Working from home, from my bed, I do not have the best posture. The bed I sleep on is not my own, and it’s hard to sleep on. I sleep on all sides of my body throughout the night, and recently, my left shoulder started to hurt again after many years of being healthy and whole, after tons of physical therapy.
My shoulder was just aching and throbbing, even with meds. Then it started with my right shoulder. It wasn’t just the pain; it was how I was holding myself: stooped forward, my left shoulder pushing forward. Not a good look.
Because this pain wasn’t really going away on its own, I decided to get a massage, just at a chain place near my house. I wasn’t seeing this as a treat. It was necessary. I was in pain, distracting pain, and I need to start healing my shoulders and god knows what else.
The last time I had a massage was on my 35th birthday, on a beach in Key West in a little hut, a dream realized. It was so relaxing and felt luxurious, but it was not therapeutic.
Even further back, maybe another 5 years, I got a free massage after I was done with physical therapy for my knee. Again, relaxing, but not therapeutic.
Even further back than that, probably another 5 years, I got free chair massages from a massage therapist who came to give massages for our employees. That’s where I also learned that masseuse was a passe term and that I should the proper term massage therapist. I also learned how knotty my shoulders could be.
All those other times, I had been carrying a lot of weight with heavy bags and purses. Also, like a lot of people I’m sure that I carry tension in my shoulders. Now I don’t do much of that except sit in bed and write. I knew my back would also be a mess, after hours of bending over at my computer.
I arrive at the massage place (shop? facility?) and was there 30 minute early (that never happens). It’s a benign, bright place of wood and gleaming white surfaces, located in a glorified strip mall. I wasn’t expecting to be seen quickly, but I filled out my health history on an iPad and as I was done, my massage therapist walks through the door.
Good handshake, good energy, big blue eyes (oh hey, he’s kinda cute). Also, I just feel so weird and vulnerable. It’s been so long…
Also, to add to all of this, I’m on the rag. Ugh.
After passing this dark brown waiting room that was in stark contrast to the light and bright waiting area out by the front desk, we walk down this dark brown hall of many doors and we go into the room.
This guy is very…quiet. Of course, this is a quiet place–it has to be. But can I imagine him jumping up and down cheering his favorite basketball team? Or yelling at a rock concert? And then those eyes are just taking so much in…it’s like his whole being is doing that, in a quiet way. Maybe his inner serenity is just so easily coming out…at the glorified strip mall.
It doesn’t scare me, though, even though I may be writing like this. It’s not creepy. It’s just subtly intense, the attention. Maybe I’m realizing that he’s good at being present while I tend to live in my head all the time. It’s a bit like someone opening the car door while I’m driving.
I’m also going to be present with this dude for 90 minutes, and it’s just going to be about me. The last time that happened, I was in therapy. Last summer. That isn’t happening often at all anymore.
We’re both standing, and it feels so awkward. Why am I standing? Should I be sitting down? I talk about my injuries. My whole left side, from shoulder to ankle, is basically jacked up that’s what I wanted him to focus on.
He leaves so I can change down to my granny black period underwear. I get on the table face down, under the sheet and blanket. The room is Florida cool, a little too cool. Soon afterward, I hear a soft knock on the door. I tell him to come in, my voice muffled by the headrest of the table.
At first, he starts with the sheet over me. I believe he’s using the heel of his hand and just starts compressing my back, straight down.
I’m frantically thinking, “Dude, is this some chaste version of massage? I came for hands all over me, not this youth group version of a massage.”
It was just a technique, and it didn’t last long.
My mind was even more active that it would be during meditation. I had to internally tell myself to shut up a few times. But the thoughts weren’t necessarily that bad.
As he started tending to (maybe more like deconstructing) my back, I wondered when was the last time someone had affectionately touched me. It had been probably over two months, back when I went to D.C. and that saddened me. It saddens me still. And this massage didn’t count.
As someone who lives in her mind more than anywhere else, it can get really frustrating when trying to live in a physical world. “The life of the mind” is the tagline of my alma mater–boy, do they have me pegged. Yet I can see now, too, the massage gave me time to reflect, so all those thoughts zipping out were also a part of the release. Mainly the thoughts were about deserving to be worshiped, needing this to happen more often so I’m not having so many back issues in the future, feeling good, feeling sad that it’s been so long, and other thoughts I’ll keep to myself. 😈
So many knots. He went after it and I didn’t complain once. I barely spoke to him. I’m sure he used his elbow on my back many times. It was so strange to hear the friction of skin on skin. I could hear his arm hair over my back. All of these sounds are soft, even in this quiet room playing some soft New Agey music.
One time, I heard the loud clatter of rain pound on the roof and cursed that I didn’t bring an umbrella. I was glad I didn’t chat him up–I usually try to have small talk with folks, even though I don’t generally like to do it. It’s usually important, to have some point of connection. But basically, we already had that.
Another time I spoke, it was because he had moved to my arms and I had my watch on, which had been buzzing with a gazillion alerts. I wish I had turned the DND on. Embarrassing.
Here’s a funny unexpected thing that happened: to deal with my shoulder, he had to go through my armpit, many times. It was a little bit stubbly. In all my time with massage and physical therapy, I have never had anyone work through my armpits before. 😂
So all my limbs got a rubdown, with my back, shoulders, and neck getting the most attention. There is something humbling for me to get my hands and feet massaged, like really thoroughly. It definitely felt luxurious, but then I felt him tending to my right forearm and I was taken aback at how junky it was in there. 😫 It’s sore right now.
So after getting the most thorough massage of my life, which I didn’t want to end, he asked how I was feeling. Dammit, it’s over. I told him rather sheepishly and almost with embarrassment that I felt good. It’s weird to be on your back half naked with a sheet around you and answering that question.
He left so I could get dressed. He came back and brought me a glass of water and I asked him how often should I come back. He said at least once a month. Right now, I can afford it, and I can’t afford to be in pain as I was before. My shoulders are now pain-free and I like to keep them that way.
It was funny, we’re in the hallway and I had no idea how busy it was, but it was probably because it was at the top of the hour. People kept excusing themselves as they passed us by, but we didn’t decide to go back in the room. He told me I needed to stretch more, which I actually did right after I had put my clothes on. I have an app for this, and if I can’t exercise in this heat or at a gym, stretching is the least I can do.
I signed up for a monthly plan and I’ll go back right before I have this retreat in St. Pete that week. I tweeted later that I was going to marry him. I felt really invigorated instead of relaxed. But that was about it, right then anyway.
I went to Target and picked up a few things. Even that ride back was interesting. Long story short: the lady who picked me up had just been sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver, so we talked about accidents, car insurance, injuries, work, wages, housing, racial discrimination. She gave me a tip for the neighborhood that I want to live in. I may need to take a little excursion out there soon.
But back to that tweet about marrying my massage therapist, though–that’s usually how I am, but I haven’t been in a long, long time. Effusive, bubbly, silly, goofy, a little surly and flirty. Comically hyperbolic. I have only begun to rediscover her as new friends enter my life. My life is a little more stable now, so that could also be a part of it. For once, I feel like I’m not nearly as defined by all my losses.
And then, even deeper: I had read a tweet about a particularly watery astrological transit that I had been backstroking in, and then I realized that yesterday was the anniversary of the best/worst date I had been on, and how it had hurt me so deeply while leaving me wanting this dude who literally abandoned me in the dark. This was all at the beach, too.
What I realized was that I was healed from that humiliating experience. Sometimes, things are so traumatic and awful, you don’t have time to process it all. I never got to mad with that guy–just wondering how someone so seemingly great could be such a dick and just leave. Me.
But the real news is that this wound has closed and healed. The scar is fading. My self-worth is in no way tied to that mysterious, rude disappearance.
The body remembers and stores these old stories, both the painful and the pleasurable. It’s possible that the massage helped me realize that this particular excruciating story of loss and rejection didn’t need to be reviewed anymore. It didn’t even need to be re-written. I could put the story back on the shelf.
Body work is important for physical health reasons. I’m also more aware of my body now. It’s interesting how having someone work on it, especially while you’re in a vulnerable state, makes you hyperaware of everything, of everything outside of your interior world. That massage probably has opened me up in ways that I have yet to discover and in ways that I didn’t know I needed, like realizing that I was (already!) healed from a traumatic experience.
Afterward, I was thinking I’d feel like rubber, like really relaxed. Instead, I felt more confident and open. I felt taken care of. I felt deserving. Not even being melodramatic here: I felt like I had a reason to live. It had been way too long that I hadn’t felt that good.
But I didn’t want to show it. While I was getting a massage, I was trying to have a poker face, no matter what was going on in my head. I didn’t want to break out in a shit-eating grin or that something felt uncomfortable or whatever was speeding and careening through my mind at that point. Maybe I see sharing my emotions as a sign of intimacy…
Yet one thing I’ve been noticing since Thursday is how my emotions have been more intense and more earnest–like not covered in shame or embarrassment. Unadorned. Raw. Powerful. I’m trying to think of a specific example right now. I just feel like some masks and costumes that I was wearing fell off during that session.
This massage wasn’t a treat. This was mandatory for my well-being as a human being, especially since I haven’t formed the in-person friendships and relationships that I am still seeking and calling in. It literally puts me in touch with another person, and that’s a big deal to me. I pray the Universe continues to provide so that I can continue to go…
The power of human touch is really underestimated–especially in my life. I’m very much into and live for some good hugs, but I am not typically a huggy/affectionate person.
So I am torn. There’s this moat of uncomfortability with my own vulnerability. I must create a drawbridge to cross over the moat so I can get to and receive the care that I need. Getting a massage once a month can be one way to start walking over the bridge.
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