Relaxing with military precision

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
I am ridiculously excited. By the time you read this paper, I'm going to be on a plane, planning to hit the beach, having given three-quarters of my life savings to the airport parking people and perhaps settling in to that trickiest of decisions - stewed tea or filter coffee?
Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin

Barbecue cassava chips or a cookie? It's just as well we're all having a holiday (our first out of the country together for six years!) because everyone needs a holiday in order to recover from my preparations for having said holiday. I am terrible at anticipation, especially the anticipation of relaxing.

There have been lists. There has been shopping. More shopping. Printing all paperwork in duplicate.Creating folders within folders on my phone. Getting a waterproof case for said phone. Removing Facebook from said phone, because who's going to have the time? Packing and repacking my hand luggage since about, ooh, August 15, when I located the perfect carry-on at Wanaka Wastebusters, giving me more than enough time to find an adequate handle for said bag. Reading Beauty is a Wound and watching Eat Pray Love for diverse cultural contexts. Scrolling through thousands of photos from hundreds of Bali properties on Airbnb, and searching street by street on the sort of booking engines that tell you, helpfully, that seven other people are looking RIGHT NOW at resorts nearby. Don't miss out. Book NOW! Booking now. Cancelling. Booking again. Telling the family. Reading their faces. Cancelling. Honestly. It's a wonder any of them are even talking to me, with my workaholic, perfectionist, over-mothering tendencies oozing from every pore along with the absolute determination to have a wonderful, relaxing, unplanned time. Hah.

I've always been that way. "Liz," says Luca Spaghetti. "You work too hard. You get burned out ... you don't know pleasure. You have to be told you've earned it." And I'm a little bit shocked to hear him calling me out in this way, but then I realise I've fallen asleep in front of Eat Pray Love and he's talking to the Liz on screen and I'm laughing at myself and so I nearly miss the bit about la dolce fa niente - the sweetness of doing nothing. Not that I would listen to it anyway, for I have a shield of hard-crafted resistance to well-meaning, catchy-meme-ing populist self-improvement movements. It serves me well.

I'm getting more and more open to the idea of actual relaxing, though, as the distance grows between me and my to-do lists. The laptop, left behind. I might read a book, or two, or eight, from the Kindle list I primed with military precision. I'm having grand thoughts of lying in late, though I know I'm going to be Christmas-morning-itching to get up early every day to find coffee and surf and sand between my toes.

In 2013, researchers in the United Kingdom found that the average person takes four days, eight hours and 24 minutes to properly unwind on their holidays, which is frighteningly specific, and I'm tempted to set myself a reminder for 2.24am on Wednesday (local time) to check just how average I am in this respect. But I have questions. Is it four days, eight hours and 24 minutes after you leave home? Or after you land? Or after you check in to wherever you've BOOK NOW-ed? How do we skew this data to make it relevant to Kiwis? See, this relaxing business is totally fraught. I have a growing suspicion that I could be deemed one of the 18% of people who never really relax on holiday at all. But I'm determined to crack it. I'm scheduling it in. Total relaxation. It's totally the plan.



Ah, the Latin. None of the Protestant work ethic or you're unworthy, with the Latin. You need to be in the Old World, the world of Caritas, of Fata Morgana.

'Scuse, but Luca, he sleeps with the fishes.

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