The summer I was 13, aunt Sara got married. The wedding was a big affair gathering far-flung members of two large families for a riotous celebration. My American aunt was marrying a Scottish man and they lived in the Cayman Islands, so guests hailed from around the Commonwealth and beyond. I spent the week before the wedding thrown together with the other awkward teens – Rachel, from England, and Mark, a very cute boy who I think was half American half British and who attended a boarding school… somewhere.

Rachel was a year older than me and approximately a million times cooler. She was clearly only talking to me because she had no choice. I’m pretty sure she smoked – something I would never even have considered – and she slouched around my grandmother’s backyard in an oversized t-shirt with giant letters that said “RELAX”. When my grandmother noticed the shirt, she smiled approvingly, “Why, isn’t that a nice thing for a shirt to say?” As soon as she had turned her back, Rachel rolled her eyes at me and said, “Yah – good thing she doesn’t know what it really is.”

I, of course, also did not know what it “really” was, and it took some well-placed questions and the occasional faked bits of knowledge (of course I liked “Frankie Goes to Hollywood” I nodded, though I had never heard of them) to learn that “relax” had something to do with sex and music and was most decidedly not a general, all-purpose sort of sentiment. I didn’t fully understand the reference for years.

This story pretty much sums up my relationship with “relax” – it sounds nice in theory, though it may mean something I don’t quite understand, and while I hope I can fake my way through, it often takes me a while to figure out. “Relax” is my one little word for this year, although I have to admit that I actually forgot what it was until a couple of weeks ago. Sigh.

In fact, I keep forgetting that I decided to focus on relaxing this year. Take, for example, last night, after the whole family tested positive for covid. As I fell asleep, I found myself planning everything I could get done in the five days of quarantine. In my head, the list went on and on: re-plan my classes to account for a four-day absence, finish a letter of recommendation, finish marking essays and start marking a project, complete report cards, finish my current book, read to Mr. 13, watch a movie, knit, do the laundry…

Today I mostly played word games and read a little. If I’m lucky, tomorrow I will do a little something else. We are lucky – none of us are seriously ill (keep your fingers crossed!) – and I am determined not to take that for granted. “Relax,” I tell myself, “the work can wait.”

I wonder what Rachel did with that t-shirt? Last I heard she had two children was running a pub; I’m sure the t-shirt is long gone. Still, I’m betting that right about now, both of us could use an oversize t-shirt that reminds us to relax. And we wouldn’t even roll our eyes when someone commented on what a nice idea it is.

6 thoughts on “Relax?

  1. I’m trying to read your post and the car horn starts blaring, so in the spirit of relaxing, I ignored it. Then the basement dweller rises from down under. The horn stops long enough for me to tell him it was my car. Then it started blaring again but quit as I retrieved my purse and Ken descended from upstairs so I could tell him to stop making the car horn go off, and he says, “I didn’t hear it.” So much for relaxing! 🤣 Do you think that t-shirt would help? And how could I not have known what *RELAX* means until reading this? That really concerns me! 😑 I do hope you all only have mild Covid. I’m off to shop for a t-shirt. I need all the relaxation help I can get.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First of all, I am sorry you are all sick, and I hope that you don’t get anymore ill. Sending you healing vibes!
    Secondly, I feel this. Relax? Ha! Even my 9YO tells me that I never. Ever. Stop. That’s saying something, right?
    You took your past story, wove it so well to now, and I love how you are reflecting on this part of you through this lens. It’s interesting how we start to see ourselves as we can pull back…


  3. I LOVED this post. I think your word connects to my (original) word from this year – space. Relaxing is so hard for me, I think, because I don’t work to create the space in which it can truly happen. I mean, I know I should, and I also know it’s difficult with the ticker-tape of tasks running from my brain.

    I also connected to that random connection of kids thrown together. As the youngest of four and often the object of my parents brining me along everywhere, I too was stuck with a lot of different kids. Sometimes we got along, sometimes…not so much. Thanks for the memories!


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