I’m good at a lot of things (read: coloring, banter, modesty) but I’m aware there exist some gaping holes in my education as a citizen of the world. I never learned state capitals, for example, or to swim the butterfly. I never learned to ski or to patiently cook rice. I never learned to do a pull-up or French braid my own hair or befriend a household cat unscathed, and if you’ve ever seen me with a jar of peanut butter, it’s clear I never learned it doesn’t expire if I don’t consume all 16 ounces it in one fell swoop.
I mean, I’ve heard rumors the cap screws back on, but I’d hate to risk it.
But of all the things I never learned in my 28 years, there’s one deficiency that’s particularly clear: I never learned how to properly relax.
Sure, I can binge watch Top Chef marathons with the best of them, but you can bet your weight in Padmas I’ll be multitasking all elimination challenge long, whether that’s cooking myself or cleaning the apartment or stretching my tight legs after the morning’s long run (just kidding on that last one, clearly.) I’ll also spend all 60 minutes feeling terribly guilty I’m inside in front of the TV and not out doing something tangibly productive as I strive to squeeze every last ounce of ouput out of the day.
I could try to blame my constant need to be productive on my adopted city that never sleeps, but the truth is, I’ve been afflicted with an inability to unwind for as long as I can remember. A Saturday morning with no plans? I immediately call up a friend for brunch. An empty calendar on Friday night? Tick off another Oscar contender. A Sunday afternoon in Baltimore? Play a rousing game of “hide the chew toy” with my clever niece. I usually win.
My inability to simply unplug and relax is part of who I am, and normally, I don’t mind so much, as it ensures I’m getting the most efficient use out of every single waking moment.
But after another week of long hours and ramped up mileage, I entered the recent three-day weekend aching to do something I’ve never successfully done before: absolutely nothing.
And I succeeded. Kind of.
Even though I had vowed to take it easy, I still managed to squeeze in a 10-mile training run during a snow storm, two lunches with friends in far-flung boroughs, a yoga class, a dinner party and a home-cooked Valentine’s Day meal, complete with homemade flourless chocolate cake and country wheat bread.
I realize it doesn’t necessarily sound like I successfully did “nothing” all weekend long, but at least in my distorted opinion, it felt pretty indulgent indeed. Why, you ask? Because I also slept in all three days, lazily read my whole book club book, watched two feature-length movies and took off two entire days from my fitness routine.
I know I’m never going to be stellar at decompressing, but like most things in life — from nutrition to running to rationing JIF — maybe this is another area in my life I can improve with consistency, effort and good ol’ practice. “Practicing” relaxation may not sound that relaxing to a seasoned recliner, but for this wind-up toy on the go, I’d say it’s a (step-free) step in the right direction.
Do you ever fully unwind? Teach me, grasshopper!