Relaxing is accomplishing something, really! Or Overcoming Perfectionism.

Why can’t most of the women I know ever really relax. I mean really, what is it? Is it some outdated Puritan value that our New England ancestors, for whom idleness was one of the greatest sins, passed down to us? Is it our need, as women, to feel that we must constantly prove we can do it all, have it all? Many of the men I know are happy to spend a Saturday afternoon watching movies or football. I am incapable of doing that. The only way I can sit on the couch an entire day is if I am burning up with fever.

I think I came by my busyness as a result of raising so many children. There was a time when rest was not an option; there was always another meal to be made, another load of laundry to be done, a nose to wipe, a knee to mend. It simply never ended and that was okay! Once the kids got older and I found myself with some time on my hands, I filled it with all the activities I wasn’t able to do when they were little. I volunteered for all sorts of things. I went back to school. I don’t regret any of that. I have accomplished some great stuff, learned lots of new things and made some wonderful friends. I would have never done all that if I’d been home on the couch. Yet, I have to admit. Sometimes I go overboard. So, I try to remind myself that relaxing is accomplishing something, that it is vital to my health and my success in all the other areas of my life.

I had a master plan on Saturday. I decided I was going to have a no pressure day. I was not going to work from home. I was not going to do homework. I was going to stay in my pajamas all day. I was going to chill out for once. I was going to relax, and enjoy the peace and quiet.

So how did I do? Well you be the judge. I did end up spending the day in a pair of yoga pants and an old t-shirt. That was a start. I spent some time actually doing yoga, and that was great as I haven’t made a lot of time lately to actually take care of myself. However, the fact that the first half of my day of “doing nothing” also resulted in three loads of clean laundry and two freshly washed floors told me I was somehow on the wrong track. So I made some tea, grabbed a book and hit the couch. I ended up spending the entire rest of the day and good portion of the night with that book. Now you would think this was success wouldn’t you. After all, I really loved the book. What I haven’t told you is that this is a book I specifically picked to do a book review on for an English class. So, while I enjoyed this time, and did actually sit still for awhile, in the end I still accomplished something I needed to do.  I call this a success. Some of you may disagree.

Maybe some of us are just wired differently. Maybe I know that life is short and I am trying to squeeze every bit of adventure out of it while I can!  There is nothing wrong with being motivated! The problem is when we take it to its extreme, when we are unable to strike a balance. A day full of accomplishments and hard work is a wonderful thing but I have to make sure that it is meaningful work and not just busy work. Am I cleaning, yet again, because I am trying to avoid the thoughts and feelings I don’t want to deal with? (This would explain why the more unhappy my marriage became, the more beautiful the house was). Am I still taking time to take care of myself? If I am so busy that I don’t find time to enjoy a quiet walk, to exercise, or to eat right, than I am way off target, aren’t I?

Sometimes we just have to be willing to let go of the picture we have in our head of what we thought our lives were supposed to be. If I can give up the fantasy of the perfect house and the perfect relationships, I can ease up on myself a little. I can ease up on those around me. I can learn to enjoy the life that is right in front of me. I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards. I don’t have to try to “have it all” because what I do have is more than enough!  I don’t have to go dust that shelf across the room where the sun is coming in right now and I can see the . . . oh who am I kidding. I’m going to go dust that shelf but it’s okay. After all, I’m still a work in progress!


Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.