I find it difficult to relax. I wish I didn’t, but I do. In the rare moments I find to pause and be still, my mind ends up wandering in a million different directions and questions start to ping pong around in my head: What time is Jack’s therapy this afternoon? Did I call to reschedule Kristen’s appointment for next week? I’ve been cleaning all morning, why is the house still a disaster? Did I pay the power bill? Can I pay the power bill? On and on they tumble.
Do you have this problem, too?
Recently, my husband was feeling under the weather and decided it would be best to leave an hour early from work so he could come home and recharge. So, the kids and I picked him up at the train station, bought a couple frozen pizzas, and enjoyed dinner together as a family. In spite of my husband’s cold, it was a rare and calming moment of togetherness.
The next morning, my husband still wasn’t feeling well so I decided to let him sleep in. Normally, he would wake up at 5:30am, help Jack get showered and dressed, feed him breakfast, pack his lunch, and load him on the bus by 6:45am before hopping on his bike to ride to the train station and boarding the T for his 45 minute commute in town.
But that morning, he slept and Jack and I shared the morning together. And I was amazed by how much my boy has grown. He showered, got himself dressed, and sat down calmly for breakfast on his own. Then, he started a conversation with me about his school day. My child who would recite Dr. Seuss novels to the letter on repeat every day for months and months, brought me into his world through language. More than that, he engaged with me. He answered my questions and looked in my eyes when I spoke with him. And, in that moment, I felt like a door was unlocked to his world. Like the barriers that had stood between us for so long floated away.
Soon thereafter, the school bus arrived. I loaded Jack up next to his best bus buddy and waved goodbye as the bus pulled away from our street. I came inside and found myself sitting down at the kitchen table, surrounded by quiet. Jeff and Kristen were still sleeping and, at first, I was not sure what to do. My first instinct was to clean, sort, load, wash. But after unloading a few dishes from the dishwasher, it occurred to me that I had a rare opportunity to do something I wanted to do, not needed to do. The house was clean enough, my oldest was off at school, and the rest of my family was sleeping. So, I sat back down and committed to do what I wanted to do until everyone else woke up – sit and be still.
My mind wanted to wander. It wanted to ask those million questions. So, I took advice from Allison Vesterfelt’s Writing to Find Yourself and wrote some Morning Pages (a free writing exercise where you don’t think, you just write.) I wrote in my journal, pen to paper, and for the first time in a long time I felt like the questions that were constantly swimming around in my brain were transferred from my mind to the page. And when I had finished writing (ie when my hand got too cramped to continue), I found myself feeling lighter. Floating.
So often, I think, we deny ourselves that floating feeling. We do what we must do, because after all it must be done, but when we choose to do so during those quiet spaces, we lose something valuable – ourselves. I could have done the dishes, started another load of laundry, and straightened the house, but would I have felt fulfilled by that which I do multiple times a day every day? Probably not. Sometimes, we need to let go of what has to be done or the way things have always been done (such as my husband being the one to care for Jack each morning or me always giving in to the questions tumbling around in my brain) so that we can reach inside ourselves and release what is aching to be set free.
That morning, I needed to connect with my son, to hear his voice, and look into his eyes. I needed to let go of the routine that would have prevented me from having that moment with him. I needed to release the questions that were plaguing me, playing on repeat like a movie I’ve seen too many times. To put them on paper and let them go.
I want to make a regular practice of this, but it is hard. I want to let go more. To float more. But find myself so caught up in daily life and my own head, that I often fail to get quiet and let go of what is bubbling up inside of me.
Do you feel this way, too? Or are you able to relax when given the chance? What things calm you and put your mind at ease when it wants to race in a million different directions?