I’m playing fast and loose with the Daily Prompt today: although I’m only on day 7 of my blog-quest, perhaps a near week of work has led to the well of inspiration running dry. But, just to be original I’m going to write about being on the inside, imagining the outside.
For a teacher, I’m an insubordinate old shrew. I spend most of my day telling students what to do and expecting them to follow my orders. A memorable dialogue from today went like this:
HIM: Miss, can I go to the toilet?
HIM: But I need to go!
ME: Well, DON’T need to go!
Do I think I am King Canute, ordering back the tide? No, I just know my students very well and the odds of this student felling nature call just as they are about to start an exam were highly unlikely. And I’m bossy.
So I’m all for subversion outside of the classroom: a stickler for rules if I’m setting them, but following them? Me, not so much. For instance, I find the suggestion of someone telling me to relax utterly ridiculous. How am I supposed to relax? The mere implication that you need to tell me to do so infers that I am not relaxed, and probably with good reason! Likewise, I find the process of meditating incredibly difficult: as soon as the voice intones that famous phrase ‘ connect with your breath, feel it’s natural rise and fall’, I find myself going through an artificial construct of breathing, forcing the air in and out of my lungs like a hand operated bellow, or, worse still, trying so hard to make my breathing natural that I ……eventually …stop ……breathing …altogether. By this point, any thoughts of connectnig with breath, a genuinely natural occurence when I’m not thinking about it, are out of the window, and I sit up, scratch my head and open a book instead.
So, relaxation on command is not for me. Particularly arduous are trips to the masseuse; as soon as I hear ambient music in a candle-lit chamber I know that it is an exercise in futility. I spend the next 30 minutes urging myself to enjoy this indulgence but inevitably spend it worrying if I left the hob on or if the masseuse actually fancies me, because that last stroke was a little too friendly. I often come out with more tension than I went in with, and have to feign gratitude at the end, barely making eye contact.
What a horrible person. But how can I relax when you tell me to?
Fortunately I have found the antidote, and that is to seek out he opposite of relaxation for any therapeutic treatments. I have had acupuncture on and off for years, with varying degrees of success. Needless to say, the mesmeric, ‘ you will relax you will relax you will relax’ style does nothing for me, but my current practicioners is a minor miracle. The sessions take place in an open fronted shop in Manchester’s Arndale Centre, which is a huge shopping mall, if you’ve never been there. The Acupuncturists is between the sliding doors onto the High Street and a Milk Shake Bar. Sessions take place in small cubicles with no noise insulation and everyone who works there is always shouting. Always. The noise of the traffic of gobby Mancunian shoppers (ususally kids screaming, laughter, someone having an argument on the phone) competes with the Techno music from next door and the shouting of the acupuncturists. Did I mention that? Because the cubicles aren’t insulated, you can hear the outline of everyone else’s ailments in consultation (one patient was requesting treatment to recover from a skipping injury, I kid you not). The final harmony line is the clinic’s own choice of music, pumped in through a stereo; they tend to favour Mandarin versions of popular tunes, such as ‘Baby’ by Justin Beiber or ‘Poker Face’ by Lady Gaga. To complete the full sensory experience, I lay under what may or may not be someone’s beach towel for half an hour with pins stuck in my head.
This, dear reader, produces the most relaxing half hour of my week – more often than not I fall into a blissful half sleep, and wake, dry mouthed and groggy only when my doctor is applying the cups. I walk out as if on air. I dance home. Then I lie down again and fall to slumber. The only time I relax is when the odds are against me; when fate and geography and other people and beachtowels conspire against what normal people would want in a fulfilling de-stress. But I think in order to relax, I need to feel close to life; in my cubicle I am protected yet so near to a lot of competing activity, and it’s here that I find the most satisfying repose.
But that’s just a theory. Like I said, I’m an insubordinate old shrew.