves a different story. The effects of the story might not last much longer than five minutes and be replaced with the old one straight after, but at least we’ll have had five minutes where we felt that our lives are not all horrible, that people don’t hate us, and that we’re not alone. And five minutes of that, a couple of times a day, that has to make a difference.

Ramblings about routines and feeling stressed, anxious, and vulnerable.

I took a little break from blogging last Saturday. My day was filled to the brim with instances of good conversation with good people. The people couldn’t have been more different and neither could the things we talked about. Sometimes that’s more important than writing a blog post. It was wonderful. Intellectually and emotionally stimulating, but also exhausting. So here I am, back in my usual spot: in bed, propped up against the pillows, covered by my doona and a bunch of blankets, the sun coming in where the blinds don’t line up. This feels safe. And boy, do I need to feel safe right now!

Even though I’ve only written six blog posts so far, somehow I got into a routine very quickly. As soon as I wrote my first post, blogging simply became the thing I did on Saturday mornings. It was something I looked forward to. No questions asked, no wondering if it wouldn’t be better if I spent my time doing something else, something more important. I didn’t doubt whether there was a point to any of this, or why I’d even want to share things with people.

But this one week break, it’s really messed with my routine and my excitement about writing here. I’ve been dreading the idea of opening this page all week. I started putting it off as soon as I got up this morning. I watched some TV, did some crochet, read some things on the internet. I’m feeling very vulnerable. I’m questioning my ability to write, why anyone would want to hear what I’m saying, and if I’m not making a total fool of myself by doing this. So yes, safety under heavy blankets. Weight on my body. Breathe. It’s not about other people and what they might think. It’s about thinking through my own thoughts and about sharing stories. Because I believe that’s important.

It’s pretty shocking, actually, how quickly all of my routines simply disappear when something out of the ordinary happens. This is not news to me, but it’s shocking nonetheless. And very annoying! This last week and a half it’s happened in so many ways. I was really stressed about something I had to do earlier this week. There were some other things going on too that made me feel anxious. Straight away, my work habits went out of the window. Nothing got done. Grocery shopping didn’t happen – or at least not properly. I ate shitty food at bad times.* I went to bed late, exhausted but on edge.

Of course, all of this only made the stress and the anxiety I was feeling worse. I knew it did, but I felt like I couldn’t shake it. Part of me – the part of me that doesn’t like me very much – thinks I’m being ridiculous. ‘If you wanted to, you would have. You’re just a silly drama queen, trying to make excuses for your own weaknesses. Snap out of it.’ I’m convinced that at certain times, this kind of self-talk is absolutely necessary and productive. But I also know – even though it doesn’t feel like it – that in this case, it’s not. On the contrary. I can’t simply snap out of something I’ve been struggling with for so long. So I’m trying to be nice to me. Recognising the issue, and trying to rebuild step by step, slip-up by slip-up.

Anyway, here we are. Stressful event completed (even though there’s another one just around the corner), and other anxieties alleviated.

The best way for me to handle feeling stressed and anxious is by maintaining my routines, yet, these feelings time and time again are causing me to throw all my routines out of the window. People are weird. Ahh, the joys of life… Maybe one day I’ll figure it out. Or not. And I guess that’s fine too. There is no master plan, no end goal.

For now, I’m still in bed under a pile of blankets, writing the blog post I’m supposed to be writing. Very gently kicking myself back into gear. I’ll do laundry this weekend, clean the house, and go grocery shopping. I’ll go for a walk by the water and challenge myself to just sit there for half an hour. I won’t bring my phone, and that thought terrifies me more than I care to admit. I’ll work on some annoying admin tasks that I’ve put off for far too long, and I know it’ll be a weight off my shoulders once I complete them. I’ll prepare for the week ahead. Taking comfort and finding safety in tasks I know I’m capable of doing and that don’t make me second guess my worth and my abilities.

Now that I’ve come to the end of this post I’m very tempted to delete the whole thing because it feels like I’m sharing too much. But I guess that’s the whole point. Learning to be vulnerable and opening up. It’s one thing to think we should all talk about things more, the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult, but actually doing it is a lot harder. But how else are we going to realise that everyone ‘feels’ things and that other people aren’t machines? Anyway. I’m rambling. I should click ‘Publish’. Should I really? Can I? But what if people…? What if they…? I’m writing this for myself in the first place, aren’t I? So maybe I shouldn’t? ENOUGH! Click ‘Publish’. Put it out there. Put yourself out there. It’s going to be ok.


* Just as a side note: my full-time job is doing a PhD. I work from home and I have one deadline mid-next year. I don’t have a boss or clients who expect me to finish tasks by the end of each day. I don’t have any family on this part of the world or children who need to be fed at regular times. That means there is no one around to give me certain routines or to motivate me. I’m not saying my situation is better or worse than other people’s, but it does come with certain challenges (just as everyone’s lives do!).

Taking stock

Can you believe today is the last Saturday of August already? Where has this month gone? It feels like nothing has happened, even though I know my days have been filled with lots and lots of things and feelings and changes and people and experiences. Do you get that, too, that when try to you look back, you find it hard to remember anything at all? That everything just seems like this big blur of nothingness?

Pip from Meet Me At Mike’s has just the thing for this. Her ‘taking stock’ list is all about taking a moment to look back but at the same time be in the moment, to reflect, and to gather what’s been going in your life. Here I go.

Making: A blanket, a jumper, a cardigan, plans, memories.
Cooking: A lot more than last month, trying to get take-away less often and eat more healthily.
Drinking: Ridiculous amounts of tea. Loose leaf English Breakfast this month, trying to reduce needless individual tea bag waste. I think next month I might switch back to Earl Grey.
Reading: Finished reading Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller, now reading Everything I Don’t Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. Thinking I should put it aside to start Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World which a friend recommended last night. Also lots of stupid stuff on social media and PhD stuff. And the picture book that came in the mail as a surprise birthday present from a dear friend, and that made me cry (in a good way). It’s called We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen.
Trawling: My stuff to see if there’s anything I don’t need or want anymore and drop it off at the op shop.
Wanting: Summer! For the first time since I’ve moved to Australia, I’ve been looking forward to summer. My body craves feeling hot and is so, so over winter. I’d never thought it was possible to feel this way.
Looking: Out the window. At the mess around me.
Deciding: What I want to do with my life. Lots of ideas but practicality is a problem.
Wishing: I was allowed to have a pet at my place. It’d be nice to have another living creature around.
Enjoying: The sun on my face, now and this whole past month. The fresh breeze coming in through the window next to me.
Waiting: Trying not to, actually. Reframing waiting as being.
Liking: Exercise: BodyBalance, Irish dancing, and in the last two weeks CXWorx (but not the day after). Who would’ve thought! Me, exercise! At a gym, with a membership, surrounded by other people. It’s hilarious, actually. But so, so good.
Wondering: Why months ago I made a deal with a then-new-friend which means I now have to do something that makes me feel pretty stressed and uncomfortable and also a little bit excited but definitely not calm. How was I supposed to know she would hold up her end of the deal or even that she’d still be a part of my life!
Loving: My friends. How did I end up with such truly amazing people in my life?
Pondering: Whether I’m too old for late nights. I mean, I loved my late(ish) night out with a friend last night, but I’m exhausted now. Is it worth it? You know what, I think it is. Because people and plans and laughs and serious things and caring and silliness. (But maybe not every week?)
Listening: To Folk Alley internet radio. They have the best mix of music.
Considering: Having a nice warm bath with some music and a novel once I finish writing this.
Buying: Groceries. Always groceries. And yarn. And undies, but maybe that’s too much information? But hey, we all wear them, so really no shock there!
Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale. Wow. Just wow. If you’re not watching it, you should. It’s spectacularly good. And also very confronting. (If you’re in Australia, you can watch it here, legally and for free.) You might not love the first episode – I didn’t – but it’s worth pushing through. Oh, and I decided I’m starting a family with Elisabeth Moss and Samira Wiley. Because damn, those two!
Knowing: I am changing a lot these days. I don’t usually like change, it makes me feel anxious, but this change feels so good. I can feel it happening, I notice it in little and big things. I surprise myself every day.
Hoping: Ironically, that not too many things in my life will change. Does that make sense?
Marvelling: At finding this cracker/biscuit-y type food thing I used to have as a child at my grandparents’ in Belgium here in Australia. So many memories.
Cringing: At people making sounds. Particularly at the gym.
Needing: Less worrying. Less anxiety. More confidence.
Questioning: The usefulness of my inner dialogues.
Smelling: My friend in the scarf he borrowed from me. I promise it’s not as creepy as it sounds! It’s actually a very nice and comforting thing, the familiarity of recognising someone’s smell.
Wearing: Right now, my pjs and ugly but oh so soft dressing gown.
Noticing: My little lavender plant isn’t dead yet. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep it alive, inside in a pot.
Thinking: “Hell, yeah!”
Admiring: People who are confident, but not too confident. Who love what they do and do it because they love it, because they believe what they do is right for them, is what they’re meant to be doing at this moment in time.
Getting: Restless – I should go for a walk. And better at slowness and focussing on the doing and not the finishing of things.
Bookmarking: Too many things, ranging from popular philosophy articles to silly memes to crochet patterns.
Opening: The fridge door and the snack drawer. Over and over again. As though the thing I feel like but don’t know I feel like yet will suddenly appear.
Closing: Off from things that make me uncomfortable and unhappy.
Feeling: A headache and pain in my shoulder and neck. But also pretty awesome because my life is actually pretty great.
Hearing: Right now birds and cars, and the metal blinds cord (or whatever you call the thing you pull blinds down with) against the window. Also lots of hate from different people in different parts of the world who hold various degrees of power.
Celebrating: Everything? Even the shitty things and the sad things because they make us who we are and who else would we be if not us?
Pretending: I’m comfortable writing this while sitting on a chair. Couches, floors, and beds are so much nicer but they’re not as good for you. So I’m doing the whole fake it till you make it thing. So far it hasn’t worked.
Embracing: A new writing routine for the PhD. Early every morning, even when I reaaaally don’t want to. And I have to admit it’s great! Afterwards, that is. Not during. Even when I end up only writing a couple of sentences, I can see and feel progress.

There, that’s me for this week. Maybe you’d like to take stock, too? On paper, in the comments, or maybe you’ve already done it in your head while you were reading mine. Or maybe you’d just like to sit for a while and stare out the window, hearing and feeling and seeing what’s happening around and inside you.

Have a lovely weekend, friends.

On work and life and life as work.

And so another week has passed. This post is going up a little bit later than usual. For the first time since I started this blog, I knew in advance what I wanted to write about. I’ve been thinking about it all week, yet I’m struggling to express my ideas. Maybe it’s exactly because I’ve been thinking about it all week. What I want to write about is ‘work’. It’s come up in completely unrelated conversations I’ve had with people in the last little while – there was one about the devaluation of work that is considered to be women’s work, one about work as that which we do to fund non-work activities, and one about working less and living more.

At the same time, in my own life, I’ve been struggling to get work done. In trying to figure out what the reason might be, other than the superficial ‘I’m sick of it’, I noticed a funny pattern in my thinking. I’m doing a PhD, and I consider that work. It’s work I often dread doing. I should do it every day, several hours a day, but it requires a lot of mental effort to convince myself to get to work. It’s not that I’m not passionate about my topic – I LOVE my topic – so it must be something else. I’m also currently organising a seminar series, related to my research, but somehow that doesn’t feel like work. I teach undergraduate uni students, but I don’t consider that to be work either. I talk to people about my research, go to meetings, attend workshops: not work. I volunteer, yes, you guessed it, not work. I clean, wash up, do laundry – indeed, doesn’t feel like work.

What shocked me is how few of these things constitute work for me. One thing, to be precise. Turns out my definition of what counts as work is ridiculously narrow. It’s true, my PhD is my full-time job. Everything else, I do on the side. It’s not just a matter of what I get paid to do. I get paid for teaching, for instance, but it still doesn’t count as work. Does that mean I can just walk away from all of my ‘non-work’ activities? Possibly. But not right away. I’ve made commitments to other people and I’ve signed contracts. So that’s not it either.

In more general terms, what bothers me about the way most of us talk about work is the assumption that there is some sort of invisible line that separates work from life. Work-life balance is hot these days. But if work is not life, then what is it? We do it for hours and hours every day. Surely something we spend so much time doing counts as life, as living? What’s happened, is that work has become a very narrowly defined thing. It’s the thing we do for money, often in a place of work that is not the home like an office or a factory, within set hours (admittedly less so in the age of technology), and that we look forward to finishing at the end of the day and the end of the week, so we can enjoy evenings and weekends of no work.

I wonder what would happen if we decided to throw out that distinction between work and life? What if we started to consider work as an inherent part of life? What if – oh, the horror – we conceptualised life as work?

I’m not talking about more paid work and busy-ness and stress here. No, the notion of ‘life as work’ would require a radical redefinition of what it means to work. I’m thinking about work as the things we do in the building of something, a something that is never and can never be complete or finished, so it would require us to find pleasure and joy in the process of building it.

Homemaking is work. Washing the dishes, cooking a meal, decorating your home. It can be tasks that we are slowly forgetting but that can sustain us, like preserving or sewing and mending. I know I run the risk of romanticising tasks here that a lot of people dread. This dread, I imagine, is mostly felt by women with families and children, who often also have a full-time day-job. They’re overworked, tired, and under-appreciated. They’re often judged by others and by themselves for not doing a good-enough (i.e. perfect) job. It’s work that comes on top of everything else and that, as long as it’s been done, goes unnoticed. It’s only when it’s not being done that we notice and value this work. It’s also unpaid, which, in a society like ours, means it’s not as valuable as paid work – or, ‘real’ work. I use the term homemaking instead of housework. I think it makes the work sound much more valuable and important, and it covers a bigger load. Homemaking is also asking your partner or flatmate about their day. It’s knowing how they like their coffee, which is something that requires us to pay attention and that helps us to build strong relationships.

This kind of attention goes beyond live-in family and flatmates. It includes friendships, romantic relationships, and other family members. Meeting someone and connecting on some level is only the start. The rest requires work: showing interest and concern, getting to know what’s important to them, building trust, working through the bad patches, making time for each other. Learning how to be with someone, not just be with someone. That is work, too. It’s building something that is never finished, but requires commitment anyway.

Work is ourselves, our bodies and our minds. Figuring out what makes us feel good about ourselves, and working on implementing those things in our lives. For some, it’s a daily yoga practice that sets them up for the rest of the day. For others, it’s the cultivation of a body that is firmly located outside or inside the norm, through tattoos or food, for instance. It might be lifting weights and building as much muscle tissue as possible. Perhaps it’s an interest in how our bodies work and exploring the limits of what yours can do and how that makes you feel. It’s a daily practice that requires work.

It’s also accepting that what makes us feel good about ourselves might change over time. It’s being attentive enough to notice when that time has come and brave enough to change our routines and approaches according to what feels good, right now.

Work is learning. This can be quite literal, taking a university course, learning a new craft via YouTube, or going for walks to get to know your neighbourhood. It’s also listening to others and to yourself. Hearing what others are thinking and feeling, what moves them and worries them, their views on particular situations, what their worlds are like. Learning can also be taking a moment to consider your own life, sitting with yourself to take stock, to experience what you’re feeling physically and mentally and how that’s different from moment to moment.

What I’m trying to say here, I think, is that work is not just one thing. It’s not exclusively the thing we do for several hours every day so someone can deposit funds into our bank accounts. Funds we can then use to outsource other work, like hiring a cleaner, or employing a restaurant for cooking take-away food we can bring home after a busy day, or paying shops so they can exploit people who-knows-where for dressing us, or tasking factory workers with the production of objects we give to our friends so we can make them feel valued. My point is not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with any of these things (except for exploiting people and excessive buying that results in needless waste). My point is that in valuing only one kind of work, we devalue other kinds of work.

In a capitalist – not to say, neoliberal – society, these other kinds of work don’t count for much. They’re the kinds of work we work for, because we don’t want to do them or we don’t have time to do them. There’s something interesting going on in this logic many of us live by. We’re being made to believe that we need to work more and have careers and climb up the ladder so we can make more money which will make us happier because we can pay for a cleaner and a cook so we’ll have time and money for more leisure activities and we can travel in more fancy ways to more exotic destinations and buy more pretty clothes. In other words, it gives us time for ‘life’. That means that we have to work more, because it enables us to have a life outside of work. At the same time, though, the more we work, the less time we have for life.

Life, here, is condensed into very small chunks of time, and it seems to me that no real connection – with ourselves, with others, with our environments, with the things we live with and the things we do – can come from that.

Redefining work shifts the conversation. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with having a job. We can find a lot of fulfilment and joy in our jobs, and, the world being what it is, we do need money. But to me it simply doesn’t make sense to equate work with a job, while labelling other things as ‘life’ or as ‘annoying chores’. If everything we do is work, work – which is life – becomes so much more valuable, a much bigger source of joy and creativity, gives us moments of stillness and contemplation, provides strong connections to self and others.

How any of this relates to my work issues, I’m not sure. Maybe, without realising it, I do frame my PhD as outside of life, whereas everything else feels like life, positions me firmly into life. (The irony here is that very broadly, my PhD is about death, and in some ways part of my argument is that death and ways of knowing about it exist as part of ourselves and as life, not outside of it or at the end of it.) Food for thought, and perhaps a very intentional attempt at reframing the place of the PhD as in and of my life will help.

I’m sure that I will come back to some of the ideas in this post at some point. I don’t think I’ve expressed everything as clearly as I wanted to, partly because I’m still thinking it through myself. But hey, this blog has never been about big things or finished products, but about little things and enjoying the process.

In other news, this morning I spent a few moments watching the way the light that came in through the blinds moved and made shapes on the wall. Such a silly little thing, but it was so pretty and it made me smile and sit quietly to watch it.

I’m still reading Claire Fuller’s Swimming Lessons. It’s slow, but every night I look forward to a few pages in bed before I drift off. I’ve been lighting a candle instead of my night light, and the orange-y glow of the flame has a very calming effect.

I only made one small produce bag last weekend. I underestimated the time it would take without a sewing machine. Maybe I should invest in one? I’ve been wanting to learn to sew and make my own clothes for a long time, so maybe it’s time to stop thinking and start doing.

This week, I started a new gym class  – one that I never thought I’d take. Actually, gym classes have never been my thing, but somehow it’s where I find myself two to three times a week these days… When I don’t go, it feels like something’s missing, and I almost instantly notice it in my mood. This particular class is pretty challenging, but that’s part of what makes it fun. Pleasure in misery and all that. Or, the feeling of working on myself.


There’s also been some domestic restructuring. I work from home and got tired of staring at the wall behind my computer. All I wanted to do was go outside. I ended up emptying a shoe rack, turned it on its side and placed a piece of cardboard on top of it, so I could put it by the window like a makeshift desk. It gets quite a bit of sun part of the day (and really hot in summer) so I can’t just move my big desk there. But after I found myself sitting in that same spot for a couple of hours the next few days too, I decided I needed something more permanent. I don’t have much room, and even the smallest desks or dining tables were too big. In a perfect world I would have found some old wood and table legs and cut them all to size, but living in a small studio apartment with no access to outdoor space nor storage for lots of tools meant that wasn’t an option. I settled on buying a stool that I turned upside down and covered with the top of a side table. Ta-dah. Perfect tiny work and breakfast table, with the most perfect view!


This weekend I’m going to a birthday party. It’ll be nice to catch up with some people I haven’t seen in a while. I’m also going to make lasagna, using a recipe one of my best friends shared with me last Sunday while we were lying on the beach in the sun. Yes, life can be pretty great. I’ll do some crochet, go for a walk, and read a little. I’ll do some laundry and clean the house. Nothing earth-shattering, just the little things that bring me joy. Homemaking. Working at life.

That’s it for me this week. Thanks for checking in and reading. I hope things are going well in your world, too, and that a focus on the small might help you deal with the big.