When relaxing feels like work

Let my soul-crushing weekend begin.

Actually, Doug told me last night to stop calling night shifts “soul-crushing.”  He said it sounds melodramatic, especially coming from me.  But that’s how I feel about them: there’s some part of me that feels like I can’t do anything useful with the day (or enjoy it), knowing I have to go to work later.  Last night, 3-11, I survived pretty well.  Tonight and tomorrow, 4:30-midnight: soul-crushing.  I’ve just felt like I’ve been living under this cloud of dread ever since I got the schedule last Wednesday.  Last night, I read my schedule for next week, and it looks much more bearable – although it’s been about six weeks now since I’ve gotten two days off in a row, but that’s what April is for, when a million birthdays and commitments I have in the books are going to force the scheduling program to give me weekends (and probably fewer shifts overall, unfortunately).

Wow.  How was that for some convoluted insight into my work life?  I wish I could say I don’t walk around thinking these things on a regular basis, but…  I do.  I love my job, but shift work can be really complicated.  And really draining.

Which brings me to my point: I get overwhelmed by scheduling easily.  (See: “soul-crushing,” repeatedly, above.)  Then I try to schedule time to relax so that I won’t feel like all I do is work/eat (barely)/sleep (barely)/blog.  Then I get overwhelmed by the scheduled relaxation.  It’s a vicious cycle.

So adding to my general sense of hecticness because of the night shifts is the acupuncture appointment I have this afternoon.  I wouldn’t even be surprised if I end up lying there on the table watching the clock to make sure I’m not going to be late for work: in a battle between the swirly, relaxing feeling of the needles and my whirling, stressed-out mind, who wins?

Usually, the relaxation wins.  I tend to be a little ball of stress about making and keeping these appointments (like yesterday, when Doug and I woke up early to go ride with the old dudes, or this morning, as we were getting ready to walk to our favorite local coffee stand like we’ve been doing every Thursday lately), and it’s only afterwards that I remember how good for me they are.  You’d think I would have learned this by now, having lived with myself for the better part of three decades.  You would think that I would know by now that the only thing I can do to add to my feelings of being overwhelmed, is nothing.  If I fill the pockets of free time – however small and sparse – with activities I enjoy instead of just sitting here nosing around the internet, I end up forgetting what it was I was so stressed out about in the first place.

I forget that this works.  I forget every. single. time.  By this time tomorrow, I will have forgotten again.  But in the meantime, here is a comprehensive list of things I can do to help me feel like a stressful day has been a wonderful day:

  • Make a big cup of tea – the good kind, the British kind, with milk and two sugars like my ex taught me to make it – and lie on the floor in a patch of sunlight and read while I drink it.
  • Go for a walk – with Doug, with a friend, or by myself with my ipod (usually listening to Dan Savage podcasts).
  • Take a bubble bath – pointedly ignore the amount of perceived effort involved in preparing the bath (choosing a scent for my bubbles, getting the water tempurature just right, deciding between wine and tea, deciding which book to read, contemplating how this will throw off my shower schedule).
  • Play a game with Doug.  Usually Scrabble, or, lately, the Toy Story Mania game for the Wii.  Have snacks and/or beer at hand.  Try not to confuse the snacks with the bag of Scrabble tiles.
  • Sit or lie quietly on the floor in front of the cage and watch the rabbits do their rabbit thing.  The psychological benefits to keeping pets have been studied and proven repeatedly.  Plus, they’re really frickin’ cute.
  • Drag Doug into the bedroom with me.  Sometimes for sex, sometimes just for cuddling.  Active/on-purpose/awake cuddling is one of the best forms of reviving myself I know.

That’s all I’ve got for now – so maybe not quite a comprehensive list of everything I can do to relax and enjoy the moment, but we’re talking about small pockets of time on busy, overwhelming days.  I’d love to hear other suggestions, too.

Hold On

The tassels are always falling off my bookmarks,
polish chipping from my nails,
pens running out of ink,
ponytails getting sloppy by the end of the day,
jeans tattering,
books ending before I’ve tired of the story,
beanbag chairs deflating,
chocolate getting eaten,
elastic stretching out on favorite lingerie,
teddy bears getting matted and dirty…

Nor can I keep you.

(11-26-01)

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6 Responses to When relaxing feels like work

  1. bodegabliss says:

    I know exactly how you feel! Before I got my current job, I was waitressing at nights and every day that I was scheduled for that evening, my whole day was ruined. Which, is just ridiculous because there’s hours and hours of the day, but it just felt like everything had to be catered to that 4:30 that I had to be there. It was dreadful.

  2. AP says:

    Hey there! I WISH I was going to be in Southern California, but it’s not in this month’s whirlwind tour. next time I am, I’ll let you know!

    I’m so proud of you for throwing out What to Expect. I want to throw it out the window, but my husband is pouring over it saying things like, “you’re going to have to stop drinking coffee.” And then I punch him.

  3. Have breakfast for dinner. That always feels relaxing to me!

  4. C says:

    I forget this too. This is eerily reminiscent of a post I made a couple weeks ago, in reference to gardening – and then things I enjoy in general. It’s like all of a sudden, you realize, “Oh. I still enjoy things. When did this happen?”

    Do you get the ute rotisserie with your acupuncture? I found acu surprisingly relaxing – I, too, have a really hard time just lying back and doing nothing, and was surprised by how much I could let myself drift away during acupuncture, and I really think it was the lovely feeling of that ute rotisserie lamp. It was glorious.

    • Marie says:

      What is a ute rotisserie?! It sounds like they’re going to stick my uterus on a pole and rotate it over a fire (or a lamp). Maybe that would get the thing to do what I want it to do.

      Somehow I don’t think my acu has a ute rotisserie. She does have a heat lamp that she puts over my feet, which is nice.

  5. Josey says:

    I adore active/awake/aware cuddling…I’m slowly bringing Charlie around to it. 🙂

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