When I was a youngster, there were two breaks in the school day: a 15 minute recess at mid-morning and a longer one right after lunch. Now, at this point in my life, the concept of running around outside immediately after eating seems nuts; when I was in elementary school, a power nap wasn’t so alluring. Then, I was happy to chase my friends around the playground during that break time known as Big Recess.
By the time my sons were in school, the days of two breaks in the school day were over. They had OOP—Optional Outside Play—for twenty minutes in the middle of the day.
My niece, a few years younger than my sons, also attended a school that offered their students daily outdoor time. They called it Brain Break.
The names are different, but the concept is the same. Sometimes, you need a break from learning.
Now that I look back, a lot of learning happened during Big Recess. I learned to tuck my skirt (three pleats, hemline two inches above the knee) tightly around my thighs so it wouldn’t flip up when I was swinging. I learned how to make that origami do-dad that reveals the name of the boy you will marry. I learned to do hot peppers while jumping rope. I learned (and still remember) the lyrics to “Oh, Mary Mack.” I learned how to navigate cliques; to negotiate a candy trade; to maneuver around nuns with eyes in the back of their heads; and to decipher statements such as, “Barry wants to know if you like him, and if you say yes, he says he likes you, too, but if you say no, he’s only asking because he wants to know, and not because he likes you if you don’t like him.”
Were I editing Barry’s emissary, I would tell him to work on his clarity.
I am thinking of this because the school year is back in full swing. There are two elementary schools in my town. One is far away; one is on the other side of the creek and the city parkland behind my house. The one that is far away has no recess time at all, which I gather is the trend. Liability, security, teacher accountability—all those –ity words have joined forces to end the school recess tradition.
The elementary school near my house still has afternoon outside time. I know because, at a certain time every day, right on the dot, the children are set free. From any location in my house, I can hear them screaming. I can never decide if it sounds more like they are having a great time, or if there is a massacre in progress.
But back-to-school is not the only reason Big Recess is on my mind. After working on my current work in progress almost daily since February, I decided to take a break from it this weekend. Two straight, solid days without a peek at my Main Character and her assortment of friends, enemies, and frenemies.
Instead of tinkering with her life, I went outside and tooled around with mine. I trimmed a lot of bushes and deadheaded a lot of plants. I settled on the chaise on my deck and read from my Nook.
Okay, so I nearly had a stroke when I opened the garage door and saw a four-foot snake skin spread out in all its glory at my feet, but Big Recess involved a scraped knee now and then. Nothing’s perfect.
On Sunday night, after my two day break, I took a peek at a niggly little problem in my WIP and thought, “Oh! I get it. That’s what was wrong.” And I fixed it. Just like that.
All I needed was a Brain Break. Some Optional Outside Play. Big Recess. Just like my pal Barry, I needed to step back a bit to gain some clarity.
Do you take a break now and then from the write-every-day routine? Do you ever get signs or signals that your work habits are starting to be a grind, and maybe you should step away for a while?
Tell me about it.