“You have to come,” Paige said to me, “this aerobics class is a unique Cayman experience. I can’t let you miss it.”
I reiterated that I didn’t like workout classes. “I already have enough people demanding things of me,” I always say when people encourage me to sign up for something like Orange Theory or Soul Cycle.
“Well this is more like a fast pass to Carnival,” she said, “and it’s time to go.”
I went to the reggae aerobics class. I was her guest for the week, and this was something she really wanted me to do. The class was packed and had just started when we arrived. The instructor beamed at me from the front and began encouraging all of us to thrust our hips.
I rolled my eyes at Paige, and laughed a little. “Kelroy is the best,” she said, referring to the instructor. The music was booming and the moves were overtly sexual. I tried to follow along for a few minutes and I saw Kelroy move towards me. I did the best to avert my eyes, but he was focused on me.
“You are too tight!” he said, pointing at my hips. “Loose! Like me!” He demonstrated something that made me blush. “Loose, loose, loose!”
I was laughing by the time he went back to the front. After about 15 more minutes, I was dripping in sweat. “It’s fun!” I admitted to Paige.
As the class wore down, Kelroy came back. His eyes went to my hips. “Yeeeees!” he said. “Loose like that!”
I was in the Cayman Islands for the week – my first real trip away from the kids for more than a weekend. I had an extra week of vacation, and my sweet dad encouraged me to do something for myself. Visiting my friend Paige made a lot of sense. “Plus,” I rationalized to everyone who would listen, “I’m going to use the week to work on my writing.”
But it was also New Year’s and Paige wasn’t about ready for me to just sit around all week. “This is the ‘Year of Yes!’” she announced to me as we thought about our New Year’s Resolutions.
I liked that. 2018 had been the year of cancer and death and financial worries and single parenting. It had most certainly not been the “Year of Yes!”
So I embraced her slogan. I have to say, it was a lot of fun to act a bit like teenagers again with my college friend. Our children were well cared for that week and we decided to enjoy ourselves like we did when we first knew each other.
Stay out until 2 am? Year of Yes.
Try the strongest drinks we could? Year of Yes.
Spend all day at the beach? Year of Yes.
Flirt with the bartenders? Year of Yes.
We didn’t hold back – or at least we didn’t hold back like we both had in 2018. “Should we try the Hamachi or the foie gras?” I asked her one night when we went to a fancy dinner.
“Both,” she said. “Year of Yes!”
“Am I really going to wear this?” I asked her on New Year’s Eve. “You can see my stomach!”
“Marjorie,” she reminded me, “I’m wearing gold pants. Year of Yes!”
This was starting to be fun.
On New Year’s Day we spent much of the morning eating pancakes and texting our other friend Kelly such hilarious things that I couldn’t get off the couch because I was laughing so hard.
“This is ridiculous,” I said about our text conversation.
“Year of Yes!” Paige replied.
Of course, we also both spent some of that week working. I wrote, mostly on the patio of her neighbor’s beach house, and I managed to craft a few things that I really liked.
But writing all day could be taxing, and by mid-day, I’d often need a break. Each day, my reward was the same – I’d return to her place and grab some lunch and an ice-cold grapefruit. Then I’d go back to the beach and eat it while listening to pop music and letting the juice run down my arms.
Year of Yes. It was certainly feeling that way.
On the final day I was there, I decided to read over some of the things I’d written over the past few months. It included many pages about Shawn’s illness and death, and it was painful to recount. Even the beauty of the waves couldn’t fully distract me from the hurt. Tears rolled down my face.
I was in paradise, in the Year of Yes, and I couldn’t let 2018 go.
But this was not how Shawn wanted me to live, I reminded myself. It was the one thing I knew for sure. He would have loved the idea of the Year of Yes.
I put on my headphones and stared out at the waves. A random song came on – “Feels Great” by Cheat Code – and I started to move my newly rediscovered hips as I stood on the patio of the beach house. I laughed thinking of Kelroy.
“Do you remember,” the music went, “how it feels to be young?”
I did. I remembered, mostly because Paige was helping me rediscover that part of myself that week. But I wasn’t young anymore. I’d lived a whole entire life – love, career, kids, cancer, death. I couldn’t live in 2019 without having 2018 with me too.
But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the Year of Yes isn’t about forgetting everything that came before.
I headed down to the waves with my headphones still on. Tears streamed down my face as the waves hit me.
Do you remember how it feels to be young?
Do you remember we could be anyone?
Do you remember how it feels to be young?
It feels great mothafucka, yeah.
I started dancing right there, in the waves. No one was around, so what did I care?
At that moment, every emotion of 2018 and every emotion of 2019 came over me. The tears kept coming but I was also laughing and I felt for a minute like maybe I was going a little crazy.
But I kept dancing. In fact, I danced in the waves with the song on repeat for probably 20 minutes. I liked the beat, the music and even the profanity. It all felt appropriate.
I felt alive. And it felt great.
Year of yes, indeed.