Clenching the steering wheel, I muttered while the tractor in front of me slowly puttered. A quick glance at the clock on my dash confirmed my fear – I was going to be late for my relaxing getaway at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort.
The muscles in my neck tightened, my jaw clenched – the masseuse would have her work cut out for her.
I’d hoarded the spa gift certificate and overnight stay coupon for a rainy day, and on a sunny October Friday that day arrived.
The previous Sunday our pastor had preached a sermon on rest – a reminder that God created both work AND rest, but sometimes we aren’t very good at the latter.
That would be me. I squirmed in the pew as I thought of all the times I’d said yes to work projects with deadlines that cut into quiet time.
As a wife and mother, I try to ensure my family gets the focus and attention they need from me, but I’m not nearly as vigilant about carving out time for myself. And honestly, I like to be busy. Too much down time makes me nervous. Busy means I’m accomplishing – achieving – isn’t that the American ideal?
On that fateful Sunday, I’d just wrapped up an extensive project for a national magazine and hoped to take some time off. But Monday a new client beckoned with intriguing assignments and a lucrative contract. I’ll take a break next month, I thought, looking at my full calendar. Maybe even a week off.
Then I checked the expiration date on my gift certificates. Suddenly, relaxation had a deadline! I couldn’t let these thoughtful gifts go to waste. So, with that Sunday sermon ringing in my ears, and with my family’s encouragement I took a Friday off, planning to enjoy a drive to the CdA Casino, loosen up with a soothing massage, have dinner with a girlfriend and truly unwind with an overnight stay.
The problem with that scenario began with an email. Foolishly, I checked my messages before loading my overnight bag into the car. One simple query ate into my morning and my “day off” dwindled to an afternoon off.
Still, when I got behind the wheel the sun was shining and I had wonderful things to look forward to – those things did NOT include a traffic jam led by a meandering tractor.
By the time the fellow pulled off to the side of the road, a long line of casino-bound cars snaked behind him. And then I missed my turn. When I finally arrived I had five minutes to make it to my massage.
I schlepped by bag to the front desk, only to find the one group in front of me had questions – lots of questions about rooms, about restaurants – you name it, they asked.
I fidgeted. I fumed. I fussed. When I finally reached the check-in desk I asked the helpful staffer to notify the spa that I was running late.
After tossing my bag on the bed, I rushed down to the spa, where they kindly called the restaurant and moved my dinner reservations back. When I was finally ensconced in a plush robe I texted my friend, informing her of my tardiness.
Who knew relaxation could be so stressful?
It turns out I’m not alone in my struggle with carving out respite time. How else to explain that today – the one day the year Americans set aside to contemplate our blessings, has now been infiltrated by businesses and consumers angling to get a jumpstart on Black Friday sales?
Glossy ads beckon us to give thanks by driving to malls and opening our wallets.
Perhaps shopping equals R&R for some, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that consumerism trumps time off.
Today, my brother and sister-in-law are hosting Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve baked two apple pies and a have green bean casserole ready to pop in the oven. Amid the bustle of family, food and football, I plan to relish the slower pace of this national holiday.
It may be at the table or it may be when the house has emptied – but sometime today I’m going to take a deep breath and not think about what comes next. I’m going to intentionally put deadlines, dessert and dirty dishes from my mind and relax, savoring the feast and the fellowship.
Work can wait. So can shopping. For once I’m going to excel at rest.
This column first appeared in the Spokesman Review, November 28, 2013