Relaxing is not always easy for real women. We get so wound up about everything we “gotta do”, and all the people we have to take care of, that we rarely clock out, go off duty, and slow down. Usually we only feel like we can really take time “off” by scheduling an actual vacation – for a day, a weekend, a week, it doesn’t matter the amount of time. We just have to physically remove ourselves from our usual daily activities and responsibilities. Although even going on vacation does not guarantee our time off, especially for any of us who travel with young children, or elderly parents. But we make the valiant effort, with images dancing in our heads of napping on a beach, rocking in a porch chair or even curled up someplace peaceful with a good book.
I have always felt like the only way to really unwind and be off-duty is to travel. To leave work, home, and extended family all behind. Usually this works, and after the first 24 hours, I slip into a slower, more relaxed version of myself. When I’m home, I’m not able to distance myself from my “gotta do’s” .
This summer, we have no plans for any big vacation, or time away, other than a few weekends here and there. We are saving our budget and time for a big trip next year. So for the most part, we will be “Staycationing.” Ah, such a cute term. To make those of us who decide to stay home – whether for monetary, work, or family reasons – feel like we can still have a vacation without having to leave our immediate vicinity. Wait. Really? Stay home? In the land of responsibility? Oh dear.
I’ve read about, or heard about, women who successfully Staycation with their families. They come up with fun activities or adventures literally in their own backyards, or find a way to kick back and chill without having to venture far afield – posting joyful images and stories on Instagram and Facebook, or sharing elaborate projects they’ve accomplished with their thoroughly engaged and brilliant children on Pinterest. Then there are those who use a Staycation to knock out impressive projects like building furniture, painting the house or take chef-lead cooking classes. Like everything on social media, it all seems so attainable. I can do this.
Then I remember: I don’t relax well. Nor am I able to focus on one thing at a time. If I am in or around my house, I instantly want to take advantage of any spare time I have to knock out chores or home maintenance projects. On weekends I run an average of an hour behind schedule because I’m trying to pack too much in. So how am I to turn a blind eye to what I could be doing, and do vacationy things instead? Just like a puppy trying to learn the “Stay” command, I understand the importance of doing it, yet I find it ever so hard to focus and sit still.
I had my first trial run of Staycationing over the July 4th holiday weekend. I was fortunate that my office was closed on Monday the 3rd, so I had the gift of four days off in a row. On Friday evening, those four days stretched out ahead of me like some kind of soothing coastal highway, where I could just casually cruise along at my own speed, wind in my hair, not a care in the world. I had images of lazing by the pool all day, or lounging in a comfy chair doing my writing…. and heck, since I had all that time off, I could knock out a couple projects or two as well. Like cleaning out the garage – that should only take a couple hours, right? And organizing my desk and catching up on filing… and gee, maybe I could take down the curtains and drapes to wash them…. after all, I had been given the gift of time, I shouldn’t squander it, should I?
Well, yes, actually… I’m learning slowly that one of the core benefits of an appropriate Staycation is to not fill every moment of the time we have with non-fun stuff. Our goal should be to achieve that gone-away-relaxation mode without actually going away. Sounds simple, but for some of us multi-taskers, it is apparently not easy. Even my husband exasperatedly said to me “Can’t you stop planning and just go with the flow?” Yes, darn it, I can. If I can do it on a beach or on a cruise ship or even in a camping tent, I can do it at home. I can have fun! Yet I also had to be realistic. Instead of an adorable four year old in pigtails who wanted to do crafts and outings with mommy, I have a teenager who appears out of his cave for meals or to go hang with friends. I still have groceries to buy, a sick relative to check in on, and bills to pay. So I decided on a compromise with myself. Chores and responsibilities each morning, play and relax time every afternoon. Time with friends and family every evening. And you know what? It kind of worked. The garage got cleaned out, but I also spent time out on my bike. My filing got done, but I also got in pool time. The curtains never got washed, but I sat and browsed through magazines and picked out new recipes to try. Three out of the four nights were spent having great times with friends, and one night we watched a movie. Somehow, in spite of myself, I seemingly succeeded in having a short Staycation. At least for a few hours at a time.
My method may not be Pinterest-worthy, and there will be many other RW’s out there who will always be better at relaxing and getting refreshed and renewed than I. But I believe that this summer, without traveling to escape my responsibilities, I’ll be able to master the art of some down time.
Who knows, maybe before summer is done, I’ll learn how to sit ‘n stay for a whole day. Imagine that.