I'm on vacation now, visiting my sisters and their families, enjoying the presence of wild and happy children around me, reveling in the sounds of laughter--with the occasional shrieks of sobbing hysteria because "he hit me, she hurt my feelings, he snatched my toy", etc., In between this daycare chaos, my ever outdoorsy sister with her toned legs and flat stomach would ask, "Do you want to go take the kids out?"
"Anywhere! We can take them to the park or the zoo or the museum..."
But see, I am now operating only on potential energy and I have started gathering my moss and the idea of slipping off of the couch and putting on my shoes fill me with dread. I am the laziest workaholic I know. And although one would think that self-awareness is half the battle, the war is lost because being self-aware is where it pretty much ends for me. The desire for change is nonexistent.
I have two jobs, I go 100 miles an hour at work, but when that's done, it is downhill from there. Couch, computer, TV. Unless there's an earthquake, I'm not moving around.
"Don't you wanna see St. Louis?" my sister asked in what I detected to be a restraint voice.
"I came to see the kids," I said, scanning the room and wondering where they all went.
"We can take them to the science museum."
Science Museum. I want to stab my eye.
"Or take them to the Art Museum. I haven't been there."
I had a quick vision of the 2-year-olds discussing Van Gogh.
"There's a park nearby," my sister said, putting away toys in the toy box for the third time that hour. Why doesn't she stop moving? I don't remember her moving nonstop like this when she was in New York.
"Okay," I said, hoping that response would settle her a bit and then a couple of hours later she can ask again and I will say ok, and buy a couple more hours until the sun goes down. And who goes to the museum at night? Not me.
Why am I such a boring, lazy homebody? I remember living by an hour per hour schedule in my 20's, from 7AM to midnight, running constantly, going to work, going to class, speaking at rallies, counseling students, planning events, and needing to pencil in a time to see my boyfriend. I was beyond busy. And, really, even now, I've always worked more than one job, registered in school for some certification, my foot on the gas. But whenever I get home or the weekend comes or vacation hits...I transform into the human sloth.
Always on the quest to get to know myself, I've been reeling on this seemingly organic form of laziness. Why, oh why, am I this way?
And no, it really isn't because I'm so busy all the time that I inevitably just crave for some down time. I truly think I intentionally stay busy because given the opportunity, I would never leave my house and I would just hibernate the whole year through and never bathe or change my clothes.
I fished for a memory in my childhood because I'm convinced that every gift, every deficit, every strength and every defect can be traced there. I was 7 again in the Philippines, occasionally watching my siblings and the neighborhood kids through the window. I could see a game of stick baseball, kickball, marble flicking, etc., The combination of the noise, the social interaction, the physical activity were enough to make me hyperventilate. I stayed in my room, drew pictures, read books, and pretended I was adopted waiting for real wealthy parents to claim me. I laid around, moved in slow motion, observed everyone and stayed by myself. No one came and said, "Okay, Chic, time's up. Your schedule now requires activity." I was left to myself, drooling in welcomed boredom, staring at the ceiling, feeling my little soul fall into an endless abyss. That would be interrupted every now and then by an invitation. "Do you want to play tag? We need one more person." The invitation/demand would often come from my oldest sister who only exerted one kind of energy: kinetic.
"Okay..." I was afraid of her.
"You can't pull out last minute or I'll beat you," she'd snarl.
"Okay...but...I think I may be getting sick."
"You're always sick, you're always sick, you never want to do anything!"
It was true. I was always sick. But it was also true that I never wanted to do anything. No game was ever that interesting. No group of kids were ever that fun. No childhood event was ever that exciting.
When my husband and I started dating, I said, "I'm really boring. You will find that I'm really boring."
But I was the youth pastor, a performer in college, and a school ambassador. I had an infectious amount of energy, I was charming and gregarious, able to hold any type of conversation. I was full of dry humor and wit. How in the heavens could I possibly be boring?
But I was. I preferred to be sedentary and I liked my solitude. I was the human sloth.
Today is our last day in St. Louis and because I had only been to my nephew's school and the thrift store the past 3 days, I reluctantly agreed to go to the zoo with my sister and the kids because I started to feel guilty. The zoo grounds were fantastic, with manicured grass, forest trees, clean pavements, and a collection of exotic animals ranging from flamingos, to orangoutangs, to tigers and lions. We had a small lunch then we stopped for ice cream as we made our way to check out geckos and pythons. My brother-in-law was with us and he pretended to be an expert tour guide armed with useless information and we laughed and egged him on. The kids ran and oohed and ahhed, and they called each other's names and pointed at unknown animals.
"I'm so glad we're here," I said. "This is such a nice place and we're having such a good time."
And then I felt myself fill up with shame. I'm a mother now and I have children. This isn't about a game that's interesting enough or a group that's a lot of fun or an event that's exciting. This is about family time and as much as what comes natural for others is an effort for me because it is outside my true make-up, I have to stretch my joints and slip off the couch and put on my shoes and get out. My preference to be sedentary and to be in solitude has to have its own time and only when it does not make my family suffer as a consequence.
So, I've made a promise to myself to do better. That although I was born a sloth, I would do my best to become any other kind of animal that gets up and walks around. And should a moment come when my true nature wants to win the battle, I'll just speak to me in my sister's voice: "You can't pull out...or I'll beat you." And hopefully, that voice will be strong enough to get me off my backside, on my feet, and out the door.