A while back, taking a rare full day off when in Malta, I tried my damndest to relax. I went down to the pool and lay on the sun-lounger and was all set to alternate reading and sleeping and swimming.
I had my shades, my lotion, my book. Not 20 minutes later, I had ants in my pants – not literally – I just couldn’t lie still. I couldn’t relax. Given that there was once a time in my life when lying around in the sun with nothing to do and all day to do it would have been dream come true, I found this a little disturbing.
Las Palmas might not be my holiday destination of choice, but for the last two days, I’ve rediscovered the joy of doing nothing. Nothing that matters. Yes, I’ve turned on my computer for a couple of hours each morning and did what I needed to do, but then I shut it down. And I switched off my phone. I effectively ‘went dark’ for hours on end. And what’s more important, I didn’t worry once that I had missed something; that there was something else I should have been doing.
Thursday, I took the bus tour – twice. I wandered around, stopped for coffee, bought and wrote some postcards, and generally did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Nothing bothered me. I had no schedule, no meetings (virtual or otherwise), no agenda. My time belonged to me – all of it. The tour bus skipped its last tour and as I sat waiting for 45 minutes for a bus that would never show up, I wasn’t the slightest bit agitated. Had I had a mirror in my bag, I’d have pulled it out just to double-check that I was me. Instead, I sat watching some young lads play amidst some unconcerned pigeons. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been away on my own in a place I’ve not been to before – and not been working. And I’m as unconcerned as those pigeons.
I ran into Néstor Álamo Hernández (Guía, 27 de febrero de 1906 — Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 24 de marzo de 1994) – a Spanish composer, author, and lawyer, and was reminded again of the joy to be had from reading a book. So Friday, I took myself to the beach, Playa de las Canteras. It’s one of the top urban beaches in Spain and runs for 3km. It sits literally steps from my hotel. I managed to find a spot in Zone 7 (yes, it’s all zoned – a busy spot). I paid my €3 for the sun-lounger, borrowed the only book in English from the book table (how civilised), and with the occasional beer for the vendor walking the beach, I set out, a little nervously, to do nothing. To relax. I read, I got in the water. I read some more. And then back into the sea. I took a break for a lunch of fresh mussels and local beer and then back to the hard work of doing nothing. It dawned on me about 4.45 as I finished my book and replaced it on the communal table that this has been the first day in a long, long time where I’ve done nothing…
I went back to the hotel, took a shower, had a nap and then out to see what Day 1 of the 17-day-long Carnival de las Palmas had to offer (apparently it’s second only to the Rio Carnival when it comes to spectacular revelry). As large crowds are not my scene, I beat a leisurely retreat back to the beach to dine on fresh prawns, courgettes and those spectacular Canarian potatoes.
This week started out a little manic: short on sleep, short on patience, and definitely short on humour. But it’s turned itself around. I, for one, am grateful that all is not lost. I still know how to relax. All I need is a little more practice.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52