…we have no time to stop and stare

Woman’s Hour is talking this morning about how difficult some people find just stopping and staring, enjoying real leisure time.  Many people now on their day offs just can’t relax, watch the world go by, or read a book. Owning a Blackberry, iPhone or whatever means that even in downtime we are checking emails. Is it worse for women than men? Can men go off to the football match or play a game of golf without worrying about whether the ironing has been done, or the dishes washed? Or is it just all of this generation now who can’t really relax?

I can relate to that. Day off and holidays can be a nightmare for me. The first thing I do every morning is put on my computer and check emails. I try not to answer the work ones but sometimes I just know that if I don’t I will lose track of them. This comes of having a rapidly declining memory.  And after that I know I should just go and sit down with a book but by the time I’ve read the blogs, checked out Facebook and Twitter (all of which I can do in 30 mins or less on a work day) and decided what housework really needs to be attended to, it is the afternoon and the day is almost over.

Holidays are even worse especially when you can’t afford to go off to exotic places, or even not-so-exotic places.  There may be a pile of un-read books waiting (and I mean a pile) but it takes about 5 days for me to get rid of all the stuff in my head before I can even begin to give them justice. I do plan to visit art galleries and go to the cinema but sometimes you are just too tired to motivate yourself into getting ready to go out.

So my plan is to take some lessons from Lucy Pussy. She seems to find a perfect balance between work and play.

Relaxation? I think not.

At Christmas Son #1 gave me a voucher to spend at the Floatarium. For those of you not familiar with the Floatarium, you can go and lie in a bath with a lid and … well, float.  My guess is that they also play whale music.  To tell you the truth, and please don’t tell him, I didn’t really fancy lying in someone else’s water in the dark contemplating… well, what are you meant to contemplate? Your birth? Your death by drowning? Nah, not for me. But joyfully they had a list of other ‘therapies’ you could try, like: Hopi Ear Candles, Reflexology, Slavic Massage, Reiki, Hot Stone Massage, and a list of Microdermabrasian techniques.  Whilst they all sounded tempting (!) I opted for the Indian Head Massage which I figured didn’t involve taking my clothes off. There is only so much white flesh that a stranger should see in the middle of winter.

A few years ago, in a parish far, far away, one of my little flock gave me the gift of an Indian Head Massage in my own home. It was lovely but I do remember it being rather firm at times. I remember thinking that if this continues I’m going to have to tell her I really hurt. OK, next time I’m going to tell her it hurts. (I wasn’t terribly assertive in those days.) But, all in all it was a pleasant experience. A bit like going to the hairdressers and getting a head massage while your hair is washed but without the water. And who doesn’t like that?

My lovely masseur yesterday asked if I wanted a light, medium or heavy touch. As it was for relaxation I said light to medium, and that I’d had heavy once before and wasn’t too keen. Perhaps I didn’t stress that strongly enough. Or perhaps she was just having fun. But I digress… After enquiring if I had epilepsy or any head or neck injuries (not then I didn’t) she told me to take my top half of clothes off and lie under the lovely fluffy towels. Take my clothes off? What happened to the Head bit?

And off we set, with tinkling piano ambient music in the background and a litre of oil.  It made me think of nard and that in turn made me think of a bunch of Englishmen laughing at the way we Scots pronounce narrrrrd. No, no, Ruth, back to the task in hand, think of the present moment and relax. Shoulders first – this is not the head, I thought – and back of neck, then down the arms – this is not the head either. Back to that wee knot that lives at in the back of your neck and some really rather firm pressure. Really firm. So firm, in fact, that it made me tense. OK, next time I’m going to tell her that’s too hard.  But you know the pain got so bad that I think I worked myself through it. Never quite reaching the euphoria stage though. Really, apart from pressing a few points on the front of my skull and a quick rustle through my ‘do’ it was mostly focussed on my neck. That’ll be the neck that I can barely move this morning and which I swear feels black and blue. Jings! I wonder what the firm one is like.

I also learned that I’m a little uneasy when a stranger has her hands around my neck. And judging by the amount of pressure this woman could inflict with two fingers, I reckon she could have finished me off in no time.

I spent the rest of the money on the voucher on relaxing bath oil. To undo the pain that she had inflicted. Oh well.

So I have learned that Indian Head Massage is not for me. Next time it is going to be a Manicure and a nice French Polish.  Oh, and I walked out of there with the biggest, oiliest ‘do’ that you’ve ever seen.  And having my eyebrows waxed a few hours later felt like a tickle in comparison.

Relaxation Exercise

Try this little exercise in relaxation – it works!

Picture yourself near a stream.
Birds are chirping in the crisp, cool mountain air.
Nothing can bother you here.
No one knows this secret place.
You are in total seclusion from that place called ‘the world’.
The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
The water is clear.
You can easily make out the face of the person whose head you’re holding under water.

There now, feeling better?