All my life, people have been urging me to relax. They put a hand on my knee to steady my shaking leg. They take me to the cockpit and introduce me to the pilot. They make me skip the nightly news and the daily paper. They offer glasses of merlot, cups of chamomile, sticks of gum, prescriptions for Ativan. They tell me about the wonders of yoga, the miracles of meditation, and a top-notch shrink in Murray Hill. It makes me very, very tense.
An intervention is staged—friends invite me to five days at a spa, and before I can protest that I'm much too busy, I find myself on the vacation I didn't think I could afford to take. Arizona is crazy beautiful. The air is perfumed with rosemary and purple sage, the mesas are dusted with pale cocoa earth, and at sunset the sky turns to mother-of-pearl. There's prickly-pear marmalade and men in white Stetsons, grand canyons and lonesome doves. My elusive search for serenity has brought me to Miraval, a spa that seems to want nothing more than to see me unwind. Rumor has it that another spa in the area searches your luggage for hidden Pringles and peanut butter cups. Miraval asks only that you be aware of what you're eating and make a point of savoring it. They believe in living mindfully, that people who are getting all the tender loving care they need will want to be good to themselves, and they provide the trainers, nutritionists, therapists, and aestheticians to help. The relaxation techniques that felt like a tedious waste of time in Manhattan feel like manna from heaven in Tucson. I am massaged with hot stones, pedicured with hibiscus, exfoliated with sea salt, anointed with oils, sunshined, sauna'd, steamed, stretched, peeled, lotioned, lathered, conditioned, polished, fed, and massaged some more. I nap, swim, read, chat, stroll, breathe deeply, sip mango iced tea, and nap some more. I avoid cell phones, e-mails, faxes, traffic jams, the frantic ticking of my biological clock, and any form of media in which I'm likely to encounter a warning from John Ashcroft. My neck slowly reappears as my shoulders slide down, my jaw unclenches, my lower back unknots, my fingers stop curling into fists, my chakras get unblocked, my chi gets released, my mood gets lifted. I become a wet fettuccine noodle in a white terry cloth robe. Nothing can faze me. The sky is falling? You don't say. The world is hurtling out of control? Praise the Lord and pass the sunblock. I develop an involuntary smile that borders on the idiotic. I don't want to leave.