November 10, 2021

What's So Wrong With Relaxing?


If the enforced isolation and social distancing of the last 20 months have taught me anything, it is that not being busy all the time is really a delightful thing. Not driving to an appointment, deciding right now is not the only time to get a new pair of shoes, or dressing up for dinner at a restaurant when the pantry is fully stocked. 

Of course, there is a new book I want to pick up at the library even though I have three yet to be finished on the side table. An online course catches my eye. Yes, it will require several hours a week of study and reading but, hey, I am stuck inside anyway. Yet, I postpone a decision to sign up.

Our minds often seem to be happiest when they are the busiest. Planning, projecting ourselves and our circumstances into the future makes the mind tingle with firing neurons. Reliving the past allows us to rewrite our motivations or decisions, some of which turned out well, some not so much.

The present is well, just present. Society has been put into a kind of deep freeze, so there is not much to do or think about unless it is to worry about toilet paper shortages.

Do these paragraphs kind of resonate with you? They certainly did for me. I have a low threshold of boredom. (So far) Covid has left me free of disease. But, it has had a rather interesting effect on my daily performance. I have discovered that not having multiple things lined up to do is not a bad place to be. 

I learned that I need not be afraid of silence, of quiet times, of inactivity for a while. I found that my mind can operate quite nicely, thank you, without constant outside stimulation. I can be very good company for myself.

For the last five months, Betty and I have begun the day with 10 minutes of meditation.  Sometimes it is guided by a pleasant-voiced man who helps us focus on some aspect of our life.

Other days we will choose to start and end with a simple gong; silence and our thoughts fill the gap. It has become enough of a habit that without it the day fills a little off-kilter. Studies show meditation helps seniors with stress, better sleep patterns, memory, and mental clarity, so we feel good about investing a few minutes a day.

Obviously, I have restarted this blog. The writing and taking the focus away from all retirement topics have made the creative process enticing again. Since all that is needed is a laptop and some quiet time, this almost post-Covid time has been the perfect opportunity to see where things go.

The weather is finally becoming pleasant enough for time on the back patio, with coffee, a book, maybe a sketchpad, or simply the sounds and sights of nature. A reinstalled hummingbird feeder has started to attract several of the tiny wings-never-stop creatures. 

Because my painting skills are strictly amateur level, I can relax even when facing a blank canvas. I have fun mixing colors and trying to create something recognizable. If the end result doesn't please me, I do not hesitate to cover the canvas with white gesso and start anew. Surprisingly to me, stress is never present during this time.

Yes, I remain busy with my volunteer work with the local library system's Friends organization. I am on a steering committee with United Way to help build a retiree group. I even joined the Rotary Club while in Kauai last month. That involves some time and money but keeps me semi-connected to the island.

So, it is not as if I am sitting and vegetating. But, when I decide to do something I think the decision is a bit more considered, with a bit more purpose than before. I have learned how to satisfy my buzzing brain while keeping my body mostly still and at rest.

Reading is one of the real joys of my life. The Covid lockdown followed by steps out of my safe zone has allowed me to indulge this passion. I get excited when I find a new author, or at least new to me, who knows how to write well, build characters, plot, and drama. At the same time, as the Internet privacy post demonstrated, non-fiction is part of my reading palette.

Since this is where this side trip seems appropriate, let me take a slight detour and list just a few books I have enjoyed over the past few months. If a title intrigues you, take a look:

Nine Perfect Strangers  by Liane Moriarty (a series on Hulu.. the book is better)

A Trick of The Light by Louise Penny

Mercy Falls by William Kent Kruger

The Voice Catchers  by Joseph Turow

Why Christianity must change by John Shelby Spong


Relaxation is assumed to be one of the primary benefits of retirement. After working for twenty, thirty, even forty years that makes sense. Yet, our mind has been working at such a pace for so long, relaxing just seems wrong, like a waste of our potential.

I bought into that perception for way too long. As I move through my seventh decade, I am realizing that the opposite is really true. At least for me, my fullest sense of potential comes when there is no one pressuring me to complete something. When I have the time and space to think and consider my actions and my options, and how  I spend my energy and time, the end results seem better.


14 comments:

  1. 2020 and enforced home-time have left a permanent mark for certain. I ‘ve always been a bit of a homebody,with a couple of scheduled events throughout the month (card games twice a month, a weekly art group, and a book club once a month.) and I still enjoy those.But the other “errands” and shopping and browsing and volunteering , have fallen away.I need a lot of time at home.My own back patio is heavenly with a waterfall, trees,color, and bird song. I love my kitchen and cooking is a hobby so an afternoon making a pie or a beef stew or a new vegetarian dish, is often a way i enjoy spending time. A morning bike ride through the neighborhood if I feel like it. A library date with Ken. No sense of urgency.. and lots of free time and space.. all good! Thanks for book recommendations.Can you mention a few of your fave authors? I found Robert Parker from your blog a while back and could use a few more recommendations…

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    1. We had to drive to Tucson for a luncheon meeting last weekend. I had forgotten how much I dislike high speed driving and constant truck traffic. I ma happier staying within a 10-15 minute drive of home. Quick a change for a long distance RVer!

      I like Louise Penny (listed above). She sets her mysteries in and around Quebec, writes well, and has well-developed characters. Anne Cleves wrote a whole series about Scottish Detective Vera Stanhope that I enjoyed. Joseph Finder is a good mystery Writer. If you like historical fiction, David Morrell is tremendous.

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  2. I've read every Kruger book and am a quarter way through his current book. I just love his writing and the way he interweaves Anishinaabe spiritual beliefs throughout.

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    1. I enjoyed Manitou Canyon, too. I just noticed with some of my recommendations to Madeline and the books listed above, a lot of my recent reading has been in settings other than America, with different cultures and points of view.

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    2. I also have read every William Kent Kruger book and I highly recommend them. Proud to say he’s a Minnesotan. I am a list maker and checking off the items means progress to me. I appreciate the comments on just taking some time to reflect and relax.

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  3. Vera is a wonderful series on BritBox and Acorn TV. Also Ann Cleaves has some other series on these same streaming services, Shetland being one. I love having a "slow" life. I’d hate to be busy busy…but that’s just me.

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    1. The Shetland series was my introduction to Anne Cleeves. Isn't it interesting how different the Vera character is on the TV series versus the books.

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  4. To paraphrase a line from The Color Purple - sometimes I sets and think and sometimes I just set. I've come to believe that there is no "nothing" because if no activity meets the eye, there's thinking and resting. This business of relaxing is a common topic in my circle. After years of punching the clock, we're in charge of our time and can be more mindful and purposeful in how we tackle the day. Bob, a line from you that rings in my ears - each day I try to do something that needs doing and something that wants doing. Now that the weather has turned here, front porch setting has morphed into time in front of the wood fire.

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    1. And, us desert rats can begin to move to the porch!

      I remind myself every morning during the 10 minutes of silent meditation of my gratitude for the life I lead and my blessings. I tell myself very little on my "to do" list must be accomplished today if I'd be better served doing something else. Time is my friend, not my enemy, if I treat it like a resource and not a task master.

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  5. Hi Bob! First off I "think" I have my blog feed fixed...not positive but it is supposed to be. And secondly...yes to doing your meditation practice every day and learning to live in a way that flows rather than forces. As many great teachers have shared, maybe that is one of the greatest lessons we can learn as we age. It is such a positive shift away from what our culture teaches us and what comes from our hearts and souls. I saw you read one of John Shelby Spong's books. What did you think of it? That would certainly be a topic of conversation over lunch if we can ever put it together. Anyway, like you we are enjoying the cool evening temps and mornings here in our desert too. I LOVE this time of year. ~Kathy

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    1. Yes, I am now receiving the feed for your blog!

      I have read two of Mr. Spong's books and find them fascinating. He is very good at separating the stories and myths from the underlying faith that he has in spades.

      We will get together. If you two are home in mid March we should be able to make it happen.

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  6. Wow, am I slow coming to the party or what?! I didn't realize that you had starting writing your blog again. Now I know -- looking forward to catching up.

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  7. I'm reading Penny's latest "The Madness of Crowds." It's pretty good.

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