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Source: Nerves And Common Sense
ONCE a young woman who had very hard work to do day after day and
who had come to where she was chronically strained and tired, turned
to her mother just as she was starting for work in the morning, and
in a voice tense with fatigue and trouble, said:--
"Mother, I cannot stand it. I cannot stand it. Unless I can get a
vacation long enough at least to catch my breath, I shall break down
"Why don't you take a vacation today?" asked her mother. The
daughter got a little irritated and snapped out:---
"Why do you say such a foolish thing as that, Mother? You know as
well as I that I could not leave my work to-day."
"Don't be cross, dear. Stop a minute and let me tell you what I
mean. I have been thinking about it and I know you will appreciate
what I have to say, and I know you can do it. Now listen." Whereupon
the mother went on to explain quite graphically a process of
pretense--good, wholesome pretense.
To any one who has no imagination this would not or could not
To the young woman of whom I write it not only appealed heartily,
but she tried it and made it work. It was simply that she should
play that she had commenced her vacation and was going to school to
As, for instance, she would say to herself, and believe it: "Isn't
it good that I can have a vacation and a rest. What shall I do to
get all I can out of it?
"I think I will go and see what they are doing in the grammar
school. Maybe when I get there it will amuse me to teach some of the
children. It is always interesting to see how children are going to
take what you say to them and to see the different ways in which
they recite their lessons."
By the time she got to school she was very much cheered. Looking up
she said to herself: "This must be the building."
She had been in it every school day for five years past, but through
the process of her little game it looked quite new and strange now.
She went in the door and when the children said "good morning," and
some of them seemed glad to see her, she said to herself: "Why, they
seem to know me; I wonder how that happens?" Occasionally she was so
much amused at her own consistency in keeping up the game that she
nearly laughed outright. She heard each class recite as if she were
teaching for the first time. She looked upon each separate child as
if she had never seen him before and he was interesting to her as a
She found the schoolroom more cheerful and was surprised into
perceiving a pleasant sort of silent communication that started up
between her pupils and herself.
When school was over she put on her hat and coat to go home, with
the sense of having done something restful; and when she appeared to
her mother, it was with a smiling, cheerful face, which made her
mother laugh outright; and then they both laughed and went out for a
walk in the fresh air, before coming in to go to bed, and be ready
to begin again the next day.
In the morning the mother felt a little anxious and asked timidly:
"Do you believe you can make it work again today, just as well as
"Yes, indeed and better," said the daughter. "It is too much fun not
to go on with it."
After breakfast the mother with a little roguish twinkle, said:
"Well, what do you think you will do to amuse yourself to-day,
"Oh! I think--" and then they both laughed and Alice started off on
her second day's "vacation."
By the end of a week she was out of that tired rut and having a very
good time. New ideas had come to her about the school and the
children; in fact, from being dead and heavy in her work, she had
When she found the old tired state coming on her again, she and her
mother always "took a vacation," and every time avoided the tired
rut more easily.
If one only has imagination enough, the helpfulness and restfulness
of playing "take a vacation" will tell equally well in any kind of
You can play at dressmaking--play at millinery--play at keeping
shop. You can make a game of any sort of drudgery, and do the work
better for it, as well as keep better rested and more healthy
yourself. But you must be steady and persistent and childlike in the
way you play your game.
Do not stop in the middle and exclaim, "How silly!"--and then slump
into the tired state again.
What I am telling you is nothing more nor less than a good healthy
process of self-hypnotism. Really, it is more the attitude we take
toward our work that tires us than the work itself. If we could only
learn that and realize it as a practical fact, it would save a great
deal of unnecessary suffering and even illness.
We do not need to play vacation all the time, of course. The game
might get stale then and lose its power. If we play it for two or
three days, whenever we get so tired that it seems as if we could
not bear it--play it just long enough to lift ourselves out of the
rut--then we can "go to work again" until we need another vacation.
We need not be afraid nor ashamed to bring back that childlike
tendency--it will be of very great use to our mature minds.
If we try to play the vacation game, it is wiser to say nothing
about it. It is not a game that we can be sure of sharing profitably
either to ourselves or to others.
If you find it works, and give the secret to a friend, tell her to
play it without mentioning it to you, even though she shares your
work and is sitting in the next chair to you.
Another most healthy process of resting while you work is by means
of lowering the pressure.
Suppose you were an engine, whose normal pressure was six hundred
pounds, we will say. Make yourself work at a pressure of only three
The human engine works with so much more strain than is necessary
that if a woman gets overtired and tries to lighten her work by
lightening the pressure with which she does it, she will find that
really she has only thrown off the unnecessary strain, and is not
only getting over her fatigue by working restfully, but is doing her
work better, too.
In the process of learning to use less pressure, the work may seem
to be going a little more slowly at first, but we shall find that it
will soon go faster, and better, as time establishes the better
One thing seems singular; and yet it appeals entirely to our common
sense as we think of it. There never comes a time when we cannot
learn to work more effectively at a lower pressure. We never get to
where we cannot lessen our pressure and thus increase our power.
The very interest of using less pressure adds zest to our work,
however it may have seemed like drudging before, and the possibility
of resting while we work opens to us much that is new and
refreshing, and gives us clearer understanding of how to rest more
completely while we rest.
All kinds of resting, and all kinds of working, can bring more
vitality than most of us know, until we have learned to rest and to
work without strain.
Next: The Woman At The Next Desk
Previous: Working Restfully