Relaxation…indulgance or necessity?

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Once upon a time, I was of the opinion that rest and relaxation was for sissies, for the weak, for those who couldn’t “keep up”, with my frenetic pace. I was a pusher. I was one of those people that could make things happen—and I did. I have always been a high achiever, and proud of it.

And then I got sick, and had to rest whether I liked it or not. I didn’t like it one bit. It’s like the story about the toddler that kept standing up in his highchair during mealtime. After repeated scolding from his mom, he finally remained seated, but he told her, “I may be sitting down, but I’m really standing up on the inside”. Even though my body was resting, my mind, and my will were “standing up”.

So much of my self-worth and self-esteem was wrapped up in what I did, and how much work I could get done. Work was always my priority and it came first. Taking care of myself and my own needs were way down the list, and it hurts me to admit that my daughter’s needs were often secondary.

Some people naturally have an enormous amount of energy. More power to them. And my problem was trying to “keep up” with a pace that was too much for me and not how I best operated. Over time, everything became about what I thought I “had” to do, or the pace that I felt was “necessary”. This way of operating became very inauthentic and not at all aligned with my needs. Currently my health is fragile and I seem to need a lot of rest and sleep. Very likely, years of abusing my energy level has taken its toll and I may still need to clear my “rest and relaxation debt”.

It has taken time and a lot of practice to learn how to relax–fully relax and rest–and I’m still learning. Not only resting in my body, but also in my mind. Unfortunately I’m brilliant at doing something that appears to be restful but my mind is meanwhile going full speed thinking about everything I have to do…or worse…guilting me because of everything I’m not getting done while I’m sitting there “doing nothing”.

Changing my pace to a calmer one has been one of the more challenging changes I am making because it brings up so much stuff. Like  how married I have been to this idea of work defining who I am, and how delinquent I have been about taking care of myself and my needs. With this kind of change, although there was a point (actually several) where I had an awareness of how poorly I had been treating myself for so long, the work of changing comes down to one small decision at a time. Things like…enjoying a meal even if I’m eating by myself and not just wolfing down my food at my desk, consistently stopping work at a certain time and doing something I enjoy doing in the evenings, taking a full day each week to rest, with no work allowed, putting time into my day to do things I love. These are the kinds of decisions I can make daily. Some days I decide better than others. But on the overall, I am moving steadily in the direction of bringing this area into balance in my life.

And that is why I love this piece, “Splendor in the grass” by Pink Martini. It’s beautiful in both its simplicity and message, and I love how the interlude reaches such a full orchestral crescendo. It reminds me, that when we do take the time to go slow, to rest, to enjoy the simple pleasures of life,  such beauty and joy are available to fill the space.

I would love to hear from you. What are your strategies for self-care, and turning off, or reducing the volume of that pesky part of the brain that keeps you in overdrive? Leave a comment.

Listen to Splendor in the grass by clicking here.

Youtube version can be found here.

Lyrics:

“Splendor In The Grass”

I can see you’re thinking baby
I’ve been thinking too
About the way we used to be
And how to start a new

Maybe I’m a hopeless dreamer
Maybe I’ve got it wrong
But I’m going where the grass is green
If you’d like to come along

Back when I was starting out
I always wanted more
But every time I got it
I still felt just like before

Fortune is a fickle friend
I’m tired of chasing fate
And when I look into your eyes
I know you feel the same

All these years of living large
Are starting to do us in
I won’t say it wasn’t fun
but now it has to end

Life is moving oh so fast
I think we should take it slow
Rest our heads upon the grass
And listen to it grow

Going where the hills are green
And the cars are few and far
Days are full of splendor
And at night you can see the stars

Life’s been moving oh so fast
I think we should take it slow
Rest our heads upon the grass
And listen to it grow

 

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