A body in rest tends to stay in rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. As it is with science, so it goes with our socially-enforced belief that we must constantly be striving, moving, and doing. It’s easy to get caught up in the notion that we have to keep doing and achieving in order to realize our worth. We walk around following a similar goal-oriented routine most days of the week–which is not inherently bad. After all, there is grace in life’s seemingly smallest moments: washing the dishes, walking the dog. But in our day-to-day to-do lists, amidst our need to accomplish tasks, we can start to feel robotic. We can become addicted to going through the motions, thinking that being ambitious and productive is what make us happy.
I don’t travel much, but a vacation was in order this year. I could feel the need creep up on me after last winter’s arctic fuckery. I also felt the need to stop thinking so damn much. To stop letting myself be pulled in ten thousand different directions a day by my own thoughts. Last year felt emotionally loaded and draining in multiple ways, and I wanted 2015 to mark a change in how I lived in the world. I didn’t want to define myself by what I do but by how I feel, and how I make others feel when they are with me. I wanted a break from the pace of life; a way to force myself to slow down and find peace of mind. A beach vacation was in order.
It took me a few days to feel my thoughts slow down upon arrival, to begin to not only recognize but listen to my Slowed-Down self that usually has simple, comfort-oriented desires. Lay down, she says. Shut your eyes. There’s nothing you need to do. You do not need to get up. Being able to trust these crazy things she says is something I wrestle with most nights no matter where I am, but I finally obliged her and by day 2 of my vacation I found myself in a rare and pacified state: napping.
I don’t nap. I can’t nap. I never nap, unless I’m ill. I’m not Kelly Ripa or something, constantly doing dishes and having amazing arms and a million jobs and a bubbling friendship with Anderson Cooper. No, I spend a lot of downtime watching tv or reading. It’s just… I rarely spend time unwound and disconnected from my own thoughts. When I’m watching TV, I’m usually writing or on my phone or writing another goddamn to-do lists at the same time. Which is why I don’t nap.
Luckily, there are no to do lists on the beach. Just coconut drinks. Which are very nap-inducing.
When I float away from the need to keep thinking and doing and moving, I am myself; or at least the part of myself that doesn’t need to justify anything to the outside world. Damn I like her. Have you met Slowed-Down You in a while? Society may say she’s lazy, but I think she’s kind of the best. You don’t need to go anywhere to reacquaint yourself with her. (But sometimes a margarita helps.) Just ask yourself what you feel like doing, and then do it. I don’t care if it’s irrational or loaded with calories or “unproductive.” It’s probably lots of fun.
When I breathe slow enough to listen to my Slowed Down Self, between the pull of the ocean waves, she reminds me that naps are good. That candy for breakfast is sometimes acceptable and always enjoyable. That play is sacred. That happiness comes from inside. That there is within each of us infinite love for the universe and its creations. That you’ll never see the same sunset twice. That the waves keep coming, one after another, like the steady stream of your breath. And all you have to do is enjoy them.