For a variety of reasons, I’m not having a summer vacation this year. Now before any of you think I’m saying that to garner sympathy, let me mention that we have a lovely pool in our backyard, and we are getting away for some quick weekend visits to see family. So the “woe is me meter” is low. Especially compared to those of you out there who haven’t vacationed in years, let alone had two days off in a row.
I have however been working on getting better about play-before-work. It is a subset of all of the other cliches we toss around but don’t always adhere to, like life is short, eat dessert first, and don’t say no to opportunities for fun. This past weekend, for example, I had my usual to do list ready for my regular chores, and without even really thinking about it, I spent most of my time doing things instead like going for walks, sitting by the pool, getting together with a friend and shopping. Some of the chores still got done after I’d had fun. It is not generally like me to operate this way – I am not an avoidance kinda girl when it comes to must-do’s. I’ve always been more like do it now so I don’t have to later, and ‘I can stop when I’m retired.’ But with effort, I’m adjusting and, surprise surprise, enjoying it.
But the one thing I still have not mastered, and this is where the vacation thing comes in, is relaxing. The art of slowing down, pushing responsibilities aside, and literally not doing much of anything, other than perhaps reading a good book or watching a movie, or gazing at a lovely view. Some of you out there have mastered this art, or are at least working on it, and I am proud and inspired by you. Notice I did not say jealous. Because relaxing is something all of us can learn to do, but it takes practice and ironically, work. Being able to relax is something to be celebrated.
I’m guessing that the majority of R.W.’s out there are not being successful in the unwind and rest process. Remember when the term “couch potato” was a thing? Somehow we have all swung too far in the opposite direction. Now we don’t even visit our couches, let alone live on them. Unless of course we don’t feel well, and that doesn’t count. Just the other evening after work I went out for a bike ride (one of my versions of relaxation), and as I cruised by a couple of houses, I saw one woman getting her husband’s help in planting some pretty massive plants and bushes in the front of their house. Another woman was dumping wheelbarrows full of stone along what I assume was a garden or patio. A third had just arrived home and was unloading groceries from her trunk. Not relaxing. I thought about what a lot of us other RW’s were probably doing around that same time: getting kids to bed, cleaning up the kitchen, running errands that couldn’t be done during the work day, checking on an elderly loved one, or any of about a thousand other possibilities…none of it slowing down and putting our feet up.
Part of my particular challenge is I think I’m just genetically predisposed to being active. My siblings call it scurrying. I rarely saw my mom relax. With four kids, various pets and an old farm house to manage, she was always on the go. And when we did go on vacation as a family, be it to visit family or go camping, she was still “doing.” Because let’s face it, when you have young children, vacation lacks down time. And, no offense intended here, but visiting family is not relaxing. It is lovely, necessary, and good for the soul. But it is not shut-down mode. My mom and dad would go away one week each summer to go sailing off the Maine coast together, without us kids. Based on lore and sightings like that of the Loch Ness Monster, rumor has it that is when she finally relaxed and recharged.
For me at least, “staycations” don’t work like away-vacations do. Lord knows we all have had our fill of staycations over the past 15 months or so. A staycation simply means not doing our usual jobs, hopefully loosening our grip on chores a bit and adding in more activities and fun. But if I’m in my house, I still feel compelled to do yard work, house projects, food prep, cleaning, laundry, etc. As much as I adore my home, I don’t truly relax for more than a scheduled hour or two (yes, I actually schedule downtime – like an hour by the pool on a Saturday afternoon) unless I’m not there. Here’s the funny part – getting ready to be away, and returning from away, are the exact opposite of relaxing. Every woman knows there’s a whole lot of work that goes into prepping for departure and then re-entering reality. But in between, when schedules go out the window, responsibilities are put on pause, and the sole focus is moving slower and only doing what you WANT to do….well, that is when relaxation nirvana can be achieved.
We R.W.’s are a determined bunch. So who knows, with enough practice and effort, maybe we all can get a step closer to having moments of that nirvana in our daily home lives. There has to be a happy medium between being a sofa spud and a never rester. I say we all put more effort into making it happen.
In the meantime, I’m going to book a few days away with the hubby this Fall. Just in case.
By the way, a tip for the guys – never tell the woman in your life to “just relax” unless you are ready to deal with the repercussions. Trust me on this one. She would if she could.