If you are within reach of a zoo or public aquarium, check out the shark exhibit. Notice that many of the sharks move constantly. In some species of shark, the respiration is such that if the shark stops swimming it’ll die; it is unable to pump oxygenated water through its gills while at rest.
How many of us know people who seem always on the go — the shark people? People who seem unable to breathe while at rest? People afraid to rest for fear that they will cease to be? People who routinely work double and even triple shifts? People who seem to exist on two hours’ sleep, pep pills, and pots of coffee? People who feel they must work constantly just to keep up with what they think is life? People who schedule their children for three afterschool activities while they themselves have after-work activities? People who run for the city bus with a sandwich in their jaws? People who drive with one hand, eat an ice cream cone with the other, and talk with a cell phone tucked between their head and shoulder? (I’m not kidding! I saw this last night when my pet man and I were coming home from the grocery store!) Are you a shark person, or have you ever been a shark person?
Pull over. Breathe. Sit. Dream. Chill. Have a cup of tea (or perhaps a cocktail). Fix a real meal, one that requires you to sit down at a table and eat with flatware or chopsticks. Eat a real dessert, not a packaged cream cake that may not exactly be wholesome or even fresh. Take a nap, complete with stuffed animal and favorite blanket. Call the person you send text messages to all the time and invite him or her to your place for tea, goodies, and conversation. Write a real letter with paper, pen, and proper grammar to a loved one who’s out of town. Let the children spend their free time playing or reading or dancing or even daydreaming.
What’s the big rush? A day is still twenty-four hours long, whether you rush through it or take each moment slowly. Cramming things and actions into every moment won’t add one more second to the day. Don’t worry; your children will still be wonderful people even if they’re not going to soccer, cheerleading, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, and football practice; karate, ballet, and guitar lessons, and horse riding camp every day. Yes, children need structured activities to make them well-rounded people, but they don’t need to do every activity under the sun.
Come to think of it, neither do you. When was the last time you heard a dying person wish he or she had spent more time at the office or at the factory? Ain’t gonna happen. When was the last time you put on some soft music on your home stereo, snuggled up with a cozy book that has little or no literary or informative value, and just dug into it? If the answer is longer ago than a month, you need to slow down. If you have to work 16-hour workdays just to put food on the table, clothes in the closet, and a place to lay your head, you may want to consider getting the skills needed for a better job that you love. If you’re working 16-hour workdays, however, so that the food on your $1000 dinner table is fine-dining quality, the clothes in your walk-in closet are fashion-runway originals, and you just bought a million-dollar house, scale back your lifestyle. As an infant, you didn’t know you ‘needed’ a $700 vacuum cleaner when a $70 one will still pick up dirt; what’s so different now that you’re grown? I’m not saying that we should take vows of poverty; however, there is so much in the world we just don’t need, and God always provides us with what we do need.
For the overburdened parent: do you even remember how many children you have, let alone their names and ages? These are people you either brought into the world or brought into your life via adoption; each one needs you just as much now that they’re nearly grown as they did when they were small. Take time to find out who they are, but don’t bulldoze over them. Make it easy for them to approach you; young people’s lives may have different stressors from adults’ lives, but they also feed off the stresses of the adults in their lives. If you can’t chill, they can’t chill. Worse, they may find bad ways to chill, such as drugs, alcohol, or sex.
Are you still watching the sharks at the aquarium? Good; you’ve just proven that you do have the power to relax, that you are not a shark person. Now go see the other creatures.