When I Want to Relax

Some people go on vacation to “get away from work.” Or to experience some new and exciting place. Maybe they want to have once-in-a-lifetime adventures. While I might want a little of those things, sometimes I want to do nothing…and relax.

Relaxation takes many different forms depending on the person.

There are some people who run five miles to relax. Others want to chiropractor to adjust their joints and then they’ll suck down a gallon of water and hang out in a hammock.
In fact, I find many things can be relaxing. For example, I might relax while: getting a pedicure, getting a facial, having a massage, sitting by the pool, reading a book, walking on the beach (or pier or a trail) and even riding horseback. But do I have to do any of those things in order to relax?
Let me phrase this another way: can I kick my stress to the curb without doing anything special?
Like so many other things in life, de-stressing (isn’t that the essence of relaxation?) is all about mind over matter.

My Mind

As a creative person, my mind is a hive of activity. There are many memes I’ve seen that illustrate this fact, but this is my favorite one:

Because most of the time, if I appear to be staring into space, I’m likely in an alternate universe. One I’m creating and populating with people I’ve dreamed up to face all sorts of situations I’ll never face.

Often my eyes will be closed but my mind will be spinning at a million electric charges per nanosecond. Yep, this old brain is one speedy computer.
Which means it rarely shuts down.
Many authors will tell you they’ve vividly dreamed many of their best stories. They wake up and try to regurgitate the brilliance onto a page before it dissipates with the morning mists.

Yes, even when I’m asleep, mental gymnastics continue.

So how can I ever relax? Where’s the shut-off switch for this thing?
Can I truly rid myself of stress if my thoughts continually roller coaster?
Mind over matter, my friend.
For me, it’s all about WHAT I’m thinking about that determines the quality of my anxiety.

It Doesn’t Matter

In order to dump my stress, I have to actively convince myself that the things hammering away in my brain like an overzealous woodpecker, aren’t important enough to think about. AT THIS MOMENT.
In effect, I convince my mind to reschedule contemplating the stressful items to a later date. Say, Thursday morning…when I’m vacuuming the house.
My query packet for my women’s fiction isn’t ready to submit on June 1. It doesn’t matter. You can think about it May 30th.
Are those sample pages from my nonfiction book enough to convince those agents to request all three chapters? Will they contract me to write the book? Am I ready to delve into the depths of my grief to pen those pages? It doesn’t matter today. I’ll find out in August.
How about creating something new? Maybe just a short piece that you don’t intend to publish? Or the opening scene for the short story you imagined during your girls’ weekend last month.
The cats could be tearing apart the house while I’m staring at the misty horizon at the western edge of the earth.
Look at the shades of blue in the Pacific Ocean and the sky stretching above it. Feel the pounding of the waves against my tattered soul.
The projects and deadlines and considerations for my author world will still be waiting in my office when I get home from this short retreat to the Oregon Coast.

Today, those things don’t matter.

What matters is the taste of the salty breeze, the scattering of seagulls in the surf and the sting of sand blown against my bare calves.
That’s the way I use my mind to subdue the thoughts that would infuse stress into a day meant for relaxation.
Does mind over matter work for you? What is your picture of true relaxation?

Two hours makes a difference in a morning run

AM Walk 7182013 017

Summer wanes. One sure sign is the later appearance of the sun each morning.

One of the things I enjoy about summer is the early morning runs. I’ll be outside at 6am, inhaling the sweet peace of a slumbering world.

Unless I want to blunder around in the dark, which defeats half the enjoyment, it is a 7am run come October. Some mornings, when things are especially lazy, I might not make it outside until 8am.

What a difference in the world that awaits me. Two hours and most of the peacefulness is overtaken by wakefulness. So little time yielding so many changes.

What I love about early morning

I’ve been asked many times, “What do you listen to when you’re writing? Or what’s your favorite thing to listen to?” My answer: the sound of silence.

AM Walk 7182013 008At 6am on a July morning, that is the prevailing voice on the wind: silence. It underscores the hum of traffic on the highway, twittering of birds in the trees and occasional barking of a dog.

In my mind, this silence is a major part of the peacefulness of my surroundings.

Watching the sun peek its head over Mount Hood and the Columbia River has an enormous appeal, as well. Summer sun seems to rise and set slowly.

A freshness permeates the air. Not many automobiles have sputtered their caustic fumes. Any wind refreshes the wandering soul.

It’s not that I don’t like people, but they tend to make so much noise. Did I mention that my favorite sound is silence? At 6am, not many people are out and about on the streets and walking path of my town.

How an 8am run is different

The first thing I noticed during an autumn run is the chill breeze. Not so much refreshing as invigorating. Can’t really complain about that.

Traffic noise is tripled. Vehicles zoom past on the highway. Even two streets and a tree break can’t dampen them.

Where there are automobiles, there is stench. Those carbon monoxide emissions appeal to some people (isn’t that why they run their car in a closed garage?) Me? I’d choose naturally scented air, thank you very much.

Because it isn’t unscented. You can smell the blackberries, flowers and fruit when the potent fumes aren’t overpowering everything. Nature’s fragrance.

I have to be watchful for cars backing out of driveways as I run past. They aren’t expecting me, so I must be vigilant of my surroundings. During the 8am run inspiring this post – only three vehicles tried to run me down. I gladly yielded the throughway to them.

Another thing never encountered on the 6am run: a county work crew. On the 8am run, the van from the corrections department drove down my running path like it was a highway. I’m sure the park along the trail will be better for the attention, but dodging trucks on a path not intended for motorized vehicles didn’t improve my outing.

Certain bits of wisdom come to you during an early morning run.

For example, a flatbed truck delivered shingles and other roofing material to a house as I jogged by. I marvel at the conveyer belt transporting the unwieldy stacks onto the roof (I remember my dad carrying them up a ladder on his shoulder).

The wisdom: I want to be the guy at the bottom of the conveyor. He gets to set the pace. The guy on the roof, aided by the gentle slope beneath his feet, must keep up or be swallowed by the influx of materials.

In my town, there aren’t very many morning people. Regardless of the time, I never pass more than four or five individuals. I’m grateful for this because it means I’m not required to share my morning peace with anyone else.

What sorts of things have you noticed are quite different depending on the time of day? Do my readers who live in larger cities find the same sort of emptiness on early morning streets?