We push ourselves hard to relax right. We give ourselves too little time after too long working too much for too many days in a row, and then we expect ourselves to relax at the drop of a hat. Relax, damnit! There’s only these two days of weekend before we have to get back to work! Hurry up and unwind! The pressure to unclench just adds more stress, when we’re supposed to do it both correctly and on a timeline. We tighten more, knot up a little harder, and can’t understand what people mean when they talk about self-care. Who has time to relax? we want to know. There’s just so much to do. And what does relax mean, anyway, for those of us who tensed up as a way of protecting ourselves from the violence that forced its way into our bodies? Don’t those “Just Relax” people know that, for us, being clenched was our radical self care?
What can relax mean for us, then, when being curled into a tight ball was the safest position? What does it take for us to unfurl what has been bound and rigid within ourselves, to trust that we can be safe when we are exposed?
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(whatever will happen, don’t turn back!)
(yes again: some language of sexual violence in here – just be easy with you.)
It’s 9:30pm, and people in the neighborhood are still out for their evening walks — kids on bikes and scooters, couples with happy, wagging dogs on leashes, everyone moving slow, leisurely. There are pop-pop-pops in the distance, and at first, I wonder if they’re gunshots, and then I remember the fireworks we saw above a copse of trees on the way home from the ice cream stand. The mosquitoes came out tonight, as did the first of the sand dollars — we found a mid-sized one this morning, and then two babies tonight: tiny grey sand dollars smaller than the tip of my pinkie finger. The ocean was cold today, colder than it was yesterday or the day before — I can’t understand how that happens. The ocean is itself, no? There was something I wanted to tell you this morning, but it’s gone now. Do you know how thoughts fade like that? I finished the Terry McMillan and have moved onto another beach novel. Today we talked with friends, supped with family. I didn’t have any incest thoughts or rape theorizing. We had sun all day and soaked in it. This was my theme song. My legs are mottled with salt, my skin tacky with sweat and sunblock and bug spray. I fell asleep on the sand — a nap! — and woke up not feeling sticky and gross inside, not feeling as though someone had painted me from belly to brainstem with the residue of incest dreams (damnit. I guess I was wrong, what I said before).