Frankie Say Relax December 11th, 2012
I’ve had stress on the brain a lot lately.* (See posts here and here.) Work has been crazy for the past few weeks. The holidays are wonderful, but they don’t exactly create an abundance of spare time. And various other aspects of daily life don’t suddenly evaporate just because work and holidays have made grand entrances. I’ve been feeling the stress of it all pretty acutely these days, and not always doing a bang up job of managing it. I could feel it in my upper back. I could sense it in the hateful thoughts that silently passed through my mind when someone “stole” the elliptical machine I’d been planning to use at the gym. I could hear it in my tone of voice when the dogs got underfoot. Something needed to change.
In the past I believed that genuine, productive relaxation could only be mine once the final item on the day’s To-Do list was crossed off; that any attempts to unwind while chores and errands awaited me would always be undermined by the stress of things left undone. And up until this past weekend that belief had proven true. But something in me reached a breaking point. That list, at least for now, is not getting any shorter. For every item that I check off I add another one or two. I could sense that this likely isn’t going to change until at least mid-January, and I wasn’t willing to go through the next four weeks feeling tense and acerbic.
On Saturday morning GAP did what he always does on the weekends – he told me to relax, and for the first time maybe ever, I did it. He took IEP with him to the gym just as SSP went down for his morning nap. And I, still jammie-clad, curled up under a blanket on the sofa and watched two Tivo’d episodes of Parenthood. Our fondue pot sat in the kitchen sink with cheese still scorched to the bottom of it from the prior night’s holiday party with my girlfriends. Dog hair billowed around my baseboards. The beds were left unmade. And I successfully ignored all of it! It was the best decision I’ve made in weeks.
By the end of two episodes of my show SSP was starting to wake up. After the credits rolled I walked upstairs to collect him, feeling as refreshed as if I’d gone for a two-hour massage. I felt relaxed. I felt on top of things. I felt HAPPY! Starting the day with my batteries charged made it infinitely easier to face the items on my list. SSP pitter-pattered around while I got dressed, made the bed, and tackled the fondue pot. My other guys returned home as I was cheerily sweeping the baseboards. I almost didn’t recognize myself.
I don’ t want to go back to the level of unreleased stress I felt prior to Saturday. At some level, though, I’m glad that I found myself there once. It triggered a change in me that I’m not sure I could have made otherwise. It forced me to experience for myself that sometimes relaxation best preceeds productivity. It smooths down our splintered edges. It buoys us against choppy waters. It fuels our tanks for the work that lies ahead.
As of Monday morning the sheets hadn’t been changed and the laundry hadn’t been done. I had, however, gone out for pizza with my boys, taken a nap on the couch, walked the dogs and gazed at Christmas lights, and gone out to dinner with good friends and seen a movie with GAP. In some way, it was absolutely the most valuable use of my time.
*Yes, I realize that thinking repeatedly about stress likely does nothing to lower my feelings of it. I like to be ironic.