Learning to do nothing takes effort

By Helena Rodriguez: PNT columnist

“I’m bored! There’s nothing to do! I miss my friends! When does school start again?”
No these are not the words of my teenage daughter less than 24 hours after schools in Portales let out for the summer. These are words I have been biting my tongue over, trying to shake out of me as I toss and turn in bed in the morning — questioning my own sanity in the process — since I finished classes for the semester a little over two weeks ago at Eastern New Mexico University.
Ah, it was a glorious day indeed when I turned in my last project for the semester. I vowed to go home and not get out of bed for a week. The problem, though, was that I had an extremely tough time staying in bed, even for a couple of hours. It took days for me to get my mind to relax and then I couldn’t get my body to. I went through withdrawal symptoms as I tried to do something that I had only been dreaming about this past semester: “Getting a life.”
It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who has experienced these withdrawal symptoms. At Portales High School, some seniors reportedly showed up to school on Monday with backpacks in tow even though they were technically done with school last week. Old habits die hard, particularly when these habits not only take over your life, but become your life.
As I’m finding out, learning how to relax requires a lot of effort, but I’m slowly getting there. I’ve got a laundry list of special projects I want to do but even these things were starting to stress me out just thinking about them during the first few days that I got my life back, so I decided to “take a chill pill” and not think about anything until I was ready.
Now I feel ready and willing to take on some of these personal projects, but I’m also ready to mostly just enjoy life right now, particularly during these first few weeks of summer. Interestingly, I came across an article in The New York Times on Wednesday called “Listen to My Wife” by Matt Miller in which this author wants to do exactly what I’m talking about here; get a life.
Miller challenges the “that’s just life” work ethic of today’s 24/7 mentality and questions why our culture has evolved into a familiar tale of having to choose between a fulfilling career or family. It’s always either/or. He calls for a compromise in this area, which he considers not just a women’s problem, but a human problem, noting there are also many men who secretly want that balance in life.
This reminds me of a similar story I saw recently, it was a segment that aired on the “Today” show called “Where have our weekends gone?” According to a survey, our weekends are being eaten up by spending more time working, either in the office or at home, running errands and doing other projects as opposed to what weekends used to be — taking a few days off to relax and recharge.
As Americans, we need to reclaim our weekends, our lives, and certainly our summers. I was tempted to cram in as many classes as I could this summer. As if it isn’t hard enough working on one master’s degree in communication, I got this crazy notion to go for a second master’s in English since I’ve taken several classes in that program too. I scrapped that plan quick.
Instead, I’ve opted for a light load this summer, which includes a swimming class and a few thesis hours, which will mostly consist of traveling to a convention in Dallas in June. Then in July, I’ll take part in a Spanish immersion program that will help me to not only work on my Spanish-speaking skills, but with my daughter Laura in tow, we’ll spend a month in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, near Cancun, with other students as we explore Aztec ruins and other historical and tourist sites. I’ll also do some writing, but with no pressure.
Now that’s my kind of summer. I hope and pray that you can take a chill pill this summer, too.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: