Living with You is Killing Me

I love to relax. I'm good at it. I have been finding my inner peace through yoga and a version of meditation for years now. I can sit in a beach chair, dangling my toes in the waves, for hours. Give me a good book and a hammock and I'll cancel the rest of my plans for the day. I am never that person at work who has left over vacation days.

Believe it or not, my colleagues have this problem and they have been told that they will lose a big chunk of vacation days if not used by July. In an effort to encourage employees to use their time off, the powers that be invited a local therapist to offer a workshop about the importance of vacation.

I went to the workshop because I like to hear other people speak my opinion and I smiled as she discussed the importance of stepping away from work and life as a method for reflection. We are better parents, friends and colleagues if we remove ourselves from the grind and get a little perspective. She referenced a book, "Working with You is Killing Me" and emphasized, of course, the need to unplug. She covered the growing trend of carrying the burden of our lives with us via Blackberry and iPhone and the emotional well-being one receives by unplugging.

If you know me, or have been following my weekly musings, you know that our society's attachment to technology drives me crazy and that Andy's particular fondness of the computer and BlackBerry are the bane of my existence. My focus on Andy's obsession with work and indifference to vacation could actually be material for my own book, "Living with You is Killing Me."

After the presentation, the therapist opened the floor for questions and since I knew I was with like-minded folks, I raised my hand and asked my burning question.

"How can I get my husband to unplug, let go of work and go on vacation?" It should be no surprise that the room was full of women, most older and wiser than me and I received a hand full of feedback and a chorus of understanding "I hear yas."

It was the therapist, bless her for making this her life's work, who gave me the answer which resonated with me the most. She told me to stop trying to force my husband to relax. No amount of motherly nagging is going to change another person. I laughed out loud when she mentioned that my nagging may actually be turning him closer to his work and that he probably puts up an invisible wall when I start the vacation bark. (Remember this one? I'm rubber and you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!)

Her advice to me was to find my own peace, to take my own vacations and this does not necessarily mean that I have to pack my bags and go on a girls' weekend to the spa, although that sounds pretty damn good. All I have to do is close my eyes and find my place of relaxation. Maybe five minutes of calm and peace will prevent a possible stress induced you-work-too-much-I-want-to-go-on-vacation-turn-off-that-effing-phone argument.

As I mentioned, not a man was present at the vacation workshop. Is it because more women are stressed out than men? Is it because women are more likely than men to feel disconnected and are therefore looking for some way to find a better version of their current reality? Or is it because men are too busy working to take a lunch break workshop that won't give them props with the boss?

Again, I go back to to the presenter, who I should mention is celebrating 40 years of marriage in 2010. She said to think about men and women's need for relationship building like an x and y axis grid with x as our age and y as our need for relationships. Men start on the y axis with a very low need for relationships as they are entirely driven by personal need to succeed. Women start on the y axis at a very high point, with a large need for relationships. Over time, as men move along the x axis, their need for relationships increases and meets higher up the y axis. For women, their need for relationships decreases as they move along the x axis of life, meeting at a much lower point on the y axis. At some point, the connected lines of men and women will cross paths and their age and need for relationships will meet at the same place at the same time.

The therapist told me that this intersection occurred for her about 5 years ago when she was headed out the door for an evening meeting and her husband asked her where she was going, and for the first time in thirty-five years, wondered why they were not going to spend the evening together. "So," I said to her, "according to your grid, you have been married for 40 years and this happened five years ago. I have been married for five years. This means that in thirty years my husband and I will finally have an equal amount of interest in putting everything else aside to spend time with one another."

Looks like I have a lot of mental vacations and yoga ahead of me. Maybe when we finally spend that vacation together when we are sixty I'll blow Andy away with my ability to twist my body into a pretzel.

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