Friday, July 20, 2012

Determined to Relax! Working at it! Playing Too!

I can find it tough to slow down, but I've given myself an assignment: four days without doing anything because I feel I have to; take time to figure out what I want; and above all, breathe. . . . My daughter, the Registered Massage Therapist, says that my pattern of clenched neck muscles shows that my exhalation, particularly, needs work. So I'm working on relaxing, breathing into my belly, and out from it as well. . .

I've been reading a perfect summer book, Deborah Harkness' Shadow of Night, sequel to last year's Discovery of Witches. Fantasy romance based on a solid foundation of historical scholarship.

I've pulled out the sketch pad, watercolours, and even tried playing around a bit with the Speedball nibs and a bottle of ink -- you can see I haven't got control of the ink yet, but I'm having fun. The watercolour sketches above are the start of a plan to do a quick drawing every day . . . but you see, there I go, setting myself tasks already, even when I'm supposed to be playing. So we'll keep it light, maybe skip a day or two.

And while we'd never want to rely on alcohol to help us relax, a rosy-coloured, bubbly Kir Royale is an invitation to kick back as well as a reminder of Paris, a sidewalk table in Belleville.

What I'm loving about stubbornly sticking to indolence is that I sense the incipient boredom which inevitably leads to puttering, the puttering which so often leads to creative play. The Muse needs stoking, but she often needs a stealthy stoking, a sideways approach.  Little amusements, like figuring out how to use PicMonkey for a collage after reading about it on Lorrie's lovely blog. . .

As a wise and talented woman says over here, in a great post on creativity at A Bloomsbury Life, when you let go and create something,  lots of good things happen:

1. You experience freedom without judgment.
2. You connect to yourself.
3. You gain confidence.
4. You feel like time is expanding. (Imagine that!)

She's so right! But/And I'm starting with doing nothing, then following my quiet inclinations into play, and then playing my way into making whatever I want, no rules, no judgment. For four whole days. I'm already on Day Three. And we're headed on a road trip today ('cause that's the day's play -- we'll see where it leads). 

I'm already thinking Day Four's creative act might be to declare a Day Five. . . 



  1. Oooh, sounds great. But are you allowed to knit? :-) It is amazing how associative alcohol is. I'm always trying to recreate a great glass of wine but, of course, one can't divorce the wine from the meal and the place and the company. Recently, I decided I'd just try to make every glass of wine my next standard :-)

    1. In fact, I haven't knit a stitch since we got back from France, probably the longest "knitting drought" in many, many years. Not sure why that is, but part of my hope for my "obligations time-out" is to relax and find some time for knitting -- which makes it look rather like an obligation, doesn't it? I see similarities in our personalities . . .

  2. You sound very calm and I see those creative juices are flowing in your chair painting, which could be framed and kept close by to remind you to breathe deep Yogic breaths.

    Keep this mindset going beyond Day 5...
    I wish you well mater.

    1. Pleased that I managed to convey a sense of calm . . . thank you!

  3. oh, how fantastic is that collage?!
    I am happy to hear that you are practicing your home-care exercises, self awareness. You are a force to be reckoned with, and have created some deep rooted breathing habits... so I suspect that it will be a while before that new pattern of breathing becomes comfortable for you. In the meantime, the painting and Kir Royals will help to quite your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode)and tap into the parasympathetic (rest and digest).
    go mom, go!....also, I'd love a little water colour for the baby's room :) an arbutus perhaps???! xoxo

    1. Rest and digest . . . that could be my new motto!
      Amused that you'd want a watercolour from me, given how much more talented you are. xoxo

  4. May the indolence work. As I approach the crush of finals during the summer term, I am very envious. The end is in sight.

    1. I could get a button made: Cultivate Indolence!
      I have to admit it's not a very natural state for me, makes me nervous, this relaxing does. ;-)
      Hope you have some free time after finals.

  5. Doing nothing - what an idea! Please let us know how you do. I'd like to try nothing too.

    1. Not so much doing nothing as refusing to do anything out of obligation. Or not even refusing, but I've freed up a few days that I can bracket as obligation-free. I'll report back. . .

  6. When I was retired, and indolence was possible, I'd get anxious anyway. Then I'd tell myself, take one day where I didn't do ANYTHING I didn't want to go. Would help a lot.

    I love your paintings, BTW. That chair is very nice.

    1. This is me you're describing. I feel really uncomfortable, guilty, needing to rationalize, if I'm not being obviously productive. So I'm assigning myself relaxation! Then it's okay, right? Right?
      Thanks re the paintings -- they're very modest, obviously, but they please me inordinately.

  7. a day 5 indeed.
    love the paintings btw

    and i must take note - schedule some headspace time

    1. Such a funny First World Problem, but after all, I'm the one who has to keep this body healthy, right? As are you, for yours. So we do need to schedule the down time/ headspace time, sighs and all.

  8. Hmm. I'm interested to hear something positive from an academic about the Harkness books. Many historians I know love her excellent work on Elizabethan science, but thought these novels were just shitty. I haven't felt the urge to pick them up.

    I hope the belly breathing and relaxing leaves you recharged and rejuvenated!

    1. I enjoyed the Harkness last summer, reading it while traveling, and thought the sequel would make a good beach book. Have to say I got restless with the second and not sure I'll bother when the last of the trilogy comes out. Certainly wouldn't call them shitty, though, but my expectations were for genre fiction and they met that okay -- well written enough.
      Hope you're getting a chance to belly breathe and relax as you head out on your big road trip and new adventure!

  9. Have not commented for a while, but having read your post now, I feel worried about you.
    Why is it so hard to relax, is it temporary, or is it building on you?
    While the glass of wine might seem tempting, it´s calming effect is only temporary, and might cause more anxiety.
    Might it be time to pause for a moment or two, and consider what really is needed to be done/ what not.
    Wishing you peaceful days : ).

    1. Thanks, Mette, for your concern. This has been a busy summer with more stresses than usual -- and my personality is not one that relaxes easily. So that's exactly the project now, quieting down. . .

  10. This is long, but may suit these days of taking time--

    Judy Brown's "Fire":

    What makes a fire burn
    is space between the logs,
    a breathing space.
    Too much of a good thing,
    too many logs packed in too tight
    can douse the flames
    almost as surely
    as a pail of water would.

    So building fires
    requires attention
    to the spaces in between,
    as much as to the wood.

    When we are able to build
    open spaces
    in the same way
    we have learned
    to pile on the logs,
    the we come to see how
    it is fuel, and the absence of the fuel
    together, that make fire possible.

    We need only lay a log
    lightly from time to time.
    A fire
    simply because the space is there,
    with openings
    in which the flame
    that knows just how it wants to burn
    can find its way.

    Somehow this always resonates with me--Elle

    1. A wonderful find! That you so much for sharing this, Elle. It's perfect.

  11. This one really spoke to me! I wonder if I could do four days of not having a mental to do list. I have vast amounts to do in the garden (supposedly my passionate relaxation) and curtains to make for my shepherd's hut (supposedly my place of peace and refuge) never mind the family things queueing up for attention and the work things waiting in the wings. I gave up my mega job to have time for other things but I carry myself with me and she is very focussed on achieving things! Thanks for making me think.

  12. I know! It's so hard to slow down, and especially hard to feel that slowing down, even just sitting still, is productive in its own way. And yes, we end up carrying ourselves with us!


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