“Just” Relax

Relaxing is not something I’m particularly good at.

To give you an idea of how uptight I tend to be, let’s just say my dentist recently told me if I don’t stop clenching my jaw I’ll likely need to get a mouthguard. Yeah. That bad. At the time, I wasn’t even aware I did it, but since he pointed it out, I’ve realized I do it almost constantly, even in my sleep. And it doesn’t stop there. If you need to find me in a room, just look for the girl with her back as straight as a board and her shoulders practically levitating off of her body. That would be me.

So when I hear people say “just relax,” I have to laugh at the silliness of it. “Just” relax? Are they serious? I wish it were so easy. But no, apparently my natural state is to behave as though I’m always up against something. Even when I’m very clearly not in ANY DANGER WHATSOEVER, I seem to think I should still be on guard just in case. It’s simply my subconscious reaction to, well — life. I must be ready AT ALL TIMES to defend myself. Suffice it to say, all of this preparation for the inevitable disaster is terribly exhausting. I’ve gotten better at noticing it since I began meditating regularly and practicing being more mindful of my thoughts and how I feel in my body (shout out to my therapist!), but it still sneaks up on me every now and then. Like this morning. I noticed during my meditation that my mind was being particularly unruly. I suppose that should have been the first tip-off, but my mind is often that way, so I tried my best to just let it be. Well, my mind had other ideas, and soon enough I was in a foul mood, hating the world and everything in it. I hated the guy walking on the street in front of me and his stupid baggy pants, my shoes didn’t feel got AT ALL, and those girls in the apartment above mine needed to shut the fuck up.

Obviously, I needed to do something. So I did what anyone would do and I took a shower and sang some Adele at the top of my lungs. That helped a little bit, but what really helped was when I sat down and started flipping through my book of poetry. The first one I came across was this one, which I wrote a little more than a year ago:

Stop.

Just stop.

The running,

The hiding,

The wanting.

Put down your weapons,

Peel back the armor,

And breathe.

Pull the oxygen deep

into your lungs,

your belly,

your mind,

your soul.

Air out that space

so long closed off to

the outside world.

Let life rain down

upon your heart.

Bare your breast

to its arrows–

Love

Fear

Desire

strike the tender spots.

Sinking in

and melting

like the snow.

©Jennifer Horton

Something about reading those words really soothed the storm inside. I read it several times aloud and it hit me — this is what my irritability was trying to tell me. That I needed to Stop. To LET GO. Somehow speaking that need out loud helped to release some of the pent up angst. And I’m so glad because it’s a gorgeous day outside and my unexplained anxiety was threatening to keep me from being able to enjoy it. Hopefully next time (and trust me, there WILL be a next time) I’ll catch it before it spins quite so far, but I’m at least grateful to be reminded of an important lesson. And to remember just how healing poetry can be.

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