My Winter of Rest and Relaxation

As the end of 2018 approached, I was craving rest.  November and December had been crazy busy and I was really looking forward to some time off.  But before I could rest, I had a last minute work project to finish, a trip upstate to celebrate Christmas , and a sleepover planned with my nieces.  As all of that approached, I started to feel like I was getting sick, but pushed through it. I got the work done. I got the pre-holiday errands done. I got the packing done. I got the cleaning done. I thought I was maybe fighting off the sickness, but as I got on the train to go upstate, the worst sinus infection of my life set in.

After spending Christmas on my brother’s couch feeling like I got hit by a truck, I managed to get myself on a train back to the city and cleared my calendar for the rest of the week.  I didn’t have the energy to read but I did muster up the energy for an Audio book. Audible had recommended a book called My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, because I was a Pisces. It sounded very relaxing and exactly what I needed.

Not too far in, it became clear that this was not a book about rest and relaxation. This was a book about a young woman who wants to sedate herself, so she doesn’t have to live life or feel anything. She has decided that if she sedates herself for a year, she will be “re-set” and can then go on with her life and leave all of the stuff she didn’t want to deal with behind. But it’s a also a comedy. This book was seven hours of a lot of this….

”I took a Valium, two Benadryl’s, when to the Egyptians and got two coffees and a Klondike bar, watched Jumping Jack Flash and The Fugitive and drifted off to sleep.”

I listened to the whole thing.  (Spoiler alert, I am going to give you the play by play.)

Interspersed with reports of the medications she was taking, and the movies she was watching (starring her heroes Whoopie Goldberg and Harrison Ford), we did learn about the life of this no-named woman. She was beautiful, and she believed that no one really wanted to be her TRUE friend because she was so beautiful. She did have one friend she did not really like, who insisted on coming over and complaining about her life while the un-named woman made it very clear she did not want her there.  The main character’s parents gave her almost nothing emotionally and they both died while she was in college.  She was obsessed with an older man who was a complete ass.  She had an insane psychiatrist who kept forgetting her parents were dead and had no idea the woman was lying about having insomnia to get more meds.  Did I mention this was a comedy?  I had read a review that said the ending was worth reading the whole book.  So, I kept listening.

Every month or so, the un-named woman would go to her insane doctor to get more prescriptions.  At about 6 months in, they tried a new drug called Infermiterol (not a real drug) that would make her sleep for three days straight (score!), but she learned that during those three days, her subconscious would do crazy things, like go out partying, buy things online, order Chinese food, drunk-dial the older man, and get bikini waxes.  She wanted to stop doing these things, because they were counter to her goal to do NOTHING, so she tried to avoid this new drug. But after the Infermiterol no other sleep drug would work!  She was screwed!  It was painful to listen to her take more drugs and watch MORE Whoopie Goldberg and Harrison Ford movies and still not be able to sleep!!! But I kept listening.

She finally came up with a plan to have this creepy artist dude lock her in her apartment and make sure her basic needs were met (i.e. food) so she could take 40 of these pills in a row to finish out her “year of rest and relaxation” and NOT leave her apartment and not DO anything or FEEL anything.  In exchange for helping her with this, the creepy artist dude, got to make creepy art of her while she was “sleeping”.  (There is a whole undercurrent about the ridiculousness of the art world in this book that was sort of over my head because I am not in the art world.) Did I mention the no-named woman is independently wealthy because her parents were rich and left her all of their money? This was why she could sleep all day, not work, and still pay for drugs…in case you were wondering.

I kept listening to the book, because now I really had to see how it ended. And we were almost there.  Just three more months of sleep to go.  And luckily, they went quickly because she slept through most of it.

Here is how it ends. (Reminder…spoiler alert!) When she wakes up from her three months of slumber (somehow surviving on diet Sprite and some occasional light snacks and vitamins) she is emotionally healed!  AND she has NO drug withdrawal.  She does have to regain her strength with an egg salad sandwich so she can walk, but she does it.  She is now a person who can tolerate living in the world. And she is still, miraculously, beautiful.  She literally erased all of her angst by sleeping for a year, and then just woke up.  The book ends on 9/11 and she loses her one friend (who she didn’t really like) in the attack on the World Trade Center.  She records the footage of a woman jumping out of one of the towers and watches it over and over because she is sure this woman is her friend. And she thinks her friend is finally feeling alive in that moment. That is how it ends.

My first thought was… “That was a waste of seven hours of my life.”

I know there was all sorts of poignant commentary on our society in this book that I was supposed to pick up on. (I read about it in the literary reviews.) I didn’t pick up on any of that stuff. But it definitely, left an impression on me.  This was a CRAZY book and I could not stop thinking about it.  

I was thinking about how much I really needed to REST and how much I wanted to shut everything and everyone out and do absolutely nothing for a very long time. In those days, feeling sick and tired, I could totally relate to wanting to sleep and just ignore everything else.  And that freaked me out. 

I felt sad for this imaginary woman, of course. (I AM an empathetic Pisces sun/Cancer rising.) She had no tools to deal with her parent’s death. She had beauty, money, intelligence, a job in a cool art gallery (that she eventually lost because she kept taking naps there), but she was deeply unhappy. She didn’t want to face that, and she didn’t know how to fix it.  She did all the WRONG things to make it better. But then it WAS better.  And that freaked me out.  Life doesn’t work that way!!!

What was this book saying to me?  Why was it hitting me so hard?  I honestly wasn’t sure.  I continued to hibernate for the rest of the week and recover from the sinus infection.  I started this post about the book but had no conclusion, so I filed it away, incomplete.  I re-entered the world and went on with my life.  Things got crazy busy again.  I started flying around the country, working long hours, and squeezing in “creativity” on the side.

Then my body revolted on me again with another sinus infection. Whatever the message at Christmas, I didn’t get it.  My body loves to send me messages and if I don’t listen, it yells REALLY LOUD and the timing usually sucks.

This time it was my 50th birthday and my sister and my college friends were coming to town to celebrate with me. I managed to rally through the weekend with a lot of Sudafed, Advil, Augmentin, and Prednisone, but then I had to go back in to semi-hibernation to rest.  I felt a lot like the no-named beautiful, sad woman…with slightly fewer drugs and better entertainment.

The book and the unfinished blog post were haunting me (and not just because I am an ISTJ and hate having things incomplete.)  I think this book represents my own ongoing conflict between wanting to just “sleep” and hide out and wanting to be awake and alive – which is often scary and a lot harder.  And how much rest do I need? Am I resting enough?  I am not good at resting.  I am a type A person who always has a list of things to do, but maybe I need to just chill out more often. Does every weekend have to start with a to do list? Do I need to watch more movies and eat more Klondike bars?

I have been getting sick a lot the past few years, so I know something is out of alignment – physically, emotionally, spiritually.  To get back in alignment, I know I have to be IN the world more and go more deeply in to what I need to work on. But when I am sick, ALL I want to do is rest and hide out.  See the conundrum?

I have been debating all of this, thinking about my next move, and pondering how to end this blog post.

Then, last night, I had a dream about egg salad sandwiches. I think that was my sign that it’s time to wake up and come out the winter hibernation.  I have to figure out what my body needs to get healthy (and stay healthy) and find the right balance of resting and being in the world. What is out of alignment is probably some crazy shit that’s been building for 50 years (or maybe 50 lifetimes!) so this is not going to be easy, but I am going to figure it out. I might take a few naps along the way, and I will need to be patient, but I will get to the bottom of it. 

I did put my spiritual journey on the back burner a bit during this crazy time but its still simmering on the stove. All of this resting and being sick, ties in to the astrology stuff I have been studying but I will save that for another time.  If you are interested in my spiritual journey, you are in luck because I will be jumping back in hard core this spring.  Lots of good stuff coming up! I will be going deep. 

I learned this week, that between the full moon and the new moon, you should close things out, let things go, and make room for new stuff. I am letting go of this book.  I am letting go of this sinus infection. I am wrapping up this blog post and putting it out in to the world.

Bring on Spring and lots of new stuff!!!