We need to learn how to receive. How to relax. How to let go.
If you’re thinking, Alessandra, I know how to relax, I am so chill, I would like you to try this. The next time you are laying in bed, ready to go to sleep, can you pay attention to your body and notice how much you are actually gripping? Your shoulders, your hands, the corners of your eyes, your jaw, your feet. How many neurons are still firing? How much tension is left inside your muscle fibers as you attempt to ease into your pillow? How safe do you feel in your own bed? How much do you trust your mattress, the ground, the grass, the earth to support you?
Receiving is uncomfortable. Whether it's a compliment, a gift, a hug, a blessing, how often do we respond with, "oh no, I couldn't possibly" or "you should't have" or “no thanks, I got it”? How often do we feel unworthy of receiving?
It's totally bonkers, right? We've become so conditioned to fiercely value the independent and self-made. Those who don't need anyone but themselves. Those who grind themselves to the bone unassisted to get things done. That's the image we get, but how do we get through the quiet moments without a partner, a tribe, a community? Not to turn this into a critique of late capitalism (jk I'm always looking to critique late capitalism), but look at the ads and messages we constantly receive! Don’t sleep, eat or see your children. Just do, make, create. Hyper masculine,* Hyper sun. Hyper ha. Hyper yang. If we don’t supplement that with equal parts nurturing, feminine,* moon, tha, yin, we fall apart. We need both sides. We need the cycle, the compliments the whole.
What I mean is, unclench. What I mean is, let go. What I mean is do nothing, which is not as simple as it sounds. What I mean is find the worth in your Self. Separate from your looks. Separate from your achievements. Separate from the gold stars and trophies and promotions. Separate from your bank account, assets, titles, accolades. Separate from the parts we cling to for validation.
There is a lot of trendy talk about “self-care.” This is definitely what I am advocating for, but there are specific distinctions I want to make. Self care is something you do for your Self. For your own body. Paying attention to the details of your being and what you need. Paying someone else to massage or manicure you is not self care. Massaging your own legs and discovering the grooves of your muscles is self care. However, allowing yourself to fully receive a massage from someone else is an act of receptivity. There are so many differentiations and overlap. Can we play with and enjoy both?
Masturbating is self care. And I don’t mean mindlessly fumbling about, staring at a screen, or turning on a vibrator. I mean feeling each and every touch. When was the last time you allowed yourself to receive an orgasm? The last time you relaxed into waves of ecstasy instead of pushing and forcing your way to a climax that remains just out of reach?
Eating is self care. When was the last time you allowed food to nourish you instead of shoveling it into your mouth between meetings? The last time you felt how your lunch made you feel?
When was the last time you felt the effects of your cocktail? Let it swim through you between tastes instead of slipping it like an oral fixation between awkward sentences and boring small talk?
And even when we start to pay attention, are we staying in the moments as we inhabit them? When you’re in the bathtub, are you allowing yourself to float freely, feel the warmth of the water soothe you? Or are we running through our wants and needs and desires and to do lists like never ending scrolls on Tumblr. Our brain is like a website, if we keep scrolling down and loading more content, we will crash. There is a limit to how much we can hold. Can we hit the pause button in earnest?
These are my observations and confessions. No one can house a double cheeseburger from Shake Shack faster than me, but I’m trying to slow down. To savor. To receive. It's as if effort to unclench has become more difficult than maintaining the strain of tension, and that's where the work comes in. It's like using pliers to open up and detach the pieces that cling together in an act of protection. I invite you to submit.
Yoga, therapy, acupuncture, massage, tarot, writing, improv. These are not all the tools, but these are the ones I have found the most helpful. To help me connect, receive, open. It’s not flicking a light switch. It’s years of practice. Of loving it and hating it. It’s hard. But I'm slowly learning to relax. And receive. And listen.