I am noticing a trend in our culture that is making me itch. We are told that success is often measured by how we relax. A boat, a beach, skiing, being able to lie back with a good book, etc. Someone with the time and money to do those things must have reached a pinnacle of success. Hard-earned. Deserved. I see media daily on my social networking sites telling me how to properly achieve peace and bliss. It usually involves a photo that is supposed to inspire me to do a better job at it.
Don't get me wrong. I like a picture of a photo-shopped flower as much as the next schmuck. (My Pinterest boards are full of them.) The clash presents itself when we attempt to actually implement the relaxation. There have been plenty of opinion pieces and armchair sociologists of late telling us that we are too busy, that we need to unplug and unwind. We are faulty and should feel guilty that we can't stop checking our phones or taking that call from work. TV is bad. We are all fat. Our breaks and weekends look very little like those blissful pictures filling our walls and inboxes.
If you were a farmer, would these same experts tell you not to take a call from work? Nope. They aren't talking about all types of people, are they? They are singling out those with a certain skill set. Farming is damned hard work with grueling hours, craptastic pay, and heavy stress. Why all of the push to unplug the soft handed jobs and no push to ease the aching back of the calloused? I want to see a picture of a farmhand getting a massage, dang it!
When you attempt to relax, how often are you nagged with thoughts about what you "should" be doing? Do you think about upcoming deadlines and meetings and conflicts with co-workers? Do you think about projects still unfinished? Let's be honest. There will always be an unfinished project. That is how life works. You never truly reach a point of being finished, until you are dead, and even then, there will be stuff you leave for the next guy.
Maybe the real issue is that it is unrealistic for us to think that we can just let go of all of our responsibilities and relax to the point of oblivion. We are alive because of the instinct to survive. We have a brain capable of planning and implementing several steps in advance. That is one of the things that separates us from the rest of the wild. Instead of beating up ourselves, and each other, over our inability to live in the moment, we should embrace and rejoice at our ability to multi-task and prepare for upcoming events that require our planning and strategic thought.
The people in this world who do "live in the moment" are usually those who don't have many material needs that they have to provide for themselves or their offspring. They don't have to worry about paying rent, making a dinner that feeds their picky eater, their allergic eater, and that uses what they can afford that week. I am not okay with living on rice and veggies every day. I'm just not. I recognize that it would be the eco-friendly, spiritually-enlightening, material-denying, money-saving option. I don't care. Food should be hyphen free. Another sign of our evolutionary success is that we like variety. We get bored. That is a good thing. It drives us to be creative and innovative. That is how we came up with skiing, boats, sunscreen, and *gasp* books!
Speaking of boats...there is a certain economical gap here. We can pretend it isn't real, but I am not fond of naked Emperors. Most of us can't afford a boat, a beach trip, skiing, or even a new book. Most of the people I know use the library. We use coupons, get our toys second-hand, and use credit to pay for gas more than we care to admit. Stop telling me to relax by showing me destinations that can only be reached by going deeper into debt.
I am tired of being told by someone else how I should define my successes. I stopped reading "women's magazines" because as I grew older I got tired of being told how I was doing it all wrong. How dare I not play games with my mate! You can't be beautiful if you don't dye your hair and wear mascara? This movement of telling us all to let go and relax is no different. It is disguised in pretty pictures and health expert opinion pieces, but it is exactly the same. If you aren't doing it their way, then you are doing it wrong.
That doesn't mean that we shouldn't have balance and a moment of peace now and then. Moms would like to pee alone. Commuters would like traffic to flow freely. Dinner can occasionally be filling and pretty. Men...what do they want...oh, yeah. Well, I am not typing that here.
For the record, all of those articles and pictures are generated by people with smart phones, computers, technology, mortgages, children, in-laws, and debt. Don't let them fool you. The ones that aren't, are monks. Dalai Lama, I am looking at you.