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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tidings of Comfort and Joy...Mama Needs Massage

It’s the middle of the afternoon and I’m naked, save for underwear, lying beneath a clean-smelling bath sheet, knees slightly elevated above a rolled towel. I shut my eyes to block the outside world, to abide in bliss’s bubble as completely as possible.

The occasional sound of an airplane outside fills my ears. Inside, Dido sings Here With Me from a CD player. But mostly, my head resonates and buzzes – vibrating with comfort and joy. 

My friend, Louise runs her business (called Divine MassageTherapy), from a purpose-built room in the bottom level of her home. She rakes long, strong fingers through my hair, from the crown of my head to the nape of my neck. This sends squiggles of pleasure swimming down my neck, through my torso, along my legs, to my toe-tips. It’s like the kindest, gentlest electrocution you can imagine: my head is the current’s entry point; my feet provide the exit.

Oh, don’t stop, don’t stop…

This is my massage mantra. And Louise gives great massage. If you’ve been on a table or twelve, you learn about therapists’ styles: not-great ones are talkers, or their hands feel weak and puny, or the massage doesn’t flow from one body part to the next. Louise commits none of these sins. She’s tall (maybe five foot ten?) and strong: if you say you’d like more pressure (she asks whether pressure needs adjusting), by golly, you’ll get more. And if delivering more pressure is taxing or exhausting, she’ll never let on.

I smile when I think about another experience my friend persuaded me try, called Hot Yoga. I called it Ninety Minutes in Hell. (read about it here  : http://pickendawn.blogspot.co.nz/2011/09/not-so-hot-yoga.html  )

This is Hot Yoga’s antithesis: Moderate Temperature Massage. No beads of sweat, just blossoms of love efflorescing along my spine. I know God loves me because She invented healing touch and inspired people to become damn good at the craft. The late chess master Bobby Fischer was right when he said, “Nothing eases suffering like human touch.”

Louise’s hands move from my scalp to the meaty parts between my shoulders. She slides her coconut-oiled hands down, cups her fingers slightly, applies pressure and pulls up.

Oh, don’t stop, don’t stop…

The power surge resumes, current running in a loop from shoulders to feet, shoulders to feet…

I didn’t think I had time for this: It’s the end of the school year, and everything’s happening at once – in a single month, I got engaged and started planning a wedding to be held in three months; sold my house in Spokane; finished the rough draft of the memoir; spent hours planning and teaching a social media class… all while taxiing my small fries to swimming, Girl Guides, tennis, drama, soccer, church, play dates…

I also work twenty hours a week at my church, which is whipping itself into a pre-Christmas lather with end-of-year events, parties, extra services, a pageant, etc, etc…

Can we skip Christmas this year? Please? Please?


I don’t have time for massage, which is exactly why I’m here.

Louise presses into my hip, kneading, pulling and stroking like I’m a lump of dough who forgets to stretch after she runs (admission: I rarely stretch after I run).

“You runners are really tight through the hips,” she says.


Oh, don’t stop, don’t stop…

As I lay face-up, Monkey Mind starts whirring: What to make for dinner tonight? Do the kids have play dates? I must call to price a lamb for the wedding lunch…

It’s my hour on this table. I can think about whatever I want. Must I continue list-making?

No. If there’s any time to reside in the moment, it’s now.

Louise kneads my calves, returning me to right here, right now.  Oh, they’re tight. She tries coaxing the turnips on the back of my legs to unclench. Pleasure, then challenge. Pleasure, challenge.  Yin, yang.  It’s not effortless to lie here, but the legs need work.

Okay, give up on the calves.

She moves onto my hands, pressing and working into medium effleurage. This is unlike the challenge of clenched calves. I revert to my favorite prone position: a yielding mass of muscles, bone and flesh.

Oh, don’t stop, don’t stop…

The finishing flourish happens at my head, the place that reverberates with electricity and pleasure so intense, I check to ensure I haven’t yelped in ecstasy.

Did I say something? I didn’t make any sound, did I? Maybe I started to snore…

You know it’s coming – the moment when, as you’re lying on the table, the therapist says, “There you go. How was that?”

Oh, now you’ve stopped…Don’t leave me!

I croak out something like “fan-stick,” which hopefully can be interpreted as “fantastic.”

Louise leaves me to (slowly) sit up and get dressed. I lie for a moment, thinking that things for which we ‘don’t have time’ – exercise, writing, massage, meditation, prayer – are exactly what we need.

Especially now. Especially at Christmas.

John Keats said “touch has a memory.” I want my being imprinted with the memory of massage.