I said it.
During a normal week, when Saturday rolls around and my husband announces his Boys Day Itinerary that he's been working on in his mind all week, my initial thought is that I'm going to relax while they're gone. Maybe I'll allot a few minutes to planning next week's tot school, maybe I'll lay on the couch and stream That '70's Show reruns on Netflix shamelessly because I earned it, damn it. But inevitably they walk out that door and the silence makes me all antsy. Why don't I kick things off with next week's tot school plans? Hey, don't I need to grocery shop, too? I really should make a run to the health food store, too. Oh, didn't I say that I needed some more popsicle sticks for tot school? Didn't Ethan say he needed some more paint? Maybe I should make playdough. Is 360 days out too soon to start planning Ethan's next birthday party? Anyway, basically I blink and it's time to make dinner and I'm knee-deep in about five different projects and ready to pull my hair out and my husband can't understand why I can't just relax. I hate that word. Relax. It's synonymous with slow death in my mind but then I long for it as it hangs tauntingly above my head just out of reach enough.
We've been up at my parent's lake house for a few days now and I'm at that point where I'm starting to feel jittery staring out the windows at the vast nothingness. The sound of birds, cicadas, leaves rustling in the brush? I'm over it. Give me the sounds of irritable women berating baristas over wrong temperature espresso drinks or give me death! I mean, it's nice in theory. Who doesn't all but salivate over the thought of a beautiful home tucked neatly in the woods, covered by canopies of branches and moss, overlooking a lake in the part of the state that remains mostly untouched by man? Who doesn't long to get away from it all at some point? But then it happens: a day at the lake house with no plans. Twenty-five minutes each way from the closest Starbucks, twenty-five minutes each way from an alpaca farm that may or may not have gone out of business. I feel myself getting anxious as Google confirms there is, oh, just about nothing other than Baptist churches within a forty-minute drive from where I sit, a ceramic statue of the word "Relax" staring at me from atop the television stand. I swear I can hear it mocking me.
I like to stay busy. I like to respond to my husband's pleas for me to draw myself a warm bubble bath and read a book in silence with a snarled "who has time?" I'll never have time because I refuse to make time. Because there are tot school lessons to be made, there are crafts to prep for, there are parties to plan and there are valuable moments ticking away that I'm losing out on just explaining my madness on a public platform. These days, it's hard for me to take the time to watch a movie without visualizing my unfinished to-do list crying in a corner at my failure to complete it. I'm sure I could find the time to read more, to watch more movies, to help myself to more evenings where I sink into a bubblebath after Ethan has gone to bed and think about nothing.
But I don't know how to do that.
And I also think I might hate that.
After all, there are lunches to pack for the plans we don't have and the grocery store up here doesn't have strawberries -- what grocery store doesn't carry strawberries?! -- and, oh, the light has been green for four seconds and the car behind us hasn't beeped mercilessly. I miss home. I miss malls with actual stores and people to tell my three year old to stop running into and streets you can walk down without being eaten by an alligator. But, fine, watching the orb spider weave it's web to the astonishment of my three year old and hearing his laughter as a woodpecker taps onto the glass window at the top of the stairs and watching his eyes fixate on the herd of cows running across a vast field -- I can get into this nothingness thing. I can take it all in and count ants on a driveway with Ethan and look for alligator nests that aren't in a zoo and point out the seemingly endless orange blossom trees that we pass on the way to a market that makes fresh, homemade donuts every morning accompanied by a pot of freshly brewed Maxwell House because that's all the locals need. I can handle it. I can even like it. But I can't get my mind to switch off enough to let myself relax. To let myself go with the flow. To let myself let the fact that some grocery stores don't sell organic produce -- or strawberries -- go. To not tense up when gunshots being fired at a nearby shooting range fill the air while we're playing at the park. (Cue "that's it, I'm going the f*@k home!" texts sent to my parents and husband before the shots are even midway through the air.)
I'm not good at relaxing. I'm one of those people who feels vulnerable and helpless when I'm not rushing or frantic or at least boasting a four-tier to-do list on a regular basis. I'm one of those people who needs my caffeine in the mornings and a routine that may not be identical each day, but contains something. Laying on a hammock underneath the trees alone with my thoughts sounds almost like torture to me. Is that weird?
Don't answer that.