The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

A Place Between Frenzy and Distraction

Is there a state between an intense determination to complete the task, and vegging out?

Is there a place between feeling “I’m on top of this and I’m getting it done” and “I feel overwhelmed, useless and can’t cope”?

Is there more to relaxation than being distracted by TV, computer games and eating (or insert your personal addiction of choice – drinking/gambling/shopping etc)?

My wife, Maggie, has just started reading a book about stress and de-stressing. In the lists of various symptoms and signposts that something isn’t right, she has found many that apply to her. And many that apply to me (with some overlap, but not completely).

And with quite a few of the ones she read out that apply to me, my first thought was, “doesn’t everyone?”

This made me pause for a moment and begin to wonder just how much of a blind spot I might have to the way I deal with life.

The thing about blind spots is we don’t see them – in ourselves, at any rate. They are so obvious in other people we are amazed they don’t see how their habits and actions are the cause of their own downfall, but all the time we are thinking this we are oblivious to our own.

It reminded me of back when I first started my journey on healthier eating and losing weight. I came across a thing online about food addiction that listed 20 behaviours – from whether you eat when you’re not hungry to if you’ve ever discarded food only to retrieve it later to eat. The notion was that if you answered yes to any of the 20, then you might have a problem. I could easily answer yes to 13. I knew that some of them were problematic, but many I just thought were normal “doesn’t everyone?” behaviours.

Our ability to assume that the way we do things is normal and those who don’t do it our way are the weirdos has become very apparent in recent years with the polarisation of opinions from Brexit to Trump to Scottish Independence. It seems everyone I know feels so strongly that their view on these things is right, they cannot understand anyone who thinks differently. I’ve even seen more than a few Facebook friends stating clearly that if anyone holds an opposing view on any of these particular issues they should “unfriend me now!”

The upshot of this is we end up surrounded only by people who will express a view similar to our own. This practice is now so widespread, the term “echo chamber” is commonly being used to describe it – in essence we continually only hear back the same voice, which reinforces our sense that it’s clearly and obviously the right one.

We create our own perpetually reinforced blind spots.

Back to me and stress then.

The brief conversation with Maggie this morning made me suspect something isn’t right – or is even more wrong than I’d previously considered.

And as our own blind spots can sometimes be blindingly obvious to other people, I want to ask you your thoughts on this (which will probably also indicate just how few people actually read this blog – or read to the end of blog posts). You can be anonymous if you want.

So my question is about this space known as relaxation and recuperation – a place that is not about the frenzy of trying to get something done, nor is it about vegging out or trying to distract ourselves from feelings of inadequacy/guilt/fear etc. Is there a space or activity where you genuinely relax and recharge your batteries? If so, what does it look like and how do you access it?

Please leave a comment with your thoughts, even if it’s just a single sentence left anonymously, or a "me too".

9 comments

maurcheen said...

Hi Kim, I'm probably not reading into this as deeply as I should, or maybe I'm taking it for the simple question I see in front of me. I find my space near water, and preferably in water. If it's not possible to be actually in the ocean then if I can be a on a beach, Cliff, boat, then I am relaxing/relaxed. A river or lake will also do. I can walk for ever beside water.
As someone who can have very low moods (as you know) I often just get into the car and drive to the coast, I can be at my favourite place in less than an hour. My dream is to move there when the last wean has finished college and found her own place.
Love to you, Maggie, Meg & Ronan.

savannah said...

If anyone finds that place, please share! :) Right now, I'm in that state called "I know I'm procrastinating and it's making me crazy because I know I'm avoiding what I need to do" and it is far from relaxing. So, all this to say, "me, too"! (I just looked at the pile of paperwork I need to attack and realized that IF I finish what I started, I might be on the road...) xoxo

maurcheen said...

Rogan! Damn spellchecker!

John Painter said...

You left out an aspect of frenzied life which prevents relaxation and recuperation--guilt! I'm overcome with guilt if I'm not working at my business or working around the house even though I know the feeling is nonsense. I keep telling myself that someday I'll make time to photograph a series, or ride my motorcycle across country, or even just write a poem or song. But, someday never comes. Balance? Ha! I haven't had a proper vacation of any length in... I'm not sure, five years? Longer? Yet, I can't forgive myself if I'm not producing, producing, producing. I need a good club on the head, I guess.

Kim Ayres said...

Maurcheen - Like you I dream of having a place that overlooks the sea, with easy access to a long beach to walk along. I think the blog post was more about the need to find the right headspace rather than a particular place. I seem to flip between the two states of mind - doing, or distracting - but neither is actually about replenishing or healing. But of course the right physical place can really help with the headspace :)

Savannah - at least I'm not alone then :) Of course the problem is when the pile of paperwork is finished, there is ALWAYS something to replace it - which means the problem is I'm not finding/allowing/creating the space in which to recuperate :)

John - Oh, I hear you! I did mention guilt, by the way - see the 2nd to last paragraph - but yes, it's a major part of it. And yet I remember reading the author Alan Bennett once talking about the fact if he wasn't actually hitting the keys on his typewriter, he felt like a fraud calling himself a writer. But he came to realise that the staring out the window and going for long walks was just as much a vital part of the process. IN fact without these activities the writing would never happen. The writing was not the start of the novel, but much closer to its conclusion :)

V said...

That all sounds a little familiar.....

I don't watch the adverts in TV programmes, but use the 3 minute slots to do dishes/clean the bath/take the dog for a pee. I don't watch the BBC or films because sitting still for that long seems too big an ask (and my house stays in some kind of order).

I run to switch brain off/clear my head....but my body is absolutely switched on

The only thing that for me feels like total relaxation/recuperation is playing the fiddle. It quiets my otherwise busy mind enough by demanding my concentration on a single thing. My meditation I guess.

Running, yoga, playing music: All ask that I focus enough but distract me from the other demands of reality whilst doing me some good, I guess.

What are those things for you? They must exist and you are certainly not alone.

Kim Ayres said...

V - Running is not something I do, but I guess Tai Chi and playing music are areas where I'm immersed in the activity rather than my mind racing on all the things I feel I ought to be doing. Unfortunately, the other half of The Cracked Man is up in the Outer Hebrides for the summer, so I'm really missing the weekly get together for the music.

hope said...

Oddly enough, my daily commute helps.

Sure, it's less than 25 minutes one way but more than half of it is on country roads, so there's less traffic and more nature/wildlife. It's like a cocoon of quiet...or if I choose, it's a song from my youth where I sing at the top of my lungs like no one can hear. (Can't have maurcheen cringing across the pond). While I know I can't control the world (or the lousy drivers I encounter closer to work)it's a space where I choose whether to be quiet, listen to a book or just...be. If that makes any sense.

You see, as a girl person we're wired to feel guilty if we're not productive/helpful/kind 24/7. So for a hour a day, I leave guilt outside, on the hood (bonnet) of the car and let it slide away. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Hope - When I first became self employed, I set up an office in a business centre an a different town a few miles away. It was a half-hour bus ride. A year later I got a car and it was a 5 minute drive. I noticed that I spent at least an hour longer at work and didn't have the down time on the way back. That bus ride acted as a buffer between the office and home. Without it, I arrived home still in work mode.
These days my "office" is in my home, so I don't really escape it at all.

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