The Joy of Forced Relaxation

My mother used to tell me that, for several years, when I got home from school, I headed straight for the couch and took a nap.  And recently, one of my relatives who is retired told me that he had the perfect daily routine: he woke up, had breakfast, read, listened to the radio or podcasts on his computer, then took his bike out for a 20 mile ride, came home, drank two glasses of wine and took a nap.  Then he ate a meal, wrote in his journal, maybe worked in the yard.  I cannot tell you what I would give for this life.  So I’ve been sick for about a week now and aside from the sick part, (and believe me, if I were sick from something really bad, this would be a radically different post) it’s actually quite lovely, because you see many things that you don’t get to see when you’re out in the world.

For example: the sunlight moving across the bed, the ways the wind moves the remaining leaves on the oak tree that my father thinks we should cut down because it would give us a better view of the golf course (over our dead bodies), and that clear, clear light that snow creates.  You get to hear some birds too, and I notice that the blue jays seem quite active. 

My “real” life seems increasingly irrelevant when there are such wonders to witness.  I know it can’t last, but it’s been a blessing while it has.  And I thought of this poem, which describes this feeling perfectly.  It’s just like Freud said, “Wherever I go, a poet has been there before me.”  This poem is called “A Day in Bed With Aunt Maud.” 

Below the poem is a video of Jack Johnson called “Banana Pancakes,” which is also about relaxing.  The lyrics (and Jack Johnson himself) are very cool:  “The telephone is singing ringing it’s too early don’t pick it up.  We don’t need to, we got everything we need right here and everything we need is enough.”

Try not to get the flu.  But if you do, try even harder to enjoy it.  [Note: the picture at the beginning of this post is from an article called “How to Nap.  Tips for the Weak and Weary.”  Which leads me to believe that I am not alone in advocating more naps for everyone].

A Day in Bed with Aunt Maud

 My dear high-foreheaded aunt, good
at sums and attentive to all that love
demands, loved a day in bed.

No illness drove her there, or fever
no drenched nightgown, twisted
but the bliss of a day in bed.

She lay, she slept, she reached out
a hand towards an improving book
she closed its covers on her day in bed.

She contemplated the plaster ceiling rose
and all the world that swam around it
a spider web from her day in bed.

She lay like someone in a shroud, proud
of her stretched toes, her spine
bearing not this day on her day in bed.

She took some rations, delicate things
and a jug of fresh-made squash
she dined daintily on her day in bed.

What did you get? the others asked.
A firmer view of the world, she said
through lying down on my day in bed

and love and anything you care to ask.
They never did. Away they sped
She contemplated them from her day in bed.

Elizabeth Smither from The Year of Adverbs
© Auckland University Press, 2007

3 Comments

Filed under advent, gratitude, happiness

3 responses to “The Joy of Forced Relaxation

  1. Last year when I had H1N1, life was never better. I made my husband and the boys take the vacation we were all going to do together, and I lazed around in bed for 10 days, humming Christmas carols to myself. The flu gave me the cover I needed to not feel guilty about indulging myself in a little relaxation. It was one of the best “vacations” I ever had.

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  2. We have been taught that life is about achievement that is tangible. Much can be achieved through a day in bed. My great-grandmother, single mother of seven, occasionally came down with “the vapors,” which demanded bed rest. She was not a stupid woman.
    I am now dealing with a back pain/injury that has severely altered my lifestyle. My to do list is much different than it was a year ago. It’s probably a good thing. (the list, not the pain.) My fear is that I will forget the new perspective I’ve gained during this time.
    take care.

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  3. Colleen Crowley

    I love a day in bed. I have one annually. But I am also a big believer in naps, especially on the weekend. I have taken naps for years. They may last only 30 minutes but are often begun with 30 minutes of reading, a cup of tea and sometimes a cookie. My ideal vacation would be a week in bed with piles of reading material, pots of strong tea and buttered saltines as well as pads of paper. I’d get up only to use the bathroom. I would wear lovely pajamas.
    Hope you are feeling better Leslie but will take an annual mental health day always.

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