a writer’s back

love yourself

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.

it’s just a wave 🌊

kill the shark1

I’m writing as a way to avoid some other writing. But I am a week behind here, so it makes sense to write here, too.

[The quote in the image is more aspirational than anything (You’ll see. Not there yet).]

Yesterday, I seemed to have a light bulb fire on about my life purpose with spirituality. If you want to read the poorly threaded tweets, start here. It’s an essay unto itself, but not worth regurgitating here–not yet, anyway.

Also, yesterday, I did a lot of energy work. Energy work is like body work, but, um, with energy and with your spirit? Reiki is the closest mainstream manifestation of it. I also was doing a bit of Access Consciousness stuff–and that could also be its own essay, because like with everything, there’s some stuff I agree with, and some stuff where I go–yes, the pursuit of spirituality is a human endeavor and I cannot expect everyone to get it right.

And actually, my tweetstorm last night is connected to listening/watching a bunch of YouTube videos one of the co-creators of Access, and he talks a lot about changing the world. And, through his work, I’m sure he does.

Anyway, back to avoidance. Access Consciousness is energy work, too, and I’ve never paid for any of it (it can be pricey). But I kind of forgot that it was energy work. I was just listening all day and night and then today, I got a little triggered.

I was planning on writing a lot today, doing some social media content tomorrow, and then finally, finally, working on my freelancing strategy on Tuesday. I headed out on a beautiful morning to the pharmacy to pick up some meds on sale. On my way back, I am turning into my driving and I see a white tow truck parked across the street.

That was part of the trigger. The other part was that on this fine Easter morning, my apparently disreputable car lender had called and left two voicemails, after I had written them not to do so.

I had to give up my car two years ago because I was barely making any money as an adjunct English professor and a part-time technical writer. It doesn’t sting as much anymore, but it was shame I carried around for a long time. Failing at self-sufficiency post-grad school is an albatross that seems to strangle me from time to time.

Today was one of those times.

Logically, I know that I’m not as far behind as I was back in grad school. But the lender, who has class action lawsuits against it for these harassing calls–those calls plunged my planned productive day into a deep well of anxiety that I am now just climbing out.

And what bitter irony. The very thing that would help me stay on top of my bills, working, is the very thing those calls helped to derail. And the tow truck–I can rationalize that it’s not just waiting for me. I could even used it as motivation for writing.

So, I filed a complaint because I was over this. I didn’t deserve this sort of harassment. Still, I was drowning in my anxious thoughts, thoughts don’t even have words. It was just dark and gray, full of doom and fright.

I tried to climb out of this whirlpool of fear. I had the websites opened for the first article I needed to write–a 500 word piece on posture–and then I went into pulling tarot and oracle cards for the week, playing some video games, tweeting, and listening to a podcast that plunged me deeper into my emotions.

The podcast was on daughters dealing with narcissistic mothers. I never really thought of my mother as a narcissist–a term that’s been thrown around a lot. I know my father is one (I’m sure there are plenty of Leos who are narcissists)–that was always very clear.

The podcaster is a psychotherapist, so she was clinically painting a horrible picture that I suddenly recognized. The thing is, my mom is so nice to everyone. She’s very giving and kind. But the Pisces that she is, she can get up on her cross and be a martyr every once in a while. But when this woman described some of my mother’s behaviors, I was shocked. It was hard to believe that this nice person was so…selfish.

I had just been telling a friend yesterday that I didn’t think my parents should have been parents. They should have been DINKs (dual income, no kids). But I was probably conceived 40 years ago this week. Not kidding, this week. I always thought I came a little too early for my parents’ brand new marriage, being married in a new, profoundly racist country.

So after being thrown under that revelatory rogue wave, I had to stop myself from listening to more personal development podcasts. I have a lot to sit with, between the Access stuff, the other energy work, and dealing with the truth of my mother.

Whew.

As I sip my honey vanilla chamomile tea–tea that I should drink a lot more often and a lot sooner–I think about, and have been thinking about, the strain of financial pressure and the now clear purpose of this underemployment.

Besides that I’m learning some scary, fierce radical trust in the Universe, I’m starting to realize that there’s no way I could have had all these revelations if I was working a 9 to 5, busy with friends and a relationship–you know, having what I would call a healthy adult life.

My life has been stripped down to the essentials. My world is so small.

What I’m going through is a bit like surgery. The cuts need to be made to get in there and repair those tears, or to remove the malignancies. I have been focusing on the initial incisions–not working full-time–and not what’s been happening while I’ve been under. Sometimes it feels like I am only given some whiskey and a bit of leather to bite while I’m surgery.

Yet I know that I know that I know: this is necessary, no matter what type of spiritual anesthesia I’m under. The accumulation of trauma and loss is most likely not letting me actually have that healthy adult life anyway. Just the narcissistic parents alone–that’s enough for me to take a pause, examine those gangrenous wounds, get them treated and healed once for all.

I deserve the pause. I deserve the healing. I deserve to be whole.

Last week, I was telling another friend that I was unsure if I was in a place of allowance–that this is happening whether I like or not, that I’m clearly in a season of lean, and that fighting against it is not smart–or, that I’m suffering from learned helplessness. I learned about this in college during my psychology studies.

In animal studies, which I can say in retrospect, this sounds really cruel to do–after an animal keeps getting zapped trying to reach for food or whatever else it’s trying to do, the animal stops trying. The animal study I had learned about was some rat or mouse in some water who just stopped trying to swim.

This phenomenon is a marker of clinical depression and other mental health issues. It’s like your soul becomes catatonic. What’s the point of trying, of fighting? I’ll just get zapped by Life again anyway. It can be a coping mechanism, but it’s not one anyone would want to use long-term.

Learned helplessness, ultimately, is a death sentence. Maybe literally, but definitely more figuratively. In relating to my friend, I had been scared that I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t sure if this had all taken its toll and I wasn’t even treading water anymore. It’d make sense if my mental health has taken a beating.

And then, serendipitously, all this work was coming to me, the work that I am currently avoiding, work that I probably won’t touch until tomorrow.

So the title of this post. One of my musical problematic faves is John Mayer. He and Norah Jones, who is not problematic, are like my version of easy listening–music my dad loved to listen to after classical music and some folk music.

I can listen to this type of coffeehouse music and not have to think. It’s well-crafted, decent, inoffensive music. It’s like drinking a bunch of Coronas while sitting on the beach. You could do it all day and it wouldn’t be a big deal, although you should probably be drinking something with a little more flavor.

Anyway, Mayer has this new song called “Emoji of a Wave.” I’ve been listening to the “Wave 2” part of this album a lot, which I don’t really do with music. It’s been soothing, inoffensive, easy.

I don’t want to feel sorry for a rich white dude, but I feel like he’s so aware to the point that he abstracts and obliterates any sort of gotdamn good sense and proper self-awareness (I’m glad he’s in therapy, though–everyone should go to therapy). And, since he’s a Libra, I think he drink his own Kool-Aid a little too much and is charmed by his own words. And, he may be trying too to hard to be earnest. He has had some cringe-worthy, almost unforgivable moments.

Oh well, back to this song. The song has the lyrics “It’s just a wave; it’s just a wave.” and it has one of the Beach Boys, Al Jardine, along with his son, Matt, singing some beautiful background vocals (Mayer had David Crosby and Graham Nash singing BGVs on his earlier album, Born and Raised). The story of how that came about is pretty cool.

So today, I wiped out on some emotional waves, some really irrational shit with the car payments. My mind knows that it’s not real, that I am safe and fine. But my mushy Cancer moon knows that it’s connected to how my childhood became more and more erratic and unstable. I survived it “just fine”–but these things have a way of catching up with you.

And, so, my emotions have called a work strike. I don’t blame them. With all that I’ve been processing lately, I deserve to take a break during this holiday. Maybe it’s OK to be kinder to myself.

I don’t think I’m recreating those unsure moments now to feel comfortable, but I am a little tired of being comfortable with the low-grade fever of anxiety that I’ve lived with for years down here, riding these undulating waves of chaos and panic. But as I keep telling myself and others–I signed up for this. This is me, following my dream of becoming a writer, almost 30 years too late, but right on time nonetheless.

It’s been fucking scary. Shit. And expensive. Capricorns don’t allow themselves to be scared, but the situations I had been since I moved down here? I didn’t think I signed up for all of that. Could that all have been a part of this healing process? Looking back, I can shake an 8-ball and read: Most Likely.

But it’s nowhere near as bad now.

I’m not as behind on my car payments as I had been in grad school. Somehow, the Universe keeps giving me just enough, even though I’d rather be Scrooge McDuck diving into a vault, filled with gold coins. I can’t wait to be utterly bored by stability.

So, I repeat to myself that it’s just a wave, it’s just a wave, and that I need to hold on until I can finally wash up on shore and take a real breath. I know I’m close.

Earlier today, I reached out for a tarot reading since I still feel like I’m not doing enough–even if Spirit almost screams at me that I am not blocked. Reaching out for help while I’m a lowkey panic is OK (I’m saying this more for my benefit and edification). And it always seems the act of reaching out is more important than the reading itself.

And even before I did that today, before I had my little internal collapse, I felt like if there was any learned helplessness, that it was starting to abate.

I do feel like this is temporary. I do feel like things will get better. I do feel like that I will have that so-called healthy, adult life.

Holding out hope like that feels a little less dangerous now. I just wish I could relax into the spiritual practice of living moment by moment, day by day, not anguishing over whether I will be able to pay my bills.

And it’s a lot to ask of a feeble human: to trust in supernatural beings to take care of earthly needs.

But it’s in those emoji wave wipeouts, the near drownings in bottomless wells of anxiety–

faith…

 

 

It’s just a wave; it’s just a wave.