High Strung [ 2003-12-08, 12:42 a.m. ]

At some point in my adult life, I lost the ability to relax.

I used to be able to relax – I could lounge around all weekend, not showering or getting dressed, happy to watch tv and talk on the phone. I would take naps and still sleep soundly at night. I’ve never been what you might call ‘laid back,’ but I certainly used to be capable of some quality down time.

Now – and this has to be a fairly recent development – I can’t sit still for a half hour. I can’t flip through magazines, I can’t watch MTV, I can’t talk on the phone. My neck is constantly tight and my back is permanently knotted. I’m always planning something or working on a project. I never - never feel calm.

I don’t know why. I became conscious of how high strung I am while I was planning our wedding; I felt physically tightly wound, as if all of my muscles were tensed, all the time. I thought once the wedding was over, that feeling would pass, but it hasn’t. I’m the only person I know who hated Maui. Kent and I had planned an eight-day honeymoon, all at the Four Seasons in Maui. I hated it. I hated all the pampering, I hated the stupid expensive breakfast, I hated having nothing to do, I hated feeling like I was a million miles away from the real world. After four days, we checked out early (the staff at the Four Seasons didn’t know what to make of us – “It’s a work emergency,” Kent told them.) and flew back to California. As soon as we were in San Francisco and among other people, cars, activity I felt better. We ended up having an awesome honeymoon – we rented a car and drove down the coast of California, stopping in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Barbara (where we stayed two nights), then back up to San Francisco where we stayed another two nights. But I never really relaxed – I just felt better being back in a “normal” environment. “Maybe we’re just city people?” Kent suggested as I breathed a sigh of relief to be back on Highway 101 after our time in the Hawaii sunshine. But I think it’s just me…he has no problem relaxing. Kent would take a nap every day if he could. He’s more than happy to just lie around comfortably. I lie down for three minutes and then start wondering about ways in which our relationship could be better, or areas of my life could be improved, or projects I need to get to (clean out closet, organize photo drawer, update phone book, etc etc etc). I can’t sit still.

Some women have a very languid, comfortable, sexy quality about them; they are relaxed and confident in their bodies. Think Catherine Zeta-Jones. Or Uma Thurman. Maybe Diane Lane, or even Nigella Lawson. Women who are sexy and have an almost feline energy – women who would have no problem lounging on a yacht. My energy? Is more of a hyper, young terrier. High strung, cute maybe, but rarely sexy. More of Parker Posey type – or Monica on Friends might be more apt.

I want to be a more sensual, sexual woman. I’m not sure if more sex leads to greater confidence, or the other way around, but the flip side of my neurotic personality is that I am often uninterested in sex. Not to say that I don’t get turned on, or than I’m never in the mood for sex – I’m still human. But (and this is hard to admit), while I like sex a lot, I end up thinking things like: …but the dishes need to be rinsed off; …but I just changed the sheets; …but I really don’t want to brush my teeth again; …but I need to put in a load of laundry.

Needless to say, we have less sex now then we used to - back in those days of long weekends, ordering food in and sleeping late. What I can’t figure out is if I need more sex in order to relax, or if I need to learn how to relax in order to have more sex.

(It’s weird for me to be sharing this kind of thing. It feels weird. Yikes. I just admitted that I shrug off sex because it’ll mess the bed up. Gah.)

I think most girls describe themselves as being ‘low-maintenance’ and ‘laid-back’ when they’re 22 and flirting with guys. It’s totally bullshit. We may claim to be low-maintenance, but that’s a fucking ruse, because all women want to be treated with care and respect and low-maintenance is just code for “I’m here when it’s convenient for you, at least at first, but really I want you to call me every day and tell me I’m pretty.” But laid-back is a different thing – while claiming to be ‘laid-back’ is a very un-laid-back thing to do, there are plenty of women who are relaxed and content. I want to be one of those women. I used to be one, sort of. Now I’m a less iconic Annie Hall, or worse – Diane Keaton’s character in Manhattan. I’d much rather be Tracy, all 17 years of her. She was laid-back. Perhaps even low-maintenance. She ate Chinese food in bed with Woody Allen and didn’t worry about spilling on the sheets or getting fat or MSG or anything. But I am really rambling now…

Here’s what it comes down to: I want to take a break. I don’t know how. I finished planning the wedding (and got married) – still tense. I quit my job – still tense. Started writing more (creative outlet) – tense. Yoga – some relaxation, followed by tension over what Yoga studio to join, what classes to try and attend, what style is best, what to wear to Yoga…and so on and so on and so on. I had been running a lot, which helped. Maybe that’s what I need – exercise?

I don’t know. Maybe I need a week at the Ashram with Orpah and Ben Affleck. But I want to be that sexy, confident woman – the one who may not be the most beautiful in the room, but who commands your attention because she is so sure of herself. Oh, and I want these fucking knots in my back to loosen up. I just don’t know where to start.

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