I’m generally known for my high energy approach to life. I’m the sort who can’t sit still for long and I tend to drive folks a bit crazy because of that trait. I am the Martha rather than the Mary of biblical fame. I am a rather determined soul who gets things done one way or another. Long after everyone else has collapsed into a heap of exhaustion I tend to find that last bit of liveliness that allows me to complete a task. I’ve been that way for my entire life, but another aspect of my vitality is rarely seen by anyone other than those who are closest to me. Those are the moments when the big event is over, the exams are completed, the end has successfully arrived. That is when I hit the wall like a bird flying into a clear glass window. Splat! Bam! I become a useless puddle of goo. I take to my recliner or perhaps my bed and literally waste away an entire day recharging my inner batteries for the next big push.
I seem to do nothing halfway. I’m either blowing and going like a crazed bunny, or I’m as listless as a spent dishrag. That’s been my nature for as long as I remember. I was the kid who would be dancing around the room one minute and then asleep on the floor in the blink of an eye. I throw myself into life and adventures with so much abandon that I’ve been the butt of jokes within my family. There have even been suggestions that I may have been the model for Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame. Others wonder if perhaps I’m a bit more akin to Charlie Brown’s friend Lucy. My daughter thinks I’m a kindred spirit to Hillary Clinton and a recent quiz on Facebook did indeed verify that I appear to be more in line with her than any other First Lady. The difference is that I am driven mostly by a need to do things properly rather than a quest for power which I tend to eschew. I am a self confessed control freak, but I have never wanted to run the show.
Then there are my limitations. Like any ordinary human I eventually run out of steam and I do it with the same level of enthusiasm that I attempt to apply to my other accomplishments. When I rest I am all in, and on the day after Christmas this week I immersed myself into a state of total relaxation. I was done, caput, unable and unwilling to make any unnecessary moves. Luckily it was a dreary day and nobody came calling either on my phone or at my door, so I was able to become a virtual hermit for a full twenty four hours.
I vegetated in my bedroom with no plan, no idea of how I would choose to spend my hours other than doing as little as possible. I comforted myself with leftover mac and cheese and an assortment of cookies that I had made for Christmas. I indulged in a marathon of programs on Netflix and dozed off into wintery naps more than once. I found myself longing to be a bear hibernating inside a cave and wondering what it would be like to spend the winter months resting up for the sunnier days of spring. I luxuriated in the gloriousness of unadulterated sloth, telling myself that I had more than earned the right to such an extravagance of listlessness.
Wishing that the SciFy Channel would run it’s Twilight Zone marathon on the day after Christmas rather than New Year’s Eve I stumbled upon a Netflix series called The Mindhunters. It captured my fancy so much that I watched one episode after another, transfixed by a well written story and interesting characters who were on a quest to understand what makes serial killers tick. Their research lead them to question whether individuals are born evil or made to be that way by the environment. In particular they began to wonder if there is a critical point at which deviant inclinations might be eliminated by a proper intervention. Of course the topic was fascinating to me and I became a junkie for hours as I lay in repose nursing my tired body.
I woke up the following morning with my batteries fully charged and my usual enthusiasm for making outrageous plans that will fill my days in the coming weeks. I have little doubt that I will over do it just as I always have and eventually find myself only fit for a lost day dedicated to appreciating my sluggish inclinations. Fortunately I have always understood when it was time for such an interlude and I have managed to renew myself time and again.
I feel for the souls who do not have the luxury of selfishly devoting a full twenty four hours to themselves. I know that there are circumstances that preclude such excess. Babies don’t wait for their mamas to feel better. Some jobs demand attention no matter how one is feeling. Little wonder that we often hear of a major star landing in the hospital from sheer exhaustion. Our humanity has few super powers no matter how much we attempt to push ourselves to create them. The reality is that we really do need to pace ourselves lest we wind up with more than an overwhelming tiredness. We also must be willing to accept that even our leaders require time away from the clock or they will ultimately crash and burn.
Our expectations for ourselves and others are all too often beyond mere perfection. We chide ourselves for being less than we think we ought to be even as our bodies and minds tell us that we need to stop and reconsider the abuse that we are piling on ourselves. We are sometimes too unwilling to accept our limitations or those of the people around us. When a political candidate requires a day of rest while on the campaign trail we tend to write that person off as being too weak for the task of governing. If a coworker has to miss a day we become judge and jury and find that person guilty of being too soft. We create false images of perfection that are generally impossible to achieve and then chide ourselves and those around us for their inability to be all things to all people.
The wisest among us know none of us is made of iron or steel. We have frailties which make us more beautifully human and understanding. They are not bad things, but rather simply an essential aspect of who we are as people. Now and again it is essential that we learn how to embrace our need for R and R. It is a far better tactic than waiting until we have made a big mess in the act of slamming into a wall. Perhaps we would be wise to build in days of nothingness as part of our routine just as the good Lord appears to have intended. According to the Bible even God had the good sense to rest at the end of his labors. It’s time that we all learn to do the same, so go ahead and indulge in leisure. It’s a very good thing to not do anything.