A CONUNDRUM: HOW TO RELAX – Re-Post

(NOTE: This post is actually a re-post from my personal blog, but the text actually originated here in January 2013.  I have re-posted this text here because I feel it needs to be here.)

This is my first post in 2013, and it’s a doozy. I couldn’t sleep tonight because I find myself in a interesting conundrum: the idea of relaxation, how to relax, and stress.

How does one relax? I’ve found it odd that I have never been able to relax around others. My problem stems from the perception of relaxation.

When I was a child, I had a lot of pressure on me to succeed and I wanted to relax. I could only do it when I was alone. If I was seen doing what I thought was relaxing (i.e., sleeping, reading, playing video games, etc.), I was called “lazy” and that I should go relax outside. Going outside meant that I had to go do stuff–stuff that I already hate to do over the course of a busy week.
When I was with others and I was supposed to relax, I had to do all this stuff I was supposed to already know from…somewhere…and that was supposed to be relaxing. If I could not do that, there would be a problem: questions why, peer pressure to conform, etc. Oddly enough the solution to the first problem (answers to questions why) can elicit a negative response. Now a new problem comes up: how to relax outside of other people (‘cuz you’re not gonna stick around people you can’t talk to). The easy answer is to be alone, but how should one relax when alone? Another easy answer; whatever you feel like. This leads to the interesting conundrum at the start of this post and how it relates to the contemporary ideal form of relaxation.

If you find yourself in a group of people and begin to make small talk, the question comes up, “So, what do you do to relax?” or some permutation. To tell people what you do to relax supposedly says a lot about a person–and that’s not a fair assessment. Our world spends a ridiculous amount of money and time on crafting the ideal form of relaxation, from concerts (be they loud, bass-filled Spring Breaks or quiet opera nights) to vacations (preferably to picturesque lands or designed and designated travel destinations), even down to the desired physical effects of the trip (tan lines, souvenirs, photos, etc.). Yet no one ever asks what people want to do to relax. There are offers on what to do on the trip, and more often that not they’re telling folks what to do and how to do it. For argument’s sake, let’s say these instructions are for the safety of the vacationer. Now comes the hard part: when you want to relax, you have a great deal of societal norms to follow, even in situations where the behavior is frowned upon (i.e., doing drugs).

So back to the idea of what people think about you when you answer the questions on how you relax. Imagine someone making all kinds of assumptions and extrapolations based on the idea that you went to Paris on vacation this year. They could assume the following in a positive light, by virtue of your destination:

  • you speak French
  • you have money to travel across the Atlantic
  • you have connections in Europe
  • you are important

Oddly enough, some would say the same of drug kingpins, computer hackers, and terrorists. These assumptions listed by bullets above are but a few that make many people who take vacations in the BO-RING lower 48 to think they must somehow get to these artificially elevated places. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I want everyone who reads this to evaluate how you relax and why you relax the way you do. Is it because you want to relax this way or because someone told you this is the way you are to relax or should relax? Have your ideas on relaxation been shaped by outside influences (TV, internet, etc.) or are they internally formulated? It’s a bit deep to think about relaxation, and you wanna say to what you’re reading now, “Dude, just chill out and relax” but get this: I have heard the word “relax” so much in my life without support on what people who tell me that want to see or hear or know in reference to that word, that every time I hear it I tense up and I CANNOT RELAX.

It’s so weird, but it happens every time. Same thing happens when people ask me to “loosen up” or “be more flexible”. Usually when I am asked this from people I know or have met, I find this precedes a change in attitude: one minute it’s “loosen up” and the next it’s “get serious”. I know there’s a time and place for all these things, but sometimes things just ain’t funny. And sometimes they’re hilarious. I’m not some sort of sociopath, but I swear this kind of activity is driving me insane–and you’d go insane too if someone was playing yo-yo with their scale of seriousness every other week. So I lock up and cannot relax. In my experiences, there’s just too much expectations on what is and isn’t relaxing or relaxation.

I need to find a way to relax with people, or I’m going to be locking a lot of doors behind me. Does anyone have any suggestions that does not involve illicit or illegal drugs? I’d like to hear from you; please reply in the comment box below.

TL;DR: How can one relax around people without being self-conscious and getting fucked up first?

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