We lead increasingly busy lives and I find it hard to relax even when I do have free time these days. Although I continually moan about having no time to relax, for some strange reason I feel more fulfilled when I’m busy, even though I know that it’s not a healthy way to live as I get older.
I envy faiths such as Judaism and Christianity, which impose a day of rest. It’s the sort of discipline I need; an enforced break from the continuing bustle of trying to cram something into every minute of the day. I’ve tried relaxation methods such as meditation but always feel silly and I’m coming to realise that the calm provided by alcohol is not the ideal choice for my middle-aged body.
Living with an increasing anxiety problem aided by medication is like existing somewhere between a dulled life of “fuck it” calm, where nothing really matters, and a state of frenzied agitation. I rarely experience a happy medium in terms of balance.
On good days, my medication gives me a false sense of security of the world, where everything is just fine.
Until it’s not.
I’ll give you an example. A few weeks ago I drove my car around town in the rain and noticed that my tyres weren’t gripping the road as well as they should, which is when I remembered that the mechanic at my last service – over a year ago – had recommended that I would need to change them soon.
Unfortunately, “car stuff” falls into the “onerous task box” in my brain which is why I’d procrastinated about the tyre issue. I’m very negligent when it comes to the wellbeing of my car because I don’t understand them, and albeit a feminist, there is a devious part of my brain that puts them in the ‘man job’ department, even though I have a man who is not interested in cars either and has a similarly lacklustre opinion of them. My meds had helped me merrily ignore a potential safety issue for over a year, yet within minutes of my brain acknowledging that “Houston, we have a problem”, my anxiety had turned the problem into a catastrophe.
I needed new tyres. NOW!
Anxiety meds are fantastic in terms of dimming danger signals to help you cope with day- to-day challenges, by promoting an “it’ll be fine” attitude in the wake of any potential crisis or indeed anything that is under-stimulating, and going to get my tyres checked is certainly not high on the list of things I want to do on the weekend. But my brain began to ruminate subconsciously over the problem that night and after an associated nightmare about someone checking the baldness of my tyres and looking at me in that disappointed way that only your parents do, my anxiety was triggered. When I woke up the following morning I had one mission.
If anyone is considering a new business venture, the sale and fitting of wheels and tyres look like a good option to me, especially if you like working Sundays because so few retailers are open. I can’t believe that everyone else in front of me in the queue that day had experienced a similar night panic about the grip on their tyres – some of them were probably just normal petrol-heads salivating over new rims – but the whiff of testosterone nearly knocked me out as I walked into the one showroom that was open in Sydney.
To increase my anxiety and the mind-numbing tedium of an almost three hour wait, in my panic to leave the house quickly in the face of certain death on the road due to my shortsightedness, I forgot to take my phone with me. (This happens with increasing regularity at the moment and if you’ve ever done it you’ll know that it gives you the vulnerability of what I imagine it’s like to turn suddenly blind). Generally, it’s obviously a bit of a first world issue, but I had arranged to meet a friend long before the tyre man would finish and that worry induced a mild state of panic as I waited and fretted with not even social media to distract me.
It also served to prove once again how absolutely brain dead you become in middle age when you can’t remember the telephone number of one person in your life.
But trying to retrieve a number out of my cluster of dying brain cells did help to pass the time as I sat in that showroom, trying to ignore the torturing sound of drilling that pierced its way into my skull each time I thought I’d remembered any number sequence that might help me contact my friend who was waiting for me at the beach on the other side of the city.
Which is where I should have been on a Sunday. Relaxing.
By the time I was back on the road, as hyper as if I’d drunk six black coffees, it was inevitable that my patience would be thin, proven by the voice inside of my head that curses each changing light with, ‘Go on, change you fuckers,’ on what should have been my day of rest.
And I tried to remember to breathe.