I’ve been back at work for a couple of weeks and school starts this week, which offers a welcome return to routines. In Australia, children have a six week (or longer, depending on the school) break over Christmas and January. It was a challenging time for many this year—bushfires across Eastern Australia constrained travel (at best), ruined air quality, put emergency services under pressure, devastated country, took properties and lives (at worst). That holiday feeling—certain smells that signal summer, blue skies, a loosening of the shoulders and release from responsibilities—remained elusive. It was not a time for “enjoying the flourishing of who you are” as Dessaix writes in The Pleasures of Leisure.
Returning to work and school can be difficult at the best of times (from the existential ‘Is this my life?’ to the mundane ‘I hate this uniform!’). At my university, a new curriculum has increased workloads, especially for administrative staff. Organisational restructures are well underway, with redundancies and new roles to be navigated.
In a vain attempt to hold onto a holiday feeling, I am making time to ruminate, to follow idle trains of thought. This is an emotional time, so I have been thinking about how we recognise what we are feeling.
This emotion wheel from Geoffrey Roberts has prompted interesting conversations:
The emotions that describe the holiday feeling for me: eager, sleepy, free, joyful, and thankful. The return to work and school: pressured, overwhelmed, worried and hopeful.
How do we read the emotions of others? A pop culture example is ‘resting bitch face’ (you know, when someone’s neutral expression is read by others as mean or critical). According to researchers who have developed a computer program to read faces, those with ‘RBF’ have a subtle contempt expression. I was able to load my own face into the reader. Turns out my neutral face is slightly angry, at least in this moment in time.
So how can I hold on to that holiday feeling? Today it is having breakfast at a cafe before I re-apply my lippy and head to a meeting. And deliberating over which book to start reading tonight: