Decompression?

Mondays are the worst for it. That feeling that, by 9:00 p.m., I’m screeching to a halt with the remains of the various clutter that was in the moving vehicle of my day falling on the floor around me as I realize that, much to my chagrin, I have to pick it all up and make some neatness out of this before retiring for the night.

Those close to me say I’m too tense. Its a valid criticism.

As much as I make concerted efforts to slow down, to incorporate contemplation into my lifestyle, to limit the amount of media intake I experience and carefully balance productivity, the truth is that I still remain tense. Life isn’t as bad as before I stopped listening to the “writers must write every day” gospel, but still…I’m tense. I realize it the most on weeks like this, when I return from a holiday that was relaxing and that permitted me to unwind from all of the obligations and schedules and stressors of the average week and enjoy my family, a good book, and a few good movies. Only to return and be launched right back into Monday.

Mondays are the worst for it.

I made a reference this week to how I needed to get moving on a book that I started over the weekend, because it is my bookclub’s choice for November, and so I’m on a deadline to finish it by Wednesday. Karen responded that the great thing about books is that you pick them up and put them down as you have time. I insisted that I have a deadline. (And, besides, I find this a bit hypocritical of someone who read like half a novel in a single sitting on Sunday, to tell the truth. Grumble grumble grumble).

Now, I haven’t always been like this. In fact, its come and gone in phases around the academic cycles of my life. During my undergrad years, when I juggled two majors and major design work in every show my theatre department staged, sleep was a luxury that occurred on occasion. Then, once I entered the professional world, life became less stressful. I worked my nine-to-five, and returned home to my personal life, which was largely fun and un-rushed. Then came grad school, and I was plunged back into the world of homework and research, but at a level of intensity that I had never before experienced (it was my bright idea to pursue my master’s degree full-time). All the while maintaining employment and working as a teaching assistant in order to go to school for next-to-free. I became stressed. I adopted coping skills of extremely disciplined work schedules that involved almost no relaxation time in order to make good grades and still make a living. I had very little personal life. I always had a book by my bedside that was a class assignment, another in my bag, and a paper on my laptop.

Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to have had e-reader technology a couple of years early.

In any case, my point is that I became very, very driven. I couldn’t permit myself to relax if I was to keep that schedule. In retrospect, I should have altered the schedule, but there you have it. Three years of almost no relaxation. The problem is that I haven’t been able to let go of it this time. I haven’t learned to relax, unless I’m on holiday or vacation. I consider every book I’m reading to have a deadline, and I’m stressed if I haven’t reached a designated chapter by the end of the day. Or if I haven’t reached a word-count on a writing project by the same time. Or if I haven’t made it through my to-do list.

The problem is that I think I’m missing a lot of life by keeping all of my self-imposed deadlines.

So, I need to relax. I think we all need to relax. I’m glad that the Advent season sort of builds in time for us to do just that, and, as we’re nearing the time for New Year’s resolutions to occur, I’m going to toss mine out now. I’m going to relax. Really, I am. Learning to relax is now on a list, with a deadline, color-coded and prioritized.

Wait…that may not work…  

Photo Attribution: Kimmo Palosaari 

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