Sunday, August 19, 2012

Relaxtion is Not Just for the Dead

Bear and I recently took a week's vacation with his family. When you pile a whole bunch of people into a house that are related, with a few that are related by marriage or dating or friendship (trust me, flocks of a feather stick together), I was  expecting that the house would eventually implode under the weight of familial adversity. Actually, it was fantastic. It truly was the turning point of my summer, even more than the move, about how I view the world and how I handle things. The thing is, even though we moved, we still work in Big Town, and we still live in the same valley. While we "got away" from the depressing student-occupied Warrens, but not from the general feel of it all, I needed a bit of shock therapy to go with it to really pound the idea home. So, less than 48 hours after we moved in completely--the house still in shambles--we drove 7 hours away to leave it all behind.

The view from under my brim. Warm ocean, warm sand, and not too invasive seagulls. Beachside success!

It started just 4 hours after getting to the house. Following all the hello's and hugs and moving crap into our room...wait, didn't we just end this? I thought we had finished moving! Damnit!...I went out on the porch to view the scenery with Bear. There was a tree full of fig-gorging birds across the street and a blue roof where a solitary black-headed seagull laughed like some sort of sea-side chicken, with that funny way of ending by throwing back his head twice like he was enjoying a good joke. I kept chuckling, watching a herd of ducks come and--even though they were sorting through the dropped remains of figs--chase off all the swarming birds at the top of the tree, because let's face it, ducks are jerks and even the other birds know it and don't want to risk it. It was aviary comedy hour across our little tiny street. And suddenly I thought, "I have absolutely no anxiety whatsoever," which I stated to Bear and then promptly started to worry about not having any anxiety whatsoever. We both laughed at that.

That was how my week went. Even Bear, who was ecstatic just at the mere thought of our new Home back up in Little Town, smiled a ton that week, relaxed more than I've ever seen his Zen-self let go, and showed a lot more affection without getting all uppity about PDA's in front of the family. Small things made us happy: ocean water, fresh seafood, a single yarn shop hidden in a family home (okay, that was just me, Wombat, and Goose, not Bear), the early morning tint of the sky, and a humongous praying mantis. We planned to go clamming, but lost out to the price of equipment and without much worry or disappointment agreed that next year, with better planning, would be better. Life was easy. It was enjoyable, and being with the family was a fantastic time of bonding that we continuously touched upon while still being autonomous. Holy hell, we were...relaxing.

Awesome praying mantis that ended up attacking me. These little guys sure have big cahones for being much smaller than people.

Awww, he's grooming! Then I tried to move him with a piece of paper and he promptly flew right into my face in a furious flurry. I squealed like a baby being hit with a cat.
The beginning of the spread. Bear and I cooked for 11 people on the grill: yellow squash, acorn squash, corn on the cob, shrimp, and fresh clams and oysters. We also had sides of bread and salad.

These are straight from the cove nearby. Very fresh. They cooked up in about 10 minutes on the grill and tasted AWESOME all by themselves. 50 clams and 12 oysters.

Relax is not an easy word for me. Vacation isn't either. Long story short: my family has a large history of working-class ancestors. I'm also starting to think it's mixed with generations of Catholic guilt, a bit of genetic obsessiveness, and a large dose of Irish stubbornness. Relaxing is for the dead. Vacation is the permanence of heaven. Therefore, living is for working. Even as a kit, I was extremely busy all the time. Rise at 6am, walk to school at 7am, school to 3 or 4pm, then rush home for dinner, and back out the door for whatever ensemble I had (I was in 8 or 9 fall/winter/spring was filled with 3-4 total; the summer was reserved for working weekdays in my teenage years and drum corps on weekends) until 9pm, when I would get home, do my homework, and pass out in a pile of books around midnight. Mum and I just didn't take vacations with our schedules . So relaxing is confusing. I have to be doing something, calculating my next project, figuring out what I have to do next. There's just no time to take time off!! Bear doesn't have this problem. He can even meditate without obsessing on a thought for too long, which baffles me. Meditating makes me anxious. Everything does.

I have to thank my boss, Drathaar, and our Boss, for reinforcing the ideas of relaxation through behavior and advice previous to this trip. When I confirmed this vacation back in March, Big Boss advised to "not check the internet, not check email, and generally stay away from all outside communication devices." Initially I turned my nose up at this idea. Eventually it was what saved me. Drathaar, on the other hand, reinforced this through telling me not to worry about the work key, which accidentally wormed its way into my backpack after a busy Thursday (my last day before the trip, and the day before the last moving haul and clean-up of the Warren apartment), and then not bothering me all week with any emails or such. They were adamant about me leaving work behind for a week.

I also like to think I'm more essential in the grand scheme of my job than I actually am. Honestly, work isn't going to fall apart with me gone for a week. It didn't when Drathaar went to the mountains for a fishing trip; it doesn't when Big Boss goes on work trips or small vacations. Things will work themselves out, and unless you are running a country or some such, it's not going to be an utter catastrophe if you take a leave for a few days to a week and don't spend all your time checking emails. Occasionally is fine. I did once a day. That's about all you need to do if you're "essential personnel" to the working of a business/job. If you're not, well...don't even go near a phone or computer. EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE.

Relaxing shouldn't be for the dead, and vacation shouldn't be for winged angels playing harps in the clouds. We should all get at least a day off from this busy, crazy society we've developed. It is important to reset, to get outside ourselves and see how small we are, as well as enjoy ourselves at least occasionally. Really enjoy ourselves, I mean. I thought I was taking this past year off after grad school, and in actuality I know now it was fraught with constant anxiety over getting a "big job," working, making big plans for life...stuff that should just come over you as it happens while you're taking the next right steps. Yes, plan out your finances, apply to jobs, and start coming up with your next big project. But don't let them take over your every waking moment. If you can't take a moment out every day to take a step back and just enjoy where you are, try one weekend a month, or a week a year. Get away from constant social technology and enjoy who you are, at that very moment, and the beauty of the world around you. It doesn't have to be fancy. A walk in the park is fine. Hell, find anyplace that has some green, some sort of nature, and just do it. Good lord, how we are surrounded by plastic, metal, beeping things, and invisibility!

The real test, though, is the follow-through (Bear wrote, or rather said, this). It's true. I've now learned how great it is to relax. Will I continue? I don't know. I know I can try. Really hard. Because I like the way I feel right now. House is a mess? Psssh, I'll get some done tonight and tomorrow, and the days after that. I'm cool with it right now. I'm currently sitting on a couch occupied by hats, blankets, a bottle of Head Lube (for the bald Bear), and plastic bags. Last week I would have been silently freaking out, overwhelmed to the point of being unable to move or do anything, by the mess' presence. I don't know how I'll handle those types of things in a week. I know, though, that I can try with all my heart to continue what I've learned on this vacation.

Keep on chillin' when you can,

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