I believe in the rule of three. When I hear something three times, I pay attention.
“Relax” said my friend, watching my analysis of the political happenings of the day, my voice speeding up as though to catch my waving arms. “Relax” said my instructor at my Tuesday night belly dance lesson as my mind battled with my body. “Relax” said my co-worker as I battled an imaginary opponent, explaining with agitation my missed deadline.
Am I really that uptight? Does my mere presence make others anxious? Am I the antithesis of easy going? I picture myself a positive person, but the evidence stacked up that I was bad for the blood pressure of those around me.
To reduce tension and increase ease, I keep my gas tank above a quarter full and complete my taxes before April Fool’s Day. I keep coffee at a cup or two most days and keep a bottle of lavender oil bedside for settling into sleep. I have the luxury of setting my own schedule, doing work I love, and budgeting for an occasional massage.
If I’m not relaxed under these conditions, what does that say about me?
With every admonition to relax, others alert me to my cares and my fears. Because I cared, I was afraid for our country, about failing as a student, about being a disappointment as a colleague. In the first month of a fresh start to this wonderful new year, I was scared.
My resistance to relaxing wasn’t helping. The brain can respond to a missed dance step with the same level of emotion as having broken a leg. When we are frightened, the mind has trouble distinguishing the true danger. I cared and I got scared.
Divorce is a time where so much of what matters most to us feels vulnerable. Our security, our future, our family. Relaxing doesn’t come naturally when you’re so scared it feels as though your survival is at stake. Assessing the underlying fears and the reality of the risk might help.
For me, the truth was that my country was not in complete collapse on the day of my rant, I was not going to be graded on my ability to do a figure eight with my hips, and I was not going to lose my job because I was out of the office for a day. If I took a breath to relax, I could listen rather than lecture, dance instead of deliberate, and collaborate with colleagues rather than keeping the focus on my fear of failure.
As part of my bedtime relaxation ritual, I’ve been reading The Book of Joy. In it, the Dalai Lama gifted me another relaxation reminder. “Relax means calm mind. Not too much agitation, which will destroy your relaxation.”
I take a deep breath. I reflect on the wisdom. Since my cares and scares are not likely to go away, I might as well not resist, and instead surrender to really relaxing.