“She doesn’t know how to relax,” my mother said.
My sister had broken her leg, badly, in a rafting accident yet all day she stood. All day, if in conversation with a family member, for example, she practiced her therapeutic exercises and repeated squats and knee bends as if she were training at the gym. We were at Cape Cod in the house my father visited as a child with his parents for summers of sailing and dips in Buzzard’s Bay. My siblings and I had had this privilege too. Perhaps I was in grad school? My sister did not sit then, thirty years ago, and still seldom does. Everyone else spent some of the day doing nothing. We lay on the sand, we read on the porch, we sipped Pimm’s Cups on the stairs overlooking the bay. We were on vacation, after all.
Mom and Dad honor hard work but Mom has always known how to sit with a mystery novel or how to garden, and how to have a glass of Pimm’s Cup before summer meals. Dad watches TV, often with a supplemental activity-excuse, such as an art history journal, on his lap. Their rest may be a bit fidgety or productive, but it is a deliberate relaxation.
For me, as a kid, it was talking. Neighbor Sarah and I used to sit on our front steps and share news of the day. We were a year apart and went to the same school—plenty of stories to catch up on. We dubbed talking our favorite sport.
My sister actually broke at least one of the pins in her ankle from her over-exertions after that rafting accident. I do know how to rest even though my sister has been a major influence on me. With my husband I often lie down to solve a crossword while he naps, and I wind up napping too.
Although my writing has been a hobby, I have never thought of it as rest, but as Work. I still don’t think of it as rest, despite my lying in bed as I wrote this in my notebook. Officially, I am a full-time writer as of a few days ago. This writing life is subject to abuse by workaholics and lazy bums alike. I commit to balance, here, publically. I pledge to be clear-cut about when I will not work.