Nightly rictus

Night. I lay battling my body. Relax, I ordered. Relax, I urged. My body refused to cooperate, reacting like a cartoon balancing machine, my consciousness a manic Lucille Ball trying to cap all the overflowing spigots of tension. One muscle relaxed at the expense of another tensing up. The concentration was too much, my body requiring muscular tightening in order to focus.

Let it go, I insisted. I tried to sink into the mattress, immediately becoming aware of stiffness and aches. Inevitably, by the time I manage to relax the majority of my body, I begin to itch. Try as I might to ignore it, one itch leads to hundreds and soon I’m writhing in the sheets, my pajamas all twisted, riding up my butt crack.

I am blessed not to suffer from insomnia often. But this fight to relax is a nightly war that I wage. I don’t have to relax. I could let my body squidge up all its energy into tight balls and I will eventually fall asleep that way. I have no faith that sleep actually relaxes my muscles. Come dream time, the nerves all fire again, and I wake with an iron banded jaw.

I should be happy. This nightly (and, let’s be honest, daily) work out probably burns a lot of calories, letting me eat junkier food that I ought. But part of me thinks that until I can conquer this tendon stretching body wrench, I will carry all the anxiety and the anger and the fear with me in every step, and it will affect everything I do. Chalk one up for the control fetish.

Step by step, I relaxed my muscles, toe up. It leaves a curious dead feeling in my feet, legs, and back. I rarely reach my head before I fall asleep. I know that even as I start. And it isn’t that I successfully relax all my muscles – at the minimum my face and jaw remain locked in deadly combat – but that I stop trying. It’s around my back, or my arms, that I start to get lost, and stop thinking about it. I’m drifting into other thoughts, too tired to remember the goal, relaxing my hands, relaxing my hands, my hands are completely relaxed. I’m relaxing my shoulders, I’m relaxing my shoulders, my shoulders are completely…relaxed…there was that thing I needed to do tomorrow…relaxing my neck…My lips stay sealed, providing formidable walls to spiders looking for a summer home. Until I fall asleep and forget…unless my jaw squares itself again…relaxing my jaw…zzzz….


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