Life: Leisure and Leisure Panic

I enjoyed a truly wonderful staycation (stay at home vacation) over the Independence Day Holiday week. Part of what made it wonderful was that I resisted the urge to MAXIMIZE the time off.

One of my commute pals described her days off, and we both acknowledged that we suffer the psychological strain of leisure panic: the sense of having so little time off that we feel we Must.Do.Something.Amazing with our time off. Which… kind of defeats the purpose of having time off? Yet WE DO THIS. We leave work or wake up on our first day off with a goal-oriented sensibility. As if we have been programmed this way. Perhaps it doesn’t help that people are more likely to ask WHAT we did during the break (implying we should have done something?) rather than how it was (FANTASTIC, and all the more fantastic when I didn’t leave the house!).

I achieved a sort of balance during that time: I did plenty of fun things and I LOUNGED AROUND intensely. It was… so good. And it was so strange to see what I look like when I’ve had a full night’s sleep!

Some of my leisure was “busy.” There was a long walk / food /good conversation with friends; the PRIDE parade; medical appointments, lab tests, prescriptions, and so on (during which I had an honest conversation with a medical assistant about what people (like me) who work in law are like, and how she is a good friend for pressing her lawyer friends to sit on a beach with an umbrella-containing beverage and BE STILL); spa time; reading; writing; painting, and buying paint; minor chores; a little bit of online training to meet some arbitrary software deadlines; exploring the City on foot to visit a new place… But I took extra days off, so there was time for all those things to be spread thinly between even longer pajama hours.

My most serious commitment was to eating. The regional origins of the many types of foods I consumed include: Brazil (origin of the açai bowl, interpreted by Reveille), the Yucatan (Cochinita), Indonesia (Rasa Rasa), France (Grand Creperie), Ethiopian (Tadu), South Indian (I made fresh tomato rasam myself PLUS ordered in from Udupi Palace), Taiwanese (a gorgeous ube coconut milk latte boba from Boba Guys), Japanese (Sakesan plus homemade miso soups)… I didn’t repeat any restaurants (or shops!) from my artist pal’s recent visit, to my own surprise. Eating my way through the City in an unplanned way is a wonderful thing, any time!

There were many hours of staying at home in soft clothes and sitting still. Thinking. Watching the fog go out and return. Moving slowly. Drinking tea. Going back to bed after getting up too early. Having UNINTERRUPTED THOUGHTS. It was so… good.

(Even now, on this foggy Saturday afternoon, I am wearing soft , fastener-free clothes, have my hair in a bun above a makeup-free face. Topical caffeine is being absorbed by the bags under my eyes, while a salicylic acid sticker lies on emerging acne. So.NOT.photogenic! So comfy. I’ve heard gorgeous, presentable people described as making their great looks appear effortless. Please note that you really don’t want to see what my version of ‘effortless’ looks like! [evil, non-photogenic laughter])

As Independence Day weekend ended, and I began to dwell on what awaited me at work, I knew what to do: I ordered in fresh veggie sushi, sipped junmai ginjo sake out of a pretty glass, and read a new Korean comic. I was delighted for hours, with NO time wasted wondering about what my laptop would do when I turned it on. [happy sigh]. I hope this practice will allow me to JUST REST more (and more) often. And if anyone asks, I’ll say my weekend was GREAT, and I rested. Because that’s an achievement worth disclosing.

Life: I know you!

The streetcar that I almost-finished the watercolor study of passed me Monday evening, and I was all, “HEY!”

I felt rather… proprietary towards it. Friendly, but also with a sense of ownership.

Life: Managing Fear of (Watercolor) Failure

I sat down on the national holiday and made a little sketch to paint, and while it was harder than it should have been, it also wasn’t the end of the world. It isn’t finished – I need it to dry to glaze some sections that aren’t well defined – but it is recognizably the right general [vague hand-waving gesture] shape.

I could say this reminds me of going from being a swimming instructor with superb form to feeling like a brick dragging itself through the water with weak arms after many years of not swimming laps regularly. (A thing that happened to me.) But the difference is: I was actually good at swimming. (I practiced for years every summer weekday as a student, and kept practicing as a swimming teacher, so there was a least a decade of intensive swimming there, including recreational racing with others.). When I lost that ease in the water, I felt… wrong. Like I’d forgotten something important, and had ‘let myself go’ in a way that made me sad.

However, I was always a beginner-level painter, so I can’t pretend to be crushed at still being one now. I took up watercolor with enthusiasm back in college, but took too many classes, and had no time to play. Painting lost out in favor of manual drafting (a skill I was rewarded for as both a student and professional). (OMG, I am so old!) Watercolor back then was something great for “renderings,” which were hand-painted, intentionally pretty illustrations of what a building would look like in the future, to help clients visualize their project in flattering ways. Being a renderer was a professional speciality people paid extra for. Now that’s all done digitally, which means design projects by others made during my youth are going to wind up in museums, and people will be so impressed that people could once make such images without computers…

Ah, well. There are some watercolor projects I’d like to try, and yesterday’s sketch suggests I can chip away at my fears and work on them.

Some of my watercolor project ideas are mere fantasies: much like cafes with big windows and views of gardens, the IDEA of painting is a fantasy of leisure. Imagine, having time to paint! Imagine, painting often enough to be good at it! Imagine having time to drink good coffee and practice! I know what I’m like: I work too much, I see what these ideas of quiet painting time offer, and I understand why these projects are such a draw, even if my actual results are so basic.

Once I overcome my dread of being bad, painting allows me to enjoy the process of painting. The results are less important than the experience, in some ways. If the experience is pleasant, I will try again. Even if the results aren’t great, I am still able to sit still for a while and put paint on paper for a few hours, which is a joy.

Life: Watercolor paint (and fear of failure)

The last time I made a small watercolor painting, it turned out badly. Like the normal, totally well-adjusted person I am, I decided it turned out badly because I am a terrible painter, no matter how many decent paintings I produced in the past, and so I avoided watercolor painting for several years.

Most of this was based on a misunderstanding.

Back when I was a starving architecture school student, I could only buy small amounts of paint at a time. A tube of transparent watercolor here, another tube there, a lot of skilled mixing, and I could get by. I experimented and made some decent paintings with my mismatched tiny tubes, and I was happy.

My first FULL boxed set of watercolors YEARS later was Holbein’s Iródori Antique Watercolors. I had been a regular user of Holbein’s regular watercolors (they released colors that matched the landscape of my trips to Japan SO PERFECTLY!). I liked colors in traditional paintings, so I thought this was the right choice for me. Yet, my paintings with these colors all… lacked something. I blamed myself, put them away, and moved onto other things (including watercolor pencils, and a travel set of a different brand of watercolors, which I worked more effectively with). Years passed, I brought the set out again, painted a rather muddy painting of a Japanese scene form one of my own photos, blamed myself, and put them away again. I was already so familiar with Holbein, I couldn’t figure out why I’d become so RUSTY.

YouTube sorted me out. An artist with a shop called Hino Art Materials in Vietnam reviewed Holbein’s new sets of Iródori GOUACHE. Yes, Holbein re-relased the colors as OPAQUE watercolors, to giddiness from YouTube. She recommended not mixing these paints (they are very saturated, and muddy easily) and showed off a lovely gouache painting on a dark blue background. She showed off that some colors have been reformulated, but not all of them. Perhaps my existing set, even before this re-release, could be used like opaque paints?

So today, a precious day off work, I broke out BLACK WATERCOLOR PAPER (a thing that wasn’t available when I first purchased these paints so long ago) and white watercolor paper, and tested the paint out.

Two sheets of watercolor paper, one black, one white, with circles of Holbein Irodori watercolors painted upon them to show saturation and opacity.
Casual testing of Holbein Irodori Antique Watercolor on Clairefontaine mixed media black and Arches hot press white papers.

Oh, YES. So many of these colors are HIGHLY OPAQUE and look great on black paper. The great colors and saturation on white watercolor paper had fooled me! If only I’d had more experience with gouache when I purchased these, I could have put these to better use, and stuck to transparent colors for those other projects. Now that I understand their opacity, I can use them like gouache (and mix them with opaque white as needed when they need an opacity boost), and perhaps resist buying those French and German gouaches a bit longer… And actually get to enjoy these without fear of failure built in.

(Oh, that Antique Bronze Blue in particular is the color of the sky hours after sunset… I could USE that…)

Life: Sunshine and Wind

Photo of a yellow, black, and blue butterfly (with some red eye like patterns) resting on flowers.
Whoever designed this butterfly should be very proud.

I’m posting with the hesitation of someone who realizes that dumb and indifferent AI programs will steal and then vomit up my (incompletely digested) content in no coherent order. (What a world.)

I’m relaxing, playing with ink, buying paper, and eating delicious (vegan Vietnamese) food with a friend I haven’t seen since the Before Times. These are good days.

Life: It feels like summer (ask the fog)

The forecast this week suggests it will be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7+ degrees Celsius) for a few days out where my family lives, yet it is still (technically) spring. That hot weather pulls a blanket of fog across me, and… I’m okay with that.

Plus: it is still allergy season. But all of us sniffling, coughing people have known that for a month.

Oh, and: wildfire season. An 11,000 acre fire is burning in an area east of the City, and evacuations are in effect for the nearest town. With high winds yesterday, it spread very quickly. I was growing fond of NOT reading about fires in my state…

Wherever you are while reading this, I hope you are safe, not crying/sneezing, have no need to evacuate, and are dressed appropriately for whatever the weather delivers to you.

Life: Holiday Weekend Daze

Hello! I HAVE INTERNET AT HOME AGAIN! (I’d like to thank post-scheduling for hiding the fact that I didn’t for several of those days.) It is a good thing. It makes so many other things possible!


It is a three day holiday weekend here in the U.S., and I’m being too productive. I’ve had multiple scheduled appointments, I’ve been to a post office, I’ve reset faulty breakers six times, I’ve ordered excessive numbers of notebooks (because I fill excessive numbers of notebooks), I’ve washed laundry, I’ve attended a fantastic parade (and am awash with images from it to manage), I missed a chance to purchase a limited edition fountain pen that I didn’t know I was interested in until it sold out (oh, well – I’ll forget it ever existed shortly), I’ve performed maintenance on a Roomba which appears to have become senile, I’ve treated my hair and scalp with multiple products, I’ve criticized myself for not being more creatively productive (even though I’m always working, commuting, or performing chores), I’ve enjoyed tapas and white sangria (which I hadn’t realized exists, but of course it does), I wrote a letter with a pretty fountain pen and equally pretty ink…

The problem with holidays feeling rare is that they become so precious I feel I must USE THEM TO THEIR FULL POTENTIAL, which likely isn’t the best choice. That makes them feel like a different type of work. Goal-oriented work. The wrong kind of activity needed to recover from all the other kinds of work.

There are some cultural elements of this. My mother is still wrestling with her upbringing, which included a rather fanatical insistence on not being able to sleep late into the morning, even if you worked nights (!!), and pressure to always be doing SOMETHING. ANYTHING. A sort of haywire protestant work ethic. I may have absorbed some of that, but also live in a culture where being “busy” is proof of importance / worth in itself.


Speaking of work, here is some context for all of those manhwa I’ve been reading from South Korea whose stories are premised on people dying from working too much:

South Korea is known for its punishing work culture, with some of the longest hours in the developed world. Despite the introduction of the 52-hour weekly work limit in 2018, overwork and exhaustion are still not uncommon. In 2023, the government proposed to increase the maximum weekly working time to 69 hours, sparking a severe backlash and eventual backdown.



Wish me luck as I attempt to… relax in a goal-oriented way??

Life: So Tired

I have been tired. So tired. How tired? I have been able to achieve REM sleep on public transit.

This is… worrisome.

Life: I took a vacation

That’s a thing I should do… regularly. I am now vaguely familiar with what it means to be rested. It’s so… novel! So strange!

I posted a list of restaurants I like (despite being a gluten-free vegetarian) in Waikiki on my phone photo blog: you can find details by following the link.