Monday, November 27, 2006

Just Trying to Relax…

To suggest that I suffer from some slight degree of stress would be a gross overstatement of what stress actually is. On any given day, my life is about as taxing as a three-toed sloth in the zoo just after supper; granted, I have projects due, clients to satisfy and I am always a striving for more, always more, but thanks to a healthy sense of procrastination, the anxiety over getting my work done is spent during the smallest amount of time possible. Since school, I have always done my best work under pressure, and that philosophy, whether you agree with it or not, has given me an untold number of those creative sparks that bolt through my veins at three in the morning when a 10,000-word article on the climate of the Russian mafia is due in four hours (not that that’s ever happened… or so the mob told me to say).

I do have more time on my hands than most people my age, which is why I go to the movies by myself or that I don’t mind to sit in a restaurant alone (funny as it seems, I’ve signed on to do a monthly food critic column for this website, so I guess I’ll be eating alone quite frequently). I do have an inner script of introspective dialogues and pensive thoughts that keep me mostly busy, and since I don’t have anyone else to spend it with on a whim, I make do with solitude. Though sometimes it is nice to not have to rely on anyone, relaxing to be the guardian of my own fate for the day—if I want to take the long way home, I’ll take the long way home—but other times it’s just lonely.

Roughly two weeks ago, I started taking nice scalding hot baths in the evenings, after the kids were in bed—don’t judge me, it’s mostly medicinal, and it's not like I use candles and bubbles, just water—but I have found it to be a disappointing source of relaxation. I just float in there for about 45 minutes reading the book of the week (see sidebar to the right), and most times I've visited by the kids, Natalie who finds it tremendously amusing that daddy's taking a bath and Matthew who tries his darnest to climb up the smooth tiles of the tub to plop in. So, it's not like I get a lot of the alone time you might be thinking, though Kara does her best to corral away the curiosity of the masses. After that, it is relaxing for the most part, but I can rarely rely on my plumbing to hold up its end of the bargain. Some days, I can barely dip a toe into the clear molten lava that is spewing from the faucet and other days I have the knob cranked over to “surface of the sun” and I’m festering in room-temperature liquids just hot enough to invigorate the scores of bacteria and microbials breeding around me. Like laying in the rain.

If that wasn’t enough, I looked to the ancient oriental art of origami to sooth my soul, not really like it needed soothing, perhaps a variety of activities is all. A couple of years ago—I don’t know when really—I bought this book, thinking it would be fun to make my money do something other than fly away from me as soon as I get two bills rubbed together. The other night, I happened upon it again and remembered that soon after I bought it I came across a perfectly brand new dollar bill that I placed between its pages to save until I decided to begin my training to become an origami master.

I have heard people profess that origami is soothing, like becoming one with the paper, nature and a hightened sense of self-awareness, that it relaxes your mind while you create simple things of beauty and creativity from small scraps of paper. Yeah right. The first one I tried, a simple 15-step sea lion on Page 14 (in the beginner section) was a study in impossibility, a myth that origami sooths anything.

But I tried.

Take a deep refreshing breath of air, clear your mind of everything except for the visualization of a sea lion basking in the summer sun on a rock with the waves crashing all around him, light din of a fog horn in the distance... perhaps a seagull or two in the air. Begin to fold the paper, follow the directions, fold the paper, breath, fold, follow... fumble, stare confused at the wall for several minutes, wondering why do the directions tell you to fold to the left when the head is clearly facing to the right, and what the hell does an "inside reverse fold" mean? All the while, that pain in the base of your neck resurfaces, a twitch develops in your eye and you feel your back teeth begin to grind together and you're hoping and wishing your stupid sea lion would look parially like the one in the final picture. Smooth it back out and flat and start to look for a vending machine.

All it did for me, for three solid hours of torture, was dwell up hatred for paper, disdain for sagacious Asian men in temples on tall mountains dispensing wisdom to those that trek to seek it, and above all give me stress. Get that. What does that say about me? A relatively stress-free individual piling up trauma, tension and anxiety over 15 simple folds of a dollar bill.

For all of my efforts I could not become one with the paper, I didn't see nature in my creation and if I wanted to become more self-aware, I'd stick to bathing with an audience, thank you very much.

Perhaps origami isn’t for me. I think I'll bury the book like Jumanji in the backyard for some other hapless soul to struggle with, and I'll give dust spotting a try. It's like star gazing only you follow little specks of dust as they float around the room, the only thing to think about is blinking and there isn’t a whole lot of movement involved (provided you do it in calm weather).

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