Relaxing is hard

Relaxing is difficult for me. I suppose it always has been. I’m the sort of person who bounces their knee under the table.

Relaxing is hard to justify, especially when it’s not “an activity.” I can relax on a beach, because that’s why I’m there. But when it’s Sunday night and I could either relax or do any number of activities, I feel lazy if I choose to relax.

Maybe I just need to learn that it’s not a bad thing to take a break every once in a while.

Yesterday I was playing Star Wars with my 3 year old cousin. We would run around in capes made of blankets, and then he would announce “Take a break!” and we would leap onto a couch and catch our breaths for about sixteen seconds before taking off again. That’s sort of how I treat relaxing. A burden you have to do so you don’t break down.

Even when I specifically set aside time to relax, I have a hard time doing so. Growing up, vacations were always spent doing things. Those relaxing beach moments I described earlier were just that—moments, because my family would soon tire of it and decide to go swimming, or something.

Last night, since I truly didn’t have much to do and had such a busy week last week, I decided to let myself relax. To “force” myself to relax may be better phrasing. I turned on Netflix and laid down  for about an hour and a half, then I started feeling gross and restless. I should get out of bed…I should do something. I should prepare for tomorrow. I could do laundry. Do I need gas? I haven’t used Rosetta Stone in awhile. I need to shower at some point. Did I water my plants yet? Maybe I should repot my cactus.

And so on.

I want to be able to relax. It would be good for me. But it’s hard. It feels lazy and unproductive. Even a “relaxing” activity like knitting or video games feels difficult after awhile.

What do you do to relax? Do you feel guilty/lazy/restless when you try to?

Those who prefer the mountains

I recently found this article in the Boston Globe discussing a study that found those who prefer mountain vacations tend to be introverts, and those who prefer ocean vacations tend to be extroverts. As a person who grew up going to both, this strikes me as both true and false at the same time.

First of all, the obvious fact is that not all beaches are packed tight with people, and not all mountains are lonesome escapes. In fact, one of my favorite beaches is in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, which hosts about ten people in the thick of summer. Then again…well, it’s in the mountains.

As a kid, I always dreamed of owning a private tropical island in the middle of the ocean and living there completely alone. I know, I’m about a level 100 introvert. I dreamed of a single hammock, a heap of bananas, and a few animal friends to keep me company. Just me in the warm sun, surrounded by parrots and palm trees. As I grew up and fell in love I hesitantly expanded my dream island to a population of 2…maybe. After all, even Robinson Crusoe had a partner.

I don’t think it’s exclusively the place, but rather who gravitates to the place. A private island, sure, no one else can go to it except who I invite, when I invite them. It’s paradise! However, a beach is usually flooded with people who like to show off their gym bodies and set off fireworks after dark. They like to jump in freezing water and play volleyball with strangers before grilling hamburgers and hitting the souvenir shops, casinos and bars.

Disregarding the fact that many mountain tourist spots are exactly the same, they do tend to calm down the further from the freeway you go. Those little log cabins do exist, surrounded by hummingbirds and wild raspberries. The people who go there enjoy skiing and hiking, and don’t mind when it rains because they have a bunch of books to keep them company. They like campfires with a few close friends, they like stargazing without light pollution and getting up early to see the sunrise.

I guess it makes sense for extroverts to gravitate to the ocean and introverts to gravitate to the mountains. But I’ve always found the ocean to speak to me more. Especially after most people have left it…a September evening, walking the empty beach in jeans and a sweatshirt. The ocean is gray, soft, cold. Massive. It comforts you with its largeness, assures you that your worries are small and will pass like the tides. Touching the water is to be connected to the entire planet. The mountains let you hide, but the ocean reminds you that you don’t need to.

Grown Up (Short Fic Friday)

Welcome to the first Short Fic Friday! Every week I’ll be posting a new short fiction story, due to the great response to my A to Z Challenge. Enjoy it!

 

 

Alex knelt at the tide pool, her damp knees getting coated in sand. She waved at her toddler cousin.

“Look, Sammy,” she shouted to him, sinking the heel of her right hand into the loose mud. “I think there’s a crab, or something, under this rock. See?”

Sammy wobbled up behind her, holding a red, plastic shovel he refused to let go of. “Crab?”

“Yes, a crab. I think he went under there, do you see him?” She leaned over the tepid water at far as she dared. The pool was still but teeming with creatures she had a nervous fascination with. She pressed her other hand on a rock coated with barnacles. The crevice between rocks was dark, but the water was a crystal green. There was a slight shift in the sand.

“Crab? Crab?” Sammy repeated, trying to replicate how Alex was standing. He leaned his shovel against the barnacles.

“I think so. Let me try to catch it. Can I use your shovel?”

Sammy held it out to her, but just as she was going to take it he yanked it out of her grasp. She sighed, laughing.

“You got me. Fine, you want cousin Alex to get pinched, I’ll get pinched.”

Alex swallowed. She knew she wouldn’t likely get pinched, but if she did, what would she do? Her mom was way back by the towels, and Uncle Max, Sammy’s dad, was further down the beach at a different tide pool with his older daughter. Well, whatever. No going back now. She slipped her little hand between the boulders, feeling her way around the rough barnacles. She touched sand and recoiled, then went down again, feeling along toward where the crab had escaped.

Sammy sneezed, loud and adorable. Alex smiled but kept going, not looking back.

“Nose,” Sammy said, his voice muted.

“Yeah, you sneezed, buddy. Bless you.”

“Nose!” He patted her calf insistently. Alex looked under her arm at him.

His face was covered in huge boogers, gooey green and dangling past his mouth. He looked about to cry, his head hunched over so the snot didn’t touch his chin.

“Oh, Sammy,” Alex said, then a sharp pain shot down her arm from her ring finger. She screamed and fell backward out of the tide pool and onto the sand, grabbing at her hand. Sure enough, the little crab had got her. Luckily it let go quickly, but her finger was still red and throbbing. It hurt more than when she caught it in the car door last winter.

She sucked on her finger, salty and covered in sand. Sammy was crying now, scared by her scream and cranky because of his boogers. Alex fought back her own tears, smacking sticky sand off her back, legs, and bottom. She had to be the grown up now and help Sammy. No parents were around, fine. Alex was nine, now. She could do it.

“Okay, it’s okay,” she said. “Come on, Sammy.”

They walked to the ocean together, she sucking on her finger, he hunched over and whimpering. No matter what, she did not want to touch the boogers, but she didn’t have anything else but her bathing suit. She paused at the water’s edge, looking for a seashell or something to scoop his face clean.

Sammy cried at the sand, the booger long and swinging but still hanging on. He clutched his shovel.

Alex considered holding him above the water so just his face got wet to wash it away, but then thought better of it. She put her hands on her hips, her sore finger pressing hard.

“Sammy, I need your shovel.”

“No!” he howled, gripping it with two hands.

“You can still hold onto it after; I just need it to clean the boogies.”

“No!”

Alex groaned and dropped to her knees. She took a breath, looked away, and snatched the boogers off his face with the tips of her fingers and thumb. She dunked her hand in the water and shook it furiously, then did it again, pinching his nose perhaps a bit too hard and then shaking it off her with vigor, gagging.

“Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew,” she chanted through the whole ordeal. Finally, he was clean.

He sniffled a little. Alex stood up and sucked on her finger again.

“I’m never having kids,” she told the snotty ocean.

Sammy hugged her leg tight. “Thank you!” he said, and offered her his shovel.

Alex smiled. “You’re darn cute, though,” she said, and reached for the shovel. He giggled and yanked it out of her reach.