Stagnation

January 11th, 2014

Alarm goes off. You keep lying in bed. You don’t need more sleep, but you tell yourself you do. You remain horizontal because you can. After all, it’s Saturday, that deserved respite after a long week. No plans. No obligations. Just time to yourself.

For many of us, “me time” is much appreciated. No one to tell us what to do. No coworkers and strangers to keep up appearances with. We introverts feel we need it so badly, don’t we? We roll outta bed in our faded shirts and sweatpants, don’t look in the mirror, turn on the kettle, and get down to the business of binge-watching Modern Family and scrolling through photo albums of friends we barely know (and whose lives we – shockingly – don’t care about). “I needed this,” we say, and one thing is certainly true: rest is important, and we know that go-go-going all the time isn’t good for us.

What strikes me as I think about it is what we do to relax, and believe me, this guy can do some serious unwindin’. Being a teacher, I’m typically free on the weekends, and though this isn’t the unbending routine, I’ve found myself on more than one occasion on Sunday evening wondering what the hell I did with my two free days before work starts again. An empty bag of Doritos sits on the living room table, and my web browser abounds with YouTube documentaries I have no business watching. The weekend’s done, and when asked on Monday how it was, I shrug off the question with trite answers like: “You know, hung out around the house” or “nothing much.” (Ugh. “Nothing much”. That’s the worst response ever.)

And this has been you before.

Hey, no fingers pointed. We’ve all done it and not felt too good about it. Part of being human is letting yourself crawl into your safe space. It’s where we feel good. It’s that warm, snugly bed, the TV series we can watch for hours, the twelver of Bud Light, the box of Keebler Fudge Stripes on the shelf, and the mindless online game. These outlets are free of judgment or distraction, and it’s no wonder we retreat to them for long periods of time, especially when no one else is around.

It’s amazing what we feel we need, and what we let ourselves do. I experienced this yesterday as I sat on the couch in my shorts and wool socks until 3:30 in the afternoon. The most productive thing I’d done up to that point is boil water for instant coffee, and the longer I sat there, the harder it became for me to even think about what needed to be done. I paced and looked out the window: “Hmm. Look at that snow. I don’t wanna go all the way to gym, and I ain’t joggin’ in that.” Pacing continues, and useless streaming video carries on until, for whatever reason, I snap and throw on a long-sleeve shirt and nylon pants. If you’re like me, exercise kinna catapults you into a productive day (a day that starts at 3:30?), and I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t feel any better if I didn’t sweat it out for a little while. I stretched and made my way down the ten dark floors of my Soviet-style building and crossed the slush and puddles of Meridiannaya Street to a little park with a snow-covered, semi-hidden path around its perimeter. You have to run with caution in winter, obviously (especially when you have ankles like mine. Is it true that as we get older, we just feel more and more broken?), but as I felt the wind and snow against my face and heard the countless squealing children tumbling down to the park’s frozen pond, I realized a lack of caution was just what the doctor ordered.

I think it’s safe to say that life is made up of these little leaps of faith that we either take or don’t, and, no, as my example illustrates, they don’t have to be anything extreme or outlandish, but they have to be something. Something that energizes. Something that makes you think. Something uncomfortable. The world has too many boring people in it, and if we refuse to live boldly from time to time, we stagnate. We sit around like a filthy pool of water, getting worse as time goes by. I’ve been there; you’ve been there; everyone’s been there. And we second guess ourselves, don’t we? Out of fear, we do nothing.

My grandmother used to say, “You’re only stuck if you think you’re stuck.” And for better or worse, it’s true. You’re your own worst enemy, the only one who’s really in control. When it comes down to getting your foot out the door, no one makes that decision but you.

It, of course, has many interpretations, and I’m not really talking about “turning your life around” or something equally cliché. However, if there’s something on your mind, it wouldn’t hurt to get the wheels turning. Who knows? You may put on the shirt and track pants, squint at the cold wind, march your sweaty, snow-crested self back into your apartment, and say, “I’m glad I did that.”

About John Gahan

Nomadic to a certain degree, with a love of languages, teaching, sunny weather, and freeze-dried java.
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