Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Art of Relaxation

Relaxation, according to Wikipedia - the oracle of all things - is defined as this: in which a system changes to an equilibrium condition from a non-equilibrium condition.

So, that begs the question - what is equilibrium? Again, Wikipedia: Equilibrium is the condition of a system in which competing influences are balanced.

Okay, now we are getting into more familiar territory. I understand competing influences, at least I think I do. Like when Greta and Finn are bickering over something earth shattering, like who can burp louder.

But what about competing influences on a grander scale? I find that my own internal competing influences speak loudest to me when I'm 'relaxing'. When I'm zooming through life with barely a moment to breathe, I don't have time to worry about equilibrium ... I'm just putting out whichever fire is largest in my life at the moment. Relaxation is so far down the list of possibilities that I don't give it a second thought.

Even summer break, when you have school-aged kids, is far from relaxing. Suddenly you are all together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am not accustomed to this. I rely fairly heavily on the school system to do things like keep them entertained, educate them and generally help them grow into well-balanced people. I do my part, of course, but I am out of practice doing this on a full-time basis.

So here we are on vacation for a week - the whole family, including my in-laws, which means we have four kids under the age of 8, two sets of parents and one set of grandparents staying together in a pretty beach house near the water. After three frantic days of packing, lists, cramming suitcases and kids into a car, a ferry ride and the unloading of all the crap we need to bring with us to survive (hello, laptop) we come to a startling stop. Okay. Time to relax. Seven days and a whole lot of nothing to do. Time to go from a non-equilibrium condition to an equilibrium condition. Time to balance my competing influences.

I don't know about you, but it is times like this when my competing influences tend to show up. I am so programmed to go, go, go - I am terrible at stopping. I feel this rush to go do stuff - the beach? a run? a museum? go exploring? I am so accustomed to having to do things, I feel empty and disconnected when my daily pressures are removed.

Ironically, it is the kids that ground me. They totally get how to stop. While I'm feeling sort of anxious and wringing my hands about what the heck we're going to do for seven days ... they run off and play freeze tag, or pick-up whiffle ball. While I'm perusing magazines about all the great places we're supposed to see while we're here, they flop down on their bellies and play a board game.

Today I asked them if they wanted to go to the beach.

"Nah, we're busy," they said.

I looked at them. They were sitting in a circle in the grass outside, tossing a rock around.

"You can do that at the beach if you want," I said.

"No, that isn't part of the game."

I felt myself sliding into Lecture Mode: we're here near the beach, and you want to sit in a circle and toss a rock around? All that planning for this? We can sit in our own backyard and toss a rock around if that makes you so happy.......

But I don't say it. I watch them for a few moments, completely caught up in what they are doing, and I realize they are fine. They totally don't need me to entertain them. I can go, I dunno, read a book? Lie down? .... RELAX?

So I swear I will relax. As soon as I stop typing this blog. Really.


  1. I have learned to relax and it is one of the best things I've ever done for myself! I know what you mean about always feeling like you 'should' be going somewhere! I am starting to really love those 'do nothing' kind of days!

  2. Here's the Big Trick for a Mom: getting the kids to relax when everyone can also relax! "Time for the beach!" and the kids are happily tossing a stone? Then they want to go to the beach when a) it is meal time for everyone else and/or b) the tide is wrong! Relaxing is really tricky!

  3. i'm good at relaxing, I can give you lessons!!!

  4. Cute story. I have two toddlers running around at all times too. It is rare that I get a chance to just "relax" I'm fortunate though that I can stitch while they play together. My boys are 4 and 5 and can mostly entertain themselves when they aren't trying to hurt each other.

  5. Hi El. I completely understand about having trouble relaxing. I am still trying to learn and definitely do feel guiltly often when I do or think about doing "just for fun".

  6. Great observation! Kids say the darndest things and for damn sure DO the greatest things...I think if all adults took just a minute to stop and watch kids they might remember being one too. Here in France there are so many grumpy old people, I always want to remind them 'helllooooo you were young once too and probably annoyed some old person'..ugh.