National Commentary

Johnny’s World: The Art of Relaxation

weir-mugThe alarm clock’s unwelcome bleats begin at 6:17 a.m.

Five more minutes… 

The snooze button is beaten with the strength of a thousand gladiators. Five minutes later, the process is repeated. For 25 minutes more, like clockwork, the annoying chirping, the punching, and the glorious five-minute dreams occur until suddenly: Oh damn, I’m late!

Leaping from the bed, I run into the shower. For normal people a quick shower is five minutes or less; for me, it’s 35 minutes or less. As soon as every last hair is put into position, every spot on my face is concealed to flawless perfection, and an outfit is created that hasn’t been seen in public for at least six calendar months, I dash out the door to warm up my car.

I fly through North Jersey, somehow managing to throw an entire iced venti nonfat chai latte down my gullet – thank God my Starbucks baristas have memorized my car, now hurling ‘round the corner – without consuming the plastic cup, the straw, or my own paw out of hunger, and head to my first on-ice training session.

My coach, a surly Ukrainian, is somehow earlier than I am – damn – even though she lives an extra half hour away from the rink. Somehow she is radiant and clearly did a masque this morning, and apparently doesn’t hit snooze as I’m told, “I don’t need alarm clock, my body know, why you late?”

I’m tired. “There was traffic!”

“I not very believe it you.”

To say I’d overslept would be the kiss of death on this gorgeous Wednesday morning, as all well-trained athletes should only be tired at the end of the day.

We train very hard for two hours before it’s time for my afternoon “nap time,” which should not include lunch, chewing of any kind, or extra curricular activities like dry-cleaning, vacuuming, shopping for things to chew, consuming alcohol, narcotics or smoking cigarettes.

I use my hour of “nap time” to do the day-to-day things I’m not supposed to do but are necessary to the survival of my household. I drop off dry-cleaning. I marinate my dinner, a small chicken breast. I write what seems like 3,000 e-mails to everyone from my mother to the PR manager of a hotel in the Caribbean that I’m staying with in just a few weeks’ time. Thank God. I break all the rules.

Before I know it, I’m back in the car deep-throating an overpriced mix of skim milk and tea down my throat. I quickly segue into hardcore athlete training part two, which is marginally more taxing than my morning foray onto the giant frozen ice cube. The barking of my lovely boss and the stress of not pissing her off leaves me sweaty and somehow five pounds lighter.

At the end of the practice, which I haven’t fallen during, I get a nod of approval and a reminder not to eat too much at dinner and not to oversleep again.

“Must to be strong, must not to be heavy, must fly.”

She says everything in her native Russian, but I know what it would sound like in English. In a cloud of mink and Chanel No. 5, my Ukrainian leaves me to un-tape and un-pad my feet from the bonsai-like bondage I have perfected in the last 12 years.

I do as I’m told. I have a tiny dinner of lettuce and marinated chicken. I get to bed ridiculously early. I focus on my job, the opinion of my boss at tomorrow’s training, and this Groundhog Day that will repeat every day for the foreseeable future.

Whaa, whaa, whaa.

Five more minutes…

It took me a long time to realize the value of a vacation or a stay-cation. Work is sometimes so all-consuming that we can’t see its detriment to our health and social abilities as a human. A generation of hermits isn’t exactly attractive. Even if you take an hour a day, just for yourself to do something mundane like taking in the dry-cleaning, that hour can be your sanity and bliss. A relaxed brain is a successful brain. Take the time to enjoy life and ease your mind; then, get your ass back to work and conquer your world!