It’s Okay To Relax

Not quite a resolution, but something like it.

Photo: Angus.L

I’ve spent the first few weeks of the new year fretting about the state of the world, the state of my finances and telling anyone in earshot about how resolutions are false promises you make in order to convince yourself that you’re actually going to change in some transformational and huge way. This is not the ray of light that I’d imagined myself being in the new year. I’d love for that to change and with time, hopefully it will.

If I do my best to hold myself accountable for my actions and understand fully how they impact my entire life, then maybe I can relax.

This isn’t a resolution; it’s just a new way to live. Cataloguing the various things in my life that cause me grief and stress is a terrifying step because of the honesty it requires. Being set in your ways and wed to habit means that you’re unable to see the forest for the trees. I want to be aware of what I’m doing and the reasons why I’m doing them. When I buy something I truly, actually, honestly don’t need, I want to examine the circumstances surrounding that purchase and figure out why I’m doing it. Nothing about this process needs to be arduous; checking in with myself and asking why I bought a sweater when I didn’t need a sweater is part and parcel of my normal life. It doesn’t matter if I buy the sweater or not — whatever I’m decide to do is likely going to happen — but unpacking briefly why I bought the sweater and to recognize that emotional impulse is something I’d like to work towards.

Stress drives the majority of my purchases. I’m not going on a spending diet — I love things, goddammit, and you cannot take them from me — but I am going to try and be more mindful. The “what” I buy is less consequential; I’m truly interested in the “why.”

Occasionally on a weekend, when I have more money than usual, I will go about my day and spend money without really thinking about it. It’s a deranged thought experiment more than anything else: Pretend that I’m not worried about money and see what happens. As a test, it works quite nicely. I spend way less than I thought I would and I spend a few days without a grumbling in the pit of my stomach telling me that I am somehow frittering away every penny I own on shirts and books. That feeling is refreshing and I’d love more of it in the coming year.

Working for myself means that I am technically my own boss. I work hard in fear that one of the many jobs I have will disappear and I’ll be left to scramble in its wake. I work hard because slacking when I’m the one in charge feels like I’m playing myself more than anyone else. Maybe I’ll relax a little more. Maybe my right shoulder will drop from its permanent position up near my ear, a muscle I tense so frequently that to feel it relax feels unnatural. Work is work; it comes and it goes but I’ve finally learned that I have the ability to find it if I need it.

“Should” has been my downfall — I should be saving more, I should be eating less, I should have a console table and walls that don’t need spackle and more bylines in print by now. “Should” is entirely pointless. “Should” is anxiety about perceived failures writ large. It’s okay to not work all the time and it’s okay not to spend money as soon as I have it. Whatever I’m doing appear to have been working; now I can relax.

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