Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – April 30, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – April 30, 2004 – Just the word “relax” makes me tense. Could it be that I’m just a little over-wrought? Perhaps so. Today is one of those days when I’d like to tear out my hair. The anticipated pain of that activity is preventing me from actually engaging in said hair-pulling out. When I feel like this I know the best remedy is simply to sit down and try to unwind. I wasn’t born with the relaxation gene, and try as I might, this process eludes me.
I’ve bought books and tapes on relaxation and meditation and searched within for my own special “om” sound. The best I get in return is the silent thought – “how much longer do I have to lie here” or “when will this blasted tape be over”? I am definitely wired for big-screen sound. This realization has made me think about how my family acted when I was a child. My parents were both hard workers and “doers” – they had to be to survive financially.
When I was a small child, my father worked for a company called Black-Clawson Kennedy, as a pattern maker. He also ran his own business from his workshop at home and did pattern making and machinist work for his own customers. Every night after supper, he got up from the table and went back down to the basement to work. He rarely re-appeared before eleven o’clock. My mother was usually doing something around the house or working in her antique shop. My brothers and I were encouraged to finish our homework and spend time on our hobbies. During the warm, summer months we were always outside riding our bikes or playing. There clearly wasn’t much ‘relaxing’ going on around the Wright household.
My parents both liked what they did for a living. I remember my father telling me that he found his work creative, enjoyable, exacting and challenging. My mother ran a successful antique shop and had many repeat customers over the years. When we were teenagers, she also worked at the local newspaper. It was also a different time. People in the fifties weren’t as involved with meditating, soul-searching and understanding their “inner child”as they are today.
If anyone had ever suggested to my father that he nurture his inner child, he would probably have responded, “Well, my inner child had better grow up soon – I could use a hand here”. My parents worked hard, but they did relax at times during the week. They liked Saturday evening Hockey Night in Canada and on Sunday after dinner, our family watched Ed Sullivan and Bonanza. My parents always listened to the news and they both liked to read, but the majority of their time was spent looking after their children and nurturing the Protestant Work Ethic.
It’s not much wonder I have a difficult time relaxing! People tend to grow up and engage in behaviour patterns similar to those they saw as children. I know intellectually that it’s important to work and play in equal measure, but by the time my work is done, I’m usually just too darn tired to play! I like to imagine myself enjoying a day when I do absolutely nothing, but I know the second I sit down I’m jumping back up to “do” something. It’s as if I feel guilty when I’m not in the act of ‘doing’. I’d be a total disaster in a seminar where I had to sit still and be quiet. The thought of it sends little prickles coursing up and down my spine.
Maybe it’s too late – the die is cast and I’ll never be able to sit and watch a day drift by – just enjoying the stillness and feeling entitled to simply ‘be’ in the moment. I had a chat with my doctor this year and she mentioned that stress and stress-related illness were major concerns for a lot of baby-boomers. We’re so intent on achieving, that most of us don’t stop along the way to smell the roses.
Personally, I hadn’t even noticed there was a rose garden. The old adage that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy is true. That’s why we’re supposed to enjoy week-ends away from work and yearly vacations. This down time gives us a chance to reclaim our energy. We can then go back to the tasks that must be accomplished in our lives with renewed enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
I’ve neglected this part of my life for far too long – at times not taking a vacation for a number of years. I’m always at the beck and call of business and so concerned with the well-being of others that I fail to honour my own need to rest. I certainly expect to work diligently in my career, and my hard work has given me a degree of success of which I’m very proud.
But the cost has been in missed vacations and an inability to take time off for things that are important to me. The responsibility to alter my priorities rests squarely on my shoulders and if I could just relax long enough to come up with a design for change, I’d be off to the races.
So better days ahead, total relaxation may not be in the cards just yet, but maybe with a bit of smart planning, I’ll take a week-end off and plant some daisies in my garden. It may not be as good as a week in Paris, but probably better than a crash course in transcendental meditation, where I might have to “relax” on demand – yikes!