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What is the Point to Relaxing?

We went to the beach last week for a few days.  I brought along a bunch of books, and I ended up reading two — one which was pretty awful and I won’t name it out of politeness and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which is a comfort read (one of those books I read over and over again just because it makes me happy).  We found a new playground on the island.  We took ice cream to-go each night so we could eat it while watching Doctor Who in our hotel room.  We ran around on the beach during sunset.  We biked through the nature reserve.

And somewhere along the way, I felt my body truly and fully relax.


Waves in the evening


Sunset on the bay beach


Pretty flowers on the nature reserve


Like this photo?  I got eaten alive by mosquitoes taking it.


Flocks of birds which likely have names but I’m not sure what they are


A herd of wild horse during sunset

I felt everything internally unknot.  My body melted onto the sand, oozing like ice cream in the sun.  I stopped hating everyone and everything.  I stopped worrying about next week and the week after and the week after that.  I stopped eating Tums.  Actually, I’m lying.  I still ate Tums.  But I took deep breaths and felt the air reach the dark recesses of my lungs.

At some point, during our last few hours on the beach, I started to feel melancholy about the whole thing.  What was the point in relaxing like this if I couldn’t hold onto it?  I’ve done this enough times to know that the moment we crossed back over the Bay Bridge, all the same feelings would return, climbing inside the car like hitchhikers.

And they did.

In some ways, they feel heavier because my body got used to being unburdened by them for a few days.  In some ways, they feel lighter because I know I can find a space sometimes to set them down.


1 TasIVFer { 08.24.14 at 7:56 am }

But at least you relaxed for those moments. . .

I look at these photos and am shocked again to remember you live in the places of my early childhood, a place very distant in time and place.

2 April { 08.24.14 at 8:12 am }

Everyone needs that kind of down time. We all need that relaxation where we aren’t carrying all of our burdens and we just are. Even if we know it is all waiting for us when we return to reality.

3 A. { 08.24.14 at 8:43 am }

Really? I always feel like a relaxing vacation builds back my reserves. Yeah, life is still stressful when I return to it, but I feel more equipped to handle it without so much internal melodrama. Then I get depleted again and need another vacation!

4 a { 08.24.14 at 8:58 am }

Well, we can’t ALWAYS be on vacation (not all of us, anyway) . So, even a few minutes of letting all the cares go away is restorative. When I had whiplash and went to physical therapy, the therapist told me that the muscles just needed to learn how to relax again, properly. Sometimes they need encouragement and retraining. So, for me, vacations can be like that kind of therapy for the brain.

Alternatively, since you work from home, you could move to the beach permanently. 🙂 Josh could open an ice cream store.

5 nicoleandmaggie { 08.24.14 at 10:21 am }

I don’t do well with vacations, so I don’t know the answer!

6 Cindy { 08.24.14 at 12:40 pm }

Reminds me of growing up in Maryland. We would go to O.C. and one summer spent it at Assateague Island in a camper. No electricity, cold showers outside in a bathing suit, days spent on the beach, sunburn, roughing it, crabbing, digging for clams, nights on the boardwalk in Ocean City, basically living of the land. And looking back, it was one of the best summers of my life! I would always feel so sad when it was time to go home.

7 Serenity { 08.24.14 at 12:52 pm }

I had that same feeling the last day at the lake, but for me, it was more a centered kind of calm; a feeling of quietness even though I knew when we got home it would be tasks and busy and caffeine and insomnia and buzz buzz buzz.

I also couldn’t hold onto that calm center either, and I spent an hour talking about it in my therapy session last week. There HAS to be a way to let the world and to do lists and responsibilities swirl around me and still find that calm inside me in moments here and there: I just haven’t found it yet. When I do, I promise I will share.


8 Serenity { 08.24.14 at 1:07 pm }

(Also: thank you so much for the inspiration. Just wrote a post about the last day of vacation. xoxo)

9 emma { 08.24.14 at 2:27 pm }

Vacation has a whole new meaning to me now that I’m a parent. I have a hard time relaxing when I have to take care of children too.

Like Serenity, I am also trying to find out how to find the calm!

10 Cristy { 08.24.14 at 2:56 pm }

I think Serenity’s point gets at your poit for this post. Yes, we all need a vacation to reset. But I get where you’re coming from about how shouldering all the weight of the world afterwards can be so draining. I struggle with it too. For me, it’s a sign that it’s time for a change and I’ve slowly (hermit crab speed), been working towards transitioning.

Hope the photos help bring you back to a sense of serenity.

11 Queenie { 08.24.14 at 6:28 pm }

I second A–you should move to the beach! But then, you probably would just never relax at all. I totally get how you feel. I try to think of those moments of relaxation as snapshots that I can pull out in really rough moments. There is a place we go to sometimes at home, where we bring our kayaks. It’s one of my most relaxing places ever: in my happy memory snapshot, it’s early morning, just after dawn, with water like glass, the sun just rising, and I am pushing my kayak off from the shore, hopping in it, sitting there with my paddle across my lap, drifting away from the shore. . .those first moments as I sit, suspended in my kayak upon the water are so magical and so peaceful. I pull that memory out when I have to do something super stressful, and it always helps to focus and calm me. 🙂

12 Mali { 08.24.14 at 7:14 pm }

The point of relaxing is that for a moment or a few minutes or a few hours you let your body and mind relax. It’s good for both.

I certainly know that feeling of melancholy as a holiday (vacation) is coming to an end. But I never, not for one minute, feel that there is no point to relaxing. It is its own gift. And I hope you can hold on to the memory of how it felt, and maybe feel it consciously at points during your day.

13 Mali { 08.24.14 at 9:05 pm }

PS. Thanks for the photos. (And for risking the mosquitoes to bring them to us.)

14 Laurel Regan { 08.25.14 at 11:21 am }

Gorgeous photos. I’m glad you had time to truly relax, even if it was just for a short time.

15 Amel { 08.26.14 at 4:56 am }

I always think of a holiday/vacation as a break. When I got so many days of work in a row, I desperately needed some down time, even when I knew that work would come again in a few days, but those few days recharged me. The same goes for personal issues or the need for space from people in general. I don’t want to get burnout. I don’t want to get overheated like a machine and then explode, because without breaks like these, I can explode and it’s not going to be nice for the victims surrounding me at that time of explosion.

Lovely photos, thanks for sharing. They make me feel calm and relaxed.

16 Amel { 08.26.14 at 4:57 am }

Oh, and I think maybe sometimes this kind of break can give us a fresh perspective of the things we’re struggling with. Some distance from it all.

17 Mommy-At-Last { 08.26.14 at 6:41 am }

Okay you have inspired me to plan a holiday. I need to breathe deep into my lungs.

Just imagine how tightly we would be wound if we didn’t unwind a little sometimes.

18 Bronwyn { 08.27.14 at 12:11 pm }

Totally worth it, just to let your adrenal glands get back to normal size and function. The fact that you’re now on your way to burning them out again is not the point.

19 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.27.14 at 3:57 pm }

Your pix made me relax, too. Until I got to the word “mosquitos.”

I’m experiencing an unburdened time now, too. And having the same struggle you had.

20 Turia { 09.02.14 at 2:16 pm }

I am only reading this post now because last week we were at a cottage, and I had the exact same experience- completely relaxed (my jaw stopped aching because I wasn’t clenching it anymore) and then as soon as we hit the big highway back into the big city I could feel all the cares and anxiety and anger and worry piling back on. But when I get stressed now, I have the memory to look back on. Still not helping me cope with it in the here-and-now, but reminding me that there is more to life than that particularly worry.

21 Turia { 09.02.14 at 2:17 pm }

particular. Gah for hitting submit accidentally.

I do wish I could be better in my ‘real’ life. I don’t think it’s healthy to only relax once a year!

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