The Downside of “Doing”: Why I can’t relax, and why that needs to change

Of my many, many weaknesses, this has been the worst lately: I. Can’t. Relax.

I don’t know when it started, or if it has always been this way.  Deep breaths and a clear mind sound like something I could’ve pulled off as a kid.  But it’s hard now. Relaxation hasn’t been available to me for a long, long time.

To be fair, I haven’t exactly been trying.  My priority, contrary to relaxation, has been getting things DONE–and in that, I have succeeded. Yes, I know there’s more to “figuring shit out” than just doing stuff or finding distractions.  But keeping busy seems to work for me.

Sort of.

It has become habit, at least.  I actively avoid being lonely (being alone is okay, but God forbid I feel lonely).  I avoid silence.  Work.  Live.  Work some more.  Do. Do. Do.  But the question is, why live that way?

Because if you stop, you might not like what you see.

Or worse, what you feel.

That’s my best guess, anyways.  I don’t really know what I’m so afraid of.  What I do know is that haven’t learned how to relax or even stop moving because I’m terrified of what that entails.  This isn’t something that I particularly want to admit.  But I really want to level with you, because I know know know I can’t be alone in the self-inflicted chaos.

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Being too busy isn’t all bad.  The to do list, the full plate, the sense of duty  to everyone and everything around me–it was my saving grace for a long time. Not just in a “Wellllll, shit went down, and I starting doing things to get my mind off it.” It’s more complicated than that.  Yes, shit has gone down. And, yes, I have gotten super-busy with stuff  in order to take my mind off of it.  I don’t suppose there’s anything too unhealthy about emerging from a challenge with a sense of purpose. The problem is now, I’m worried I won’t  find that sense of purpose at all because it is buried under stuff.

It’s so easy in this world to make your own superficial stress to distract you from real, harsh, felt stresses. For some reason, that is seen as “moving on.”  Isn’t that ridiculous?  I’ve had some of the best bounce-backs of anyone, on the surface.  Internally, I’ve had some of the worst.  Shit goes down (loss, sickness, the usual growing pains), and I greet it by getting a new job, upping my grades, making more friends, and obtaining WAY more obscure pop culture knowledge.  Awesome. That looks pretty badass when I write my CV, when I call mom and dad, when I run into an ex, when I talk to a gravestone.  But when I really think about it (if I give myself a moment to think about it) staying busy has done little to change the fact that I still can’t face rejection, broken-heartedness, or guilt. I still don’t know how to deal with a sick family. I know even less how to deal with a healthy one (weird, right?).  I am happy, I do believe that, but I don’t think I’m happy because I’m busy. And I KNOW I’m not busy because I’m happy.  The things that keep me busy may contribute to my happiness, but I could learn how to better spend my spare time–how to properly be alone, how to unwind, how to zone out, how to be with myself, by myself.

I would love to be able to relax.

I don’t relax because the go-go-go-go is a socially acceptable way to stay in control.  Because I live in a world where we value shutting up and moving on.  We value restlessness. We value people who make the most of their lives–and that means activity, even in the face of of adversity.  We value people who get things done.

Yes, that’s admirable. And I will never not be an active person.  But my self-worth, my sense of purpose, and my dreams for the future have all become way too tied to my accomplishments. I have become my inability to relax.  And I need, need, need to learn how to turn it off.  I need to give myself the time and space to be lonely, be silent, be empty…and to be okay with that.  I need to learn what really matters.

When was the last time you looked someone in the eye and said “Hey, what was the last record you listened to all the way through?” or “What was the last long walk you took?” or “Do you take the time to ride the bus to nowhere?” or “Who can you share comfortable silence with?”.  Better yet, when was the last time you looked yourself in the eye and asked those things?

(Bat Out of Hell.  I can’t remember. Sometimes. I don’t know.)

We don’t seem to value who or how someone is when they’re doing “nothing,” and I’m worried that I’ve turned that onto myself.  I seem to be actively avoiding the person I am right before I fall asleep, or when I first wake up…when I’m waiting in line, when I’m praying, when I’m staring out the window, when I’m relaxing (which I never do).

It’s easy to avoid her when she never stops moving.

I have worried more about my CV in the last two years than I have worried about my soul–and, either way, I have spent more time worrying than I have relaxing. Relaxation, as I mentioned, is not in my vocabulary.  Yes, there have been times where I have needed that defense mechanism of being busy or distracted all the time. But now?

Now, I just need me. I just need to relax. And I know that will not come easily.

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Resolution 2013? I think so.

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Showering Essentials

I am working 24 days straight this October.  No break. I guess I did get October 16th and 17th off my Job, but I had two midterms and a paper to write in that time. After that, I was back to the Office.

I love working. I do. My Job involves putting on a full face of stage make up and fancy tights and seasonal earrings before hitting the Office. I get to meet/talk to/entertain hundreds of people. It’s fun!  It’s exhausting! I’ve almost mastered liquid eyeliner!

Also, as you can imagine, my co-workers in the storytelling bizz are rad. My school friends are also rad. So are you, probably.  Between the three, I have basically become socially active to a fault.  Last night, when I hit the pub next door for a bite, the band knew me so well they let me pick their last set list. Then we watched the trailer for the new Diehard movie. Then I made very serious plans with a couple girlfriends to have a movie marathon to honour Mr. John Maclan next week.

I also do my homework. I also sleep, sometimes.

Basically, I’m busy.  Not busy in an I-don’t-have-time-for-you way. It’s more of an I-don’t-have-time-for-me way (and a sorry-I-didnt-post-this-till-Saturday-morning way).  I’m not complaining. I always get in my half hour of the Daily Show y Tetris before crashing into my unmade bed. But there’s this thing called “relaxation” that all the cool Zen kids are talking about, and admittedly I crave it every now and then.  I crave the ability to just sit and listen to a great album, or to enjoy a beer, or to take a long shower. And no, I don’t have time to do all three one by one.

Guess what that means?

It means it’s overlap time.  That long shower needs to really really count. Observe:

Relaxation time: 30 minutes and counting. Ready…set…

I know this might look crazy to people who haven’t done it before, but trust me: if showers count for most or all of your downtime, you’re going to want to make the most of it. Lighting candles? Yeah, okay, I know it looks gimmick-y.   But to me, it’s one invaluable way to make the bathroom a semi-spa for just a few beautiful, calm minutes.

And, yes–having a beer in the shower, or any drink of choice, helps increase the feeling of “Okay. Okay. This is downtime. I’m not kidding, body. De-stress plz.”  On nights when I don’t feel like a beer, I opt for Domingo pseudo-coolers. I’m not advocating drinking to excess in the shower (or in general, for that matter). Alcohol is not the point. The point is that if you want to relax after work with a drink, bringing it into that candlelit shower is a great call.

Yeah, INTO the shower.  Take that, Jimmy Fallon.

Also: exfoliate. Condition. Not just cuz it’s healthy, though that’s a bonus, but you guys: it’s relaxing. Paint your nails. Wash your face. BREATHE.

And music. Calm music, whatever that means to you.  My playlist is a constantly changing six songs. Currently it’s the following:

Chill Out
Bruises                                        Train (feat. Ashley Monroe)
This’ll Be My Year                  Train
Be Calm                                      Fun.
Light a Roman Candle          Fun.
Out On the Town                     Fun.
Cowboy Take Me Away       Dixie Chicks

Admittedly, it’s a little overwhelmed by a couple bands, but the playlist changes with the seasons. And it’s chill.  It’s calm. When the playlist meets some nice-smelling candles and a nice smelling exfoliate and a nice tasting beverage and a clear head, it makes for one hell of a break from the real world.

(Don’t worry real world. I do love you. But everyone needs their space.)