Tuesday, April 24, 2012
When I lay down to go to sleep, I have to think: "Am I totally relaxed?" Typically, the answer is "no". My head is barely touching the pillow. Methodically going over a mental check list of muscles, I can usually get my body to sink about three inches deeper into the mattress. Sometimes I think if I were any tighter I might actually levitate.
As you might imagine, I can be prone to headaches and occasional bouts of vertigo.
Now with all the clenching and hunching and stiffness, you might think I look like a snarling mad dog - but not so. I wear my stress well. It just feels like s**t.
So... recently I took a gift certificate I had to the fabulous Burke Williams for a day of spa treatments and a massage. My friend Bev and I went together for a girl day. I typically go for a Swedish massage - something I absolutely love and Burke Williams is the best. The first time I had a massage at Burke Williams and the masseuse began to massage my face (the signal that your 50 minutes is about to end), I literally started to cry. I was grieving what would soon be just a memory of one of the most relaxing experiences I had had, to date. The sorrow was akin to getting dumped by a boyfriend.
But as I had $250.00 on this gift card, I had enough for additional treatments - treatments that promised to turn me into a gelatinous puddle, and because I got to have a water treatment, a facial, and a manicure, I decided to try a "deep tissue" massage. I had been told that I really should have a deep tissue massage many times before. I was warned that it could hurt a little bit but that I would feel so much better afterward.
Now I've got to ask here, have any of you ever had a deep tissue massage? Because if you have, and if you've done it more than once, I don't think we can be friends.
I was ushered into a dark, warm room with the waft of lavender about it. The well padded massage table covered in soft cotton sheets and blankets beckoned. I was familiar with this set up. But here is where it all went wrong. As I still stood, wrapped in the thick, plush, terry robe, she asked: "What are the areas you want me to focus on?"
That question scared me. I didn't really want her to focus on my problem areas. That might be unpleasant. And totally unfair to the other parts of me that were better behaved. But there she was, ready to do the job I had asked. I glanced at her hands. They were very pretty hands and so, I thought, how bad could it be? As it turns out, pretty bad.
She began with gentle probes to identify the specific problems. She found them just under the wings of my shoulder blades. I asked her if my muscles felt tight. "Oh yes, very tight", was her reply. Her answer made me automatically brace myself and for a moment I wondered at the unfairness that I didn't carry my stress in my abs or butt.
So here is what a deep tissue massage feels like: a bony, steel, knuckle kneading relentlessly into a massive purple bruise. Clutching tightly to the hand rests just below the table I lay on, I began to sweat with the effort of trying not to scream out and knock this woman across the room. I had to work at relaxing though it, exhaling deep breaths, working against the reflex of tightening my muscles even tighter to defend themselves. My nose started running. And again, with tightly shut eyes, tears of sorrow - but not that a 50 minute session was coming to a close, but that it was just beginning.
As if suddenly remembering that "God will never give you more than you can bear", she would occasionally relent and assume the the gentle, relaxing Swedish techniques but it was a trick because the moment I felt I could trust her again, back to abuse.
Once it was over, it was true that I felt much better. But it was great relief that I felt. I knew that this 50 minutes of pain couldn't possibly have cured years of muscle knots. They were still there. Exhausted, but there. And I would have to come back many times to get rid of them.
I have decided to think of these muscle knots as old friends. Like lines on an aging face, I had earned them. Best to embrace all the anxiety and trouble that built them. The bitter with the sweet as they say. And who knows, maybe I will eventually experience levitation.
Posted by Valri Smith at 5:23 PM