how to rest

i'm entering week five in taiwan and am happy to report i no longer feel like i'm running on a crazy hamster wheel. :D

i've known for awhile now that i don't know how to effectively relax/rest. i could never fully relax whenever i did anything i deemed unproductive, which seemed to include too many things like playing games, watching tv/movies, and cooking. i felt like these weren't adding value to my life nor pushing me toward becoming the ideal version of myself. i knew relaxation was supposed to be an investment in my future well-being, but i still had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that was constantly like, "okay, are you done relaxing yet?? we've got a whole backlog of stuff that needs doing and improvements that need making!"

the thing that seemed to do the trick was to designate a rest day where my sole focus is to do whatever i want to do in the moment.

given my obsessions with freedom and authenticity, you'd think this would've been obvious and crystal clear long ago.

i've known for most of my life that other people can drain me with their preferences and feelings. it's exhausting making decisions for two (or more). my default is to optimize for the good of the group, which often means some sort of compromise or sacrifice. typically this isn't a big deal because when other people are happy, i'm happy, but this also means that i'm often not doing what i would actually do if it were up to just me. when people in the group aren't happy, i feel stressed and try to do my best to make them feel more comfortable. (btw, i know i'm not responsible for other people's feelings and reactions and have been working on living this out. separate issue.)

this explains why alone time is crucial for me: it's the only time i get to have whatever i want without the extra cognitive load of considering what other people might want. but it doesn't explain why i still felt exhausted despite blocking off alone time and doing 'relaxing' stuff like reflecting and journaling and spa-ing and massage-ing.

what i hadn't realized was that future-gail was draining me, too. during my alone time, i'd do things i thought i was 'supposed to' be doing during recharge time. i'd work on stuff that i knew was good for me. i'd invest in activities that helped align future-gail with ideal-gail. but i paid no attention to what my heart wanted right now, right this second; after all, conventional wisdom says acting on impulse is 'bad' and that we should think long and hard about whether the thing we wanna do right now is 'good' for us.

it turns out, present-me feels really, really happy and relieved and reenergized whenever i listen to her. and the happier present-me is, the easier it is for her to make room for future-me to run the ship during the week. the most amusing thing i learned from my experimentation with this approach to rest is that present-me often wants things that are good for future-me anyway. on my day off, i ended up reading for hours, writing, catching up with friends, and wandering around taipei. none of these things seem terribly wasteful or pointless. kanjun tried this experiment as well and ended up reorganizing her toDo list. makes me curious about what kindsa stuff my other friends would end up doing on their rest days. maybe this is just the nature of people who don't know how to chill. :P

it's been over a week since my first rest day, and i still feel awesome. coincidentally, my therapist gave me very similar advice that week, 'what kinds of things do you like doing? what kinds of things make you happy? do more of them -- do whatever YOU want to do.'

i've been dreading going home to sf, but am slowly coming to terms with it. i feel much better equipped to deal with the intensity of the bay area. and i do miss my friends. i'm optimistic that by the time the plane touches down, i'll be excited to jump back into real life.


sometimes doing whatever i want means eating an entire dragonfruit in one sitting and producing pink poop the next day.