Retirement is supposed to be the time in life when it is legal to indulge in a lazy day here and there. My problem is that I really don’t feel comfortable being aimless. My Type A personality demands that I have proof of some kind of accomplishment for every single moment that I am awake. I sometimes despise myself for being this way but it is who I am. The best days for me are the ones when I rise early in the morning and get so many things done that it is difficult to keep track of all of my activities. Last year when I was recuperating from surgery I nearly went insane in the early weeks when I wasn’t supposed to drive or exert myself too much. I’ll be the first to admit that I probably need an intervention of some kind because I just don’t know how to adequately relax.
When I was still a girl we spent summers visiting my grandparents in Arkansas. We often sat on their screened in porch for hours with a big box fan blowing hot air onto our faces. The adults always seemed to enjoy the downtime but I was so antsy. I had to be polite and pretend to be enjoying the hours that we spent doing nothing but the truth was that I would have much preferred running through the yard or even straightening my grandmother’s house to just sitting around.
I would love to take a class on the art of relaxation. I suspect that it would do me good to learn how to just let go. I find that even when I am forced to stay in bed I feel the need to do more that just vegetate. I create entire novels in my head or contemplate what I plan to accomplish in the coming year. I so admire people who have mastered the art of repose.They seem to have a much more balanced way of viewing the world than I do. They really don’t mind sitting and simply enjoying a quiet moment.
My mother always suspected that I had a bit of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I know that I had a great deal of trouble keeping still in school. I compensated by shaking my legs, twiddling my fingers, and tapping my pencil. I learned to do these things so discreetly that I didn’t annoy my teachers. When I myself became a teacher I was known for gesturing with my hands to the point of distraction and moving around far too much in front of the classroom. I also talked way too much. I always felt a kinship with those students who appeared to have trouble sitting still and being quiet. I suppose that I gave them a great deal more latitude than most of their other teachers did because I felt their pain.
Someone asked me recently what I like to do on a really lazy day and I was a bit befuddled. I’m not sure that I am ever really indolent but I suppose that a less active day might be one when it is raining outside and all of my indoor chores are done. I love having the time to read a book from cover to cover without having to stop. It’s great to have a nice cup of hot tea to sip on while I race from page to page to determine what is going to happen next.
I’ve also had a movie marathon now and again although I have to admit that I have been known to throw in some paper grading or clothes washing while viewing the flicks just to keep from get too antsy from sitting. I also use such moments for a walk on the treadmill or for creating dinner for the week. I love the idea of killing two birds with one stone. I suspect that it may not count as relaxing if I do too much of that sort of thing but it is what it is.
Long ago when I was still a child the summer afternoons were scorchers and we didn’t have air conditioning. My mother made us go to our rooms and rest on our beds in the heat of the day. I never fell asleep but I did enjoy letting my imagination go wild. I got so caught up in my thoughts that I would hardly notice the passage of time. I visited exotic places that I had only read about. I enjoyed adventures worthy of Indiana Jones. I wish that I had written down some of the stories that played out in my mind. I’d probably have a best selling book or two by now.
If I were ever able to slow down the relentlessly running motor that roars inside me I do in fact have a great idea as to how I would choose to relax. I would be in a cabin in the mountains lying on a soft overstuffed sofa in front of a fireplace. There would be snow falling outside and I would spend a great deal of time just watching the flakes flutter to the ground. I would have a soft puppy sitting near me and he and I would snuggle and nuzzle each other. The people that I most love would be with me and we would all have our favorite books to read. Periodically we would look up from the pages and share the stories with each other and perhaps a joke or two. After a few hours we would choose a game to play. It might be Scrabble or cards. Toward the evening I would bundle up and go for a walk in the snow. Hopefully someone would come with me and we would exchange our deepest thoughts and toss snowballs at each other.
I might also enjoy a day near the ocean. I’m terrified of getting burned by the rays of the sun so I would sit on a covered veranda slathered in sun screen, sipping on a cool margarita, watching the boats go by and the people jumping the waves. I’d enjoy sailing away from the shore and hopefully seeing dolphins or whales. When the sun was low I’d kick off my shoes and walk in the warm sand hunting for shells and inhaling the salt laden air.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to simply sit in my backyard enjoying the colorful blossoms on my shrubs and listening to the sounds of the children playing in my neighborhood. Perhaps I need to teach myself how to simply be quiet. If I think of it as a kind of exercise I may learn how to slowly increase the time that I devote to such inactivity until I am finally masterful at getting in touch with the quiet inside my soul.
I can’t really say why it is so difficult for me to just stop and smell the roses. Perhaps my mother was correct in thinking that I have some disorder that keeps my mind and body continually racing. I certainly accomplish quite a bit but just being still is the one thing that continues to elude me. I suppose that as I grow older my energy level will wane. Hopefully along with an ebbing level of activity will come an enjoyment of silence, reflection, and stilling my heart and soul and body.
I have grown to like the person that I am very much. I recognize my flaws better than anyone but still see mostly good things about me. I’m one of those souls who will probably never be completely satisfied unless I am able to create a list of accomplishments for each day of my life. Nonetheless I have come to believe that sometimes the most important thing that we might do for ourselves is to learn how to pause if even for just a moment to use the full extent of our senses in observing the world around us. Perhaps that is the key to really relaxing. One day hopefully I will be able to do that without harboring a sense of guilt. One day I may be forced to do so. I just hope that I can find a way to accomplish resting my body and my soul that I enjoy it as much as I do being perennially active.