Making changes…learning how to relax a little

In the past, when I've gotten into a heated discussion with someone, I've often been told to "relax" (which incidentally, has the opposite effect..."don't tell me to relax") was earlier in my career and it's possible that I needed to. I end up caring about stuff too much and really did sweat the details (plus I cared too much about being right, but that's not what this blog post is about) . I'm much better about that at work now.

Where I still struggle with the true art of relaxing is at home. My friends laugh at me because every time they ask how my weekend was, my response includes a list of projects I completed. July 4th weekend involved painting my bedroom (olive green in case you were curious), planting about 15 new plants in my backyard borders, cleaning the car inside and out, and the regular routine that involves doo-doo patrol (sorry...if you have a better euphemism, let me know), lawn mowing, dusting, vacuuming, etc. I guess sometimes I wonder why people get all excited about the weekends but then I realize that I do this to myself. I find it very hard to relax when there's something that obviously needs to be done and it's not done yet. It drives me nuts. How can I sit and enjoy myself in the living room when is so obvious to me that there's dog hair on my floor!? How?

Anyway, this last weekend was an experiment. First, let me admit this: I did have a project. I cleaned out my closet (15 garbage bags of clothes went to Goodwill today), but that was fun (so I am sick). This made me realize that I really do have a lot of clothing and I do not need to do laundry every weekend (I know, I'm going crazy here). Then I thought to myself : "Self, what if you just enjoyed the weekend and didn't mow the lawn either?". So last weekend, I simply relaxed, had dinner with my dad and step mother, watched TV, read magazines. And it did not kill me. But something did feel a little off.

And today, I've definitely thought about firing up the lawn mower when I get home. So I wonder how much of how I am is just how I am and how much can I change. So I like to have control over my environment...can I do it without giving up a big chunk of my weekends? In the past, I've told people "I can't invent time". Actually, I think messier people can. The thing is they have messy cars and homes. I want it all (including the goose that lays the golden egg if you must know and I want it NOW!...hee!). I want the totally in-control life and fun weekends. Is it possible? Come on, I know it's not just me....there are a few of you out there like this.

PS: And at least give me credit for giving up my subscription to Martha Stewart Living. But if you ever want to feel like you don't do enough, that's the magazine for you  ; ) Because you are nobody unless you have deep fried your own turkey.


Comments (16)

  1. Sean says:

    Speaking of closets. . . I’ve just moved into a new place and have fallen in love with–actually I fell in love with California Closets, but they were too expensive. Anyway, being a DIY woman. . . you might like EC and the MAJOR organizing you’ll be able to do! Yes, I do like my shirts organized by color and length. . . so I guess that makes me a little sick too!

  2. Karan says:

    Here is the story of a sick person: Wife and husband lie in bed(this is clean..don’t worry). The husband gets up at night to visit the washroom. By the time he came back to the bedroom

    his wife made his bed. This is a real story! The wife was diagnosed with a behavioral disorder.

    This should not be confused with someone who is in love with orderliness & cleanliness 🙂

    Who wants to hang out with the dirty guy or girl anyway? Messy car? Ewwwwwwww.

  3. I hear you – I’m always at it, doing something. I’ve struggled with the "Relax" comment for many years. I’ve struggled with the notion of "thinking about nothing at all" (which is, by the way, a state of mind that I have never completely understood or experienced). But I’ve actually come to realize that doing certain chores helps me relax alot! Research (reading interesting material and relly diving into a subject that excites me) is one such activity. Excerise is another. Stuff that allows me to make my mind wonder – use my imagination. So I’ve found that while crashing on the sofa just raises my guilt level (because I’m wasting precious time) certain activities actually help me feel relaxed and at ease. Now I plan for such activities – a certain amount of time every day goes into something that helps me unwind. This works for me.


  4. Deep-frying a turkey doesn’t really take a lot of time or fuss! We did one a few weeks ago for my birthday and have done it for thanksgiving some years. It’s much quicker than roasting in the oven.

    People are fascinated by the process and like to watch (at least from a distance), and the turkey is moist and delicious from the injected marinade.

  5. ck147 says:

    Good note… I’d say you aren’t alone in your struggle here.. I have similiar issues (& I thought I was the lone freak) and it’s only compounded by having young kids… Constant battle with work, house/home work, kid’s time and just doing nothing… Like the person above, I find the manual labor of the home front almost relaxing (love to wash/wax my cars!!)… because I sit in an office 5 days a week and talk on conference calls & do eamil during the daily grind…

    Thanks for the prespective though… ((clothes, hmmmm….. I need to cleanout my closet next….))

  6. Brad says:

    Maybe this is just one of those "people are different" things.

    Some folks are fine relaxing and putting off things that need to be done, car washing and waxing, housecleaning, etc. Others are able to better relax once those items are completed.

    My fiancee and I have progressed to scheduling weekends where we consciously say, "OK, we’re not going to do a single thing all weekend long." We’ve actually managed to have 2 of them in the last couple years. One was bliss, the other not so much because we knew we had things that weren’t getting done.

    So don’t beat yourself up for wanting to go out and fire up the mower! 😉

  7. Jonathan says:

    This discussion has come up numerous times over the years between friends and I. I think the basic questions are "what is work?" and "what is leisure?" For some, it’s real work and NOT relaxing to do things like going camping, hiking or watersking, while for others these same activities cleanse their stress. Another factor in this discussion is our environment while growing up, since this will shape our idea of relaxation.

    As mentioned by the others, some need order to relax, while others can do so in the midst of seeming chaos. Is one group right and the other wrong? I don’t think so, rather we need to do what is relaxing to us, regardless of other’s opinions. (Sounding like a rant :-Z)

    Anyway, the idea of relaxation (whatever that looks like to us) is to renew ourselves and however one does that is okay. Therefore, Heather you do what relieves tension and renews yourself. Otherwise, you’re just creating more stress, which is the opposite of relaxing!

    Ahhhh, posting this was relaxing….thanks! 🙂

    ~ Jonathan

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Sean-I am definitely checking that out. Closet organization is a great rainy day project. Uh-oh, I feel a relapse coming on!

    Karan-I could say that is sick, but it sounds kinds normal too ; ) Being trapped in a messy car= my nightmare (and a date ender in general…so you single guys out there, clean out your cars!)

    Jonas-you and I are a lot alike. The not thinking about anything thing…I just can’t do it. So you probably would have a hard time with yoga too, right? By the way, now that you have posted here, I have someone to say that my dog is named after ; ) (he’s Jonas too and he’s fabulous, but he definitely knows how to relax)

    Anita-I knew someone would come on here and say they have fried a turkey! Cool! I hear it’s great. For me…too much of carrying heavy thigs, hoisting a turkey. I’d definitely be interested in it if someone else was in charge ; )

    ck147-good point. I find it relaxing but maybe a different kind of relaxing than relaxing or it’s just that I rarely get to nirvana (the state when your house is clean, lawn groomed, car washed and laundry done). All that has to happen for me to get to the other kind of true relaxation that involves an outdoor chair, a book and a glass of wine.

    Brad-smart of you to schedule it. It definitely takes some effort and you surely have to pick the right weekend for it.

    Jonathan…words to live by. The only thing for me is that it sometimes feels like I need to rush through the housework "relaxing" to get to the other kind. So I end the weekend feeling like I have hurried. I’ve definitely noticed that I have gotten more patient, which is what I think makes it relaxing. But I also feel the need to "get it done".

    Anyway, it’s good to know there are others out there and get words of wisdom on this topic. I think somehow that commisserating is making me feel better! By the way, I did mow the lawn last night but I mulched instead of bagged. Baby steps : )

  9. Jonathan says:

    In some ways I find it relaxing to read the variety of blogs that I subscribe too. It’s a source of communication and community that would otherwise be missing. Much like reading a book I find that blogging reduces the isolation that can happen.

    BTW, Heather, mulching is fast and can reuse the clipping’s as nutrients, etc. I’ve started doing it more often and my grass has taken off. The usual problem is that people wait to long and then mow their grass too short. According to my lawn care friend this leads to the need for bagging clippings, but more importantly increases the chances for diseases, etc.

    ~ JLC

  10. nate says:

    What kind of plants did you plant?

    How do plants and gardening in the Seattle area differ from Illinois?

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Autumn sage, eunonymous, spurge, Spanish lavender, Bottle Brush, Boxwood, Azalias, ferns. You know, I never gardened in Chicago…I was living amongst the concrete and brick. There are some plants here that are indigenous to our zone so you end up seeing them a lot (like lavender…anything that grows in France pretty much grows here, oddly enough, same lattitude and similar soil from what I understand). I guess I really didn’t have the awareness in Chicago. I suspect more evergreens here. More shade plants (I have a shady side of my yard and a sunny side so I get to investigate both kinds! Yay). I also have apple trees in my front yard so the fall is a frenzy of canning, making applesauce, etc.

    I think the main difference is just that we are a different climate zone from Chicago (7&8 if I recall correctly). Luckily, the nurseries figure that out for you so I just check all the tags before I plant for sun versus shade and from there it’s just trial and error. It’s scary that I am starting to have some “favorite plants”…I’m such a nerd! ; )

  12. Tim says:

    I can almost never relax in the house. I sit down, and there’s cat hair or a kid’s toy (Bop It Extreme) and when I go outside all I see are weeds.

    What I’ve been wondering, though (and anyone who has studied Zen Buddhism might back me up here) is why the heck the Zen masters are always telling you to focus when doing the dishes.

    No, kidding, I’ve heard it from quite a few of them.

    And every time I do the dishes I say, "What the hell are they talking about?"

    Weeding, though, weeding really close to the ground so I can’t see anything else in my yard. That seems to work.

    Heather and everyone else, we are not alone!

  13. Tony says:

    Finding the balance in life…

    You guys ain’t freaks at all, you just understand that it’s not an easy task to be able to truly relax when you are such a driven person. Indeed, there is ALWAYS something to do. But one first shift in perspective is to understand that "doing nothing" is in fact doing something. It’s a little like understanding that rest is not a break from the cycle of life, but rather a very important PART of the cycle.

    Let’s all relate to a very particular situation… I’m currently in the Courtyard Marriott in Bellevue, trying to relax before I jump into my Full-Time PM interview tomorrow morning… Now, I truly appreciate having the opportunity to fly from Québec and stay in a nice hotel, all free of charge and I definetly want to do my best tomorrow. But does that mean that I shouldn’t be reading Heather’s blog (hey wait, this blog really does help you prepare for MS interviews :o) ) or be taking a little swim at the pool and rather be reading "The Road Ahead" or "Code Complete" or "Debugging the Development Process" or…

    Let’s face it, I could spend all my time, and could have spent all the last weeks reading and preparing, without rest, for my interview…

    It’s all a question of balance. Now although this all looks simple, the interesting point is that: that balance is very different from person to person and even more… that person’s middle-point will evolve and move during her life.

    Ok, now let’s go enjoy the pool and the gym… 😀


    P.S.: Hé Heather, being so close and all, it’s kind of a personal challenge to not try to find your office and see the girl behind the blog 😀 I mean, I just have to see your new office right?


  14. Russ Moon says:

    There are always things to do and I am chastized by my friends as I sometimes whine about trying to clean my house while working/going to school full time. My answer is to rotate tasks. Study a couple hours,clean up the bathroom or kitchen AND here’s the illumination…then I allow myself to have a little fun time. Pick up my guitar and play Voodoo Chile without guilt, hop on the Nordic track for 30 minutes, read something recreational. Then go back and rotate through the regime again. Tasks are chipped away at and a little fun is thrown in there.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    TIm-I don;t have cats or kisds, but the weed thng kills me. I’m the exact same. In face weeding is on my weekend to-do list. I’ve never heard of the zen dishwashing thing. Maybe it’s fairly mindless so people zone out but that there’s something about the simple process, the warm water and the smell of lemony freshness that’s so relaxing that you should concentrate on it.

    Tony-knowing that you are interviewing today, I’m totally keeping my fingers crossed for you (ah, you probably won’t see this until after…dang!). Oh well, if you do see this today, I’m in building 100 and the receptionist can call me but don’t make a separate trip if it would stress out your interview day. Glad we have some sunshine for you!

    Russ-that rotation program sounds smart!

  16. Marienne Thampsen says:

    Nice note… You aren’t alone in your struggle.

    I have similiar issues… work, housework, kids time and I’m dead by the vening. I even forget to have a snack sometimes… And  I can’t  find the manual labor of the housework relaxing. This is like a nightmare for me.

    I usually try to relax walking a little in the evening… or if I’m really tired and feel like I’m going to die, I watch relaxation vids, like, or listen to the sound of nature on cd… Nature always makes me feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

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