I remember the days, pretty recently, where I was longing for a break in the hamster wheel of life. For a day where I wasn’t asked at 10pm to bake a cake (with icing) for the next morning, while I was in the middle of catching up on unanswered emails. For a time when there weren’t 8 loads of laundry waiting for my attention. For a moment when I could put my feet up, instead of accidentally placing my feet in a puddle of spilled yogurt on the kitchen floor.
And then, I had an accident (don’t text and walk, it’s dangerous!). And I’ve been basically laid up for most of the past 10 days. To be honest, it’s not nearly as relaxing as it seems. There’s something horribly, torturously frustrating about seeing something (or in my case, many things) on the floor, and literally not being able to pick it up. It’s not fun to stay in bed all day when laying down is more painful than a root canal without anesthetic (just guessing on this), and where no amount of painkillers or TV distraction can numb the discomfort. It’s oddly awkward to laze around all day, and then all evening and into the night, when you’re not even tired, because you haven’t moved all day. It’s even stranger when your painkillers contain caffeine, so your mind is telling you to get moving(!), be productive(!) and release some energy(!), and your body is telling you that even rolling over requires an epidural to staunch the pain.
I’m not writing this post to garner pity (I’m pretty sure I did enough of that on Shabbat morning when I involuntarily screamed in pain during a quiet prayer service – yes, that was AWKWARD). But I really think it’s necessary to point out the conundrum that many people face when they look for an escape from the challenge that is everyday life.
We often wish for work to be less stressful – but in the extreme case, this hope may be fulfilled by unemployment or underemployment, neither of which is what we were really dreaming of. We often wish that we didn’t have to make dinner, clear the dirty dishes or run out at the crack of dawn because we are out of sandwich bags. But we seldom (if ever) stop to think what it would mean to really be absolved of these chores. For me, right now, it means that I have never so badly wanted to get out, if only to the grocery store. For others, freedom from daily parental duties may be because your children have left home, and suddenly you realize that the house is now empty, that there’s no going back to the days of morning snuggles, silly pranks and impromptu backyard get-togethers where you got to watch your children grow into themselves from behind your bedroom curtains.
What I’ve learned from these days of forced ‘relaxation’ is that most often, what we wish for in the abstract is not likely what we actually want. And that it’s hard to recognize the beauty in the commotion of everyday life until it’s suddenly taken away. I just wish this lesson wasn’t such a pain to learn.