Relaxation doesn't come easy to me. In fact, thinking about relaxation makes my palms sweat. It's just too much work.
I'm that girl in yoga who, while everyone else is deep in Shavasana and all connected with their third eye, is having a one-sided internal conversation that goes something like this:
"Hmm, I wonder if the guy next to me has ever tried deodorant? Surely if he spends that much time working on shoulder stand, he could take a little time to consider how he smells. I wonder what his house looks like? Ooh, maybe he's that guy my friend went out with that had a tent city in his living room! Did she say he had a beard? I wonder what Tim would say if I told him I wanted to build a tent city, ha! God, I'm hungry. A burger sounds good right now. Without the bun. With the bun, that's more calories than I just burned. But it would be better with bacon. Everything is better with bacon. I hate this music. This song sounds just like the Monday Night Football song, played with a sitar. Where do you buy a sitar? Do they have sitar stores in India like we have piano stores? OMG, Amy, you're supposed to be relaxing..."
If I'm not having some crazy internal stream of random thoughts, I'm completely asleep and drooling. I once had a yoga teacher tell me that if I can't stay awake to meditate, I'm not truly meditating. I'm guessing my snoring was a little offensive to the rest of the class.
Several years ago I was the recipient of a sales award where the prize was a trip to Aruba. Part of the experience included a choice of special events for the recipient and their guest. I selected a massage; my husband opted for deep-sea fishing. As luck would have it, my massage was performed by a large Aruban woman who apparently mistook me for an ex-husband that she hated. What should have been a gentle Swedish massage became more like a 90-minute Aruban Assault, and I left her weird little massage room sore, confused, and a little fearful for my life. It was not exactly the relaxation I was seeking.
As my husband left for his fishing trip, I took a few magazines, a book, a journal, and an iPod with headphones, and headed to the pristine beach, where I found a perfect spot under an umbrella. It was early still, so nobody was around, and I had my pick of all of the beach chairs. I got situated, applied sunscreen, surveyed paradise, and took a deep breath. It was time to relax.
And then I got antsy.
With nobody to talk to, no kids to feed, no customers to help, no television or gadget to amuse me, the mere act of relaxation made me anxious. I needed someone to talk to.
Right away, a scraggly, dentally-challenged boat captain walked up, and offered to take me on a private boat trip on his dingy little speedboat. And of course I went, not just because I'm wildly trusting, but also because he had a sun tattoo on his upper arm with the word "Namaste" written above it, so I assumed he wasn't a serial killer. The boat was primitive to say the least, and didn't even have a seat for the guest. The captain pointed to the front of the boat, where the only way to secure myself somewhat safely was to grab on to a large blue rope and sit cautiously without flashing onlookers my unfortunate thighs. Without warning, he started the boat and whizzed at ridiculous speeds through the choppy waters of Aruba. Clutching the rope with all my might, I screamed for mercy as we bounced up and down over the waves, the scraggly boat captain laughing loudly and completely ignoring my pleas to slow down. Right about the time I convinced myself that my boat captain was either a serial killer or the ex-husband of my large Aruban massage therapist, he brought me back to shore safely. Yet somehow, the experience was exhilarating and I don't regret it one bit, mainly because it's such a great story, and I love telling people I had a private boat captain in Aruba. (I just leave out the missing teeth and unsafe boat portion of the story). I waved goodbye with rope-burned hands, feeling happy. And somehow, I felt relaxed.
Last week, I tried to relax again. I went to Tulum, Mexico, to attend the wedding of our friends Michelle and Todd. Because my husband stayed behind to take care of the kids, I roomed with a friend that I've never roomed with before. Before the trip, I emailed my roomie, jokingly telling her that I enjoy spooning to romantic comedies dubbed in Spanish, and if she wanted to skinny dip with me in the evenings, I'd like to hold hands while doing it because I'm afraid of seaweed. I used that opening to soften the blow of the challenging part of being my roommate: my snoring problem.
My roomie came prepared with earplugs and her iPhone, loaded up with apps to help her sleep. On the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, we bonded over our choices of iPhone apps, and the sounds we prefer to use to help us sleep. These apps are a godsend on work trips. I once drowned out the sound of a screaming infant on a flight from San Francisco to Austin by playing the sounds of a driving rainstorm. Another time, the man in the hotel room next to me watched Pay-Per-View porn until 3:00 am, so I drowned out the moaning with the gentle jingle jangle of a passenger train.
As we talked about sleep issues (everybody seems to have them), we suddenly came up with a brilliant business plan. (I'm convinced that many brilliant business plans happen on airport shuttles in Mexico while the passengers are throwing back Coronas).
What if we invented an app that had the sounds of someone talking to put you to sleep? Personally, if I had a recording of my husband explaining the relationship between a flywheel and a clutch plate, I'd be asleep in seconds. And I'm sure that if my husband could have a recording of me recanting the time I had a panic attack at the top of Chichen Itza, he'd be out in minutes.
We brainstormed ideas for Boring Sound Selections. Imagine if you could have your freshman History teacher lecturing on the Battle of Antietam? If it put you to sleep 15 years ago, I'm sure it would do the trick now. My friend took it to a whole new level, suggesting foreign language recordings, so that you'd wake up fluent in French.
When we arrived at the hotel, energized from our great shuttle conversations, the hotel was postcard perfection. Here's the view from our room:
Perfect place to relax, right?
Because I'm an old married, several nights on the trip, I opted to go to bed earlier while my roomie stayed out to make merry with the other wedding guests. Our room was modestly appointed, and did not have a television, so the prospect of watching rom-coms dubbed in Spanish was eliminated from my option list. I had grand illusions of writing. I didn't write. I brought a book about writing that I planned on reading cover to cover. It bored me, but not enough to make me sleepy. I'd already resigned myself to turn off my phone while in Mexico because of my mobile provider's exorbitant international rate plan. I opened the door, got in bed, and listened to the waves crashing on the beach.
Now, wouldn't you think that because I'm able to fall asleep to the sounds of a beach on an app on my iPhone that having an actual beach with actual crashing waves right outside my door would do the trick?
The only thing that helped me fall asleep properly was to wait for my roomie to come home, and as we flipped off the lights, I talked. And talked. And talked both of us to sleep.
When the trip was over, I couldn't wait to tell my husband about our brilliant business plan. Many Thursday nights, we meet a friend for Mexican martinis and dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. I decided this was the perfect time to spill the frijoles, and shared the idea as my husband and friend listened. They did not appear enthusiastic about the plan. Perhaps my husband was not amused at my using his discussion on economic policy as an example of something that could bore you to sleep, but still. I expected enthusiasm, and I didn't get it.
It didn't take long for my friend to burst my bubble, stating that most nights, he falls to sleep to classic books on tape (books on iTunes, to be more exact). Evidently, you can download all sorts of classics because of copyright laws that I don't understand. So while we were in Mexico, conjuring up recording sessions of government teachers lecturing on the Legislative branch, my friend was being lulled to sleep by the soft strains of A Tale of Two Cities.
But even better than classic books on tape? A few sips of Mexican martini later, and my friend confessed that some nights, he falls to sleep to the Bible. My friend is not the kind of guy I imagine cozying up in an easy chair for some Deuteronomy, so this cracks me up to no end. He admitted that he doesn't retain much, as it only takes a few chapters for him to fall asleep, but that it works wonders to prevent insomnia. Still, I can't help but wonder if he's earning eternal salvation simply by sleeping to Ecclesiastes.
So while my friend and I likely won't become billionaires with our fabulous app idea, I'm looking forward to downloading Ulysses, because it certainly put me to sleep the first time around. And the next time my husband starts to explain Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? Don't be surprised if I'm on the edge of my seat, iPhone behind my back, as I listen intently and secretly record him.