A Lost Art

"I can relax really well here," my husband says, propping his feet on the ottoman and settling comfortably into the chair.  We're sitting on the lanai at our home in Florida, watching the sun set behind the pond across the road.  His bottle of Yuengling beer sits comfortably next to my glass of Clos du Bois chardonnay, each one ever so slightly beaded with sweat. I forbear from making any remarks about his ability to relax at home (which appears legendary to me), because I know what he's talking about.  I can relax really well here, too.  

Perhaps it's this community we live in, a gated community, but one very expansive in style and scope, with lots of open spaces, wonderful walkways marked with arched bridges over ponds of every size, plenty of wildlife (herons, osprey, ducks, and even an occasional 'gator).   Perhaps it's the size of the house itself, larger by far than our aging little bungalow at home, bright and open and shiny new.  It could be the nearness of our son, who lives just down the road thereby eliminating that ever present sense of impending danger felt by parents who are thousands of miles away from their children.

Whatever the reason, I don't feel the relentless push to get things done that drives me when I'm home.  I'm able to slow down without feeling guilty, sit quietly on the lanai or in the den and read halfway through a novel at one sitting rather than snatching a quick chapter here and there.  I'll watch an entire two hour movie from start to finish, or wander around the neighborhood slowly, taking note of tropical plants and flowers I never see in the mid-west. 

So, yes I can relax quite nicely here.

Relaxing is something of a lost art in our Western culture.   We hear a lot about "relaxation techniques" - yoga, meditation, biofeedback - all sorts of externally induced ways to relieve the stress which seems endemic to modern life.  Now there are even "relaxation drinks" (the opposite of beverages like Red Bull), with names like iChill and Mary Jane's Relaxing soda, cocktails containing herbs like valerian root and rose hips, which promise to smooth away the anxieties of the day and help you ease into a state of relaxation.

But true relaxation can't be bottled or packaged, can't be massaged  into tense muscles or beamed into frayed nerve endings.  It's really a very personal state of mind and spirit.  For me, the key ingredient is time...having time stretched before me without a long list of obligations attached to every second.  My time at home is fraught with those kinds of lists, and they seem to grow exponentially in my head.  Here, not so much...so I allow myself the luxury of taking time, of worrying less about what I'm accomplishing and just being.

It's an art I should practice more often, I think.  And probably you should, too.

How about you?  What does it take for you to really relax?