New Zealand has been perfect at redirecting me when I try to sabotage myself. Let me explain.
Even though I came here to work part-time, to have a schedule that allowed for tons of writing and playing music and yoga, and I am living in a country where “no worries” may as well be their national phrase–my dominant go-go-go personality still finds ways to resist. And when that happens, when I try to fit in too many activities or let FOMO take over (because I could travel around NZ for years and not see and do all the things), all of New Zealand coaxes me to slow down–from the soothing breeze, to the rolling waves, to the bright green plant life, to every.single.chilled.out.person.around.me.
Case in point: this weekend on the Kapiti Coast. I picked a weekend getaway that was close enough to not cost a ton, far enough away to see new scenery, and lacked loads of must-do activities, so I could get a lot of work done on my book.
So what did I do as soon as I arrived to Paraparaumu after my one-hour train ride from Wellington? I walked by a plethora of restaurants and wanted to read reviews to prioritize which ones I should eat at. I picked up heaps of brochures from the hostel and stressed about activities going on and how I could get to them (oh yeah, I’d forgotten my phone at home)–and the stress sunk in.
And then I looked across the street from my (very quiet, very wonderful) hostel, to the beach. I walked myself to the beach and sat down. I looked at the waves. I gazed at Kapiti Island, directly across. I laughed at the flocks of birds playing in the water, catching fish, squawking at each other. I smiled at a few dogs being walked past me. The Kapiti Coast, the same place I came to relax, was essentially whispering in my ear, “Girlfriend, relaaaaax.” So I lay on the sand, in my clothes, using my bag as a pillow. I listened to music, I read, I napped. And it was glorious.
Since childhood, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to do all the things, always asking myself, “What should I be doing now?” And that motivation has led to achieving my goals, pushing myself to accomplish things when I want to give up. I appreciate that I have that instinct, that inner drive. But if I’m going to learn one major thing of utmost importance in New Zealand, it’s this. Sometimes, the thing you’re supposed to be doing right now is simply relax. Even if you’ve convinced yourself that weeks of yoga, haphazard-yet-effective meditation, and days of homebound writing have rendered you unworthy of more relaxation time, New Zealand replies, “Still, you relax now.”
It’s a philosophy that I know I’ll continue to wrestle with, but one I need to absorb. For my mind, and for my body as well. For the last few years, I’ve pushed myself in running, competitive swimming, long-distance biking, and triathlon. I was lucky (and foolish) in that I often gave myself short windows of training time for big events, with no injuries as a result. But in the last year, all the hiking, running, biking, climbing, and walking for miles and miles and miles has taken a toll on my knees. I’ll be all right, and back to all my favorite activities with 100% capability again, but I’m taking the message to slow down seriously now, when I should have done so a long time ago. But, you live, you learn, and I am stubborn AF when I want to do something. 🙂 And being in New Zealand is helping in this respect as well. If I walked at New York City pace here, pounding on my joints, passing other people and looking like a stressed out mess, I’d stand out like a sore thumb among everyone else leisurely getting to where they’re going. The country again says, “Relax. Slow down.” And the message I’m hearing is, take in everything around me and settle in. Get comfortable with myself, in a new form of myself, and in new routines, without the daily cardio I loved and depended on. The road and bike trails and hikes and triathlons will still be there for me. When I’m ready.
And in the meantime, enjoy the beautiful country. Which is how I spent the slowest-paced, most relaxing weekend I’ve ever spent away from home. I slept in. I strolled. I watched the waves at mid-day and watched the sunset for hours. I ate delicious real fruit ice cream. I took myself out to a Thai restaurant for pad see ew and a beer. I had amazing Indian takeout sitting on “fish and chips hill” with hundreds of seagulls. I wrote and edited for hours and hours and hours. And it was wonderful.
I’ll say it again, for good measure, so I remember. Sometimes, the thing you’re supposed to be doing right now is simply relax. And I know when I forget (and I will forget), New Zealand will remind me.