Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My Love-Pain Relationship


I have a twisted relationship with a massage therapist. He brutalizes me, I suffer through it, and at the end of a half hour, I shower praise on him as if he were the second coming of chocolate.

I lie on my back, flannel sheet on top of me, heated mattress beneath. I can hear the squelch-squelch of the lotion he’s mixing with his hands and when the massage begins, it is heaven. Light pressure moving down from the base of my skull along the side of my neck and slowly making the curve to my shoulders. My grandmother kneading dough for pierogies, warming it up with the soft touch of her hands, smoothing every surface, stretching the elastic dough slowly and gently.

He finds a ridge, a cord of muscle fibers that have braided themselves together. A reservoir of stress. His fingertips press themselves into the cord, separating the strands of muscle tissue, vibrating deeper and deeper. The muscles tense up and push back, defensively. His fingers slip off the cord and into the soft tissue next to it. Try again. Find that length of tightness. This time I remember to breathe. A deep breath in with my diaphragm moves oxygen into the muscle. I picture the fibers loosening and opening up. Parting in spite of the pain. This is so counterintuitive – I want to tell him to ease up, but I know I will feel so much better 30 minutes from now if I don’t. The bruises show up when I indulge my instinct to fight back and tense against his push. Ahhh, I can feel the tissue soften under his hands, like butter suddenly coming to room temperature.

On my stomach, my face pressed against the cradle he has placed there. He finds the area between my spine and my shoulder blade and moves his fingers as if he’s playing the piano, searching for the tightness he knows is there. Bingo, a spark of red pain lights its way down my arm. Again, I forget to breathe and let my body do its best to protect the painful spots. The masseuse places his elbow into the gravelly tissue and begins to pulse slowly, pushing at the muscles and pumping blood into them. I focus on deep breaths in and out, visualizing rich red blood making its way through the traffic jam of vessels knotted there. Open up. Let it in.

I hear him grunt when he hits a particularly dense spot. This is hard work. I imagine him walking me to the door and saying, “Man, you have the tightest/worst/most messed up muscles I’ve ever seen!” I want to believe that I have a higher tolerance for pain than most and he ends up with sore hands and elbows after my appointments. I’m not sure why that’s important, but it is. I keep waiting for him to comment on my deep breathing and how I never ask him to let up or take it easy.

All of a sudden, my 30 minutes are over. He hasn’t praised me and doesn’t seem astonished at my horribly tight muscles. He’s smiling and saying he hopes he’s helped some.

“You are a rock star!” I reply. “I always feel so much better after I’ve been here.”

He blushes and smiles, sincerely appreciative of my compliment. Nothing about how tough I am. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I know I’ve done some hard work. I know I resisted the impulse to fight the pain, instead opening up and breathing through it and I know it will do me good. I can’t wait until next week.

7 comments:

Jerri said...

This is remarkably well written, Kari. And very revealing. Isn't it funny that we want approval, even from our massage therapists?

"...the second coming of chocolate." Brilliant.

Deb said...

I love how you manage to work chocolate into the most arcane spots. You had me on the table with you, feeling your tight muscles, and absolutely relating to that need for approval.

Scott from Oregon said...

I went to a guy named Thor once who was supposed to be the brutala king...

He was. But I needed him oh so much that day.

There was also a woman who was passed around from musician to musician named Weezie who could get me with her elbows...

Most people, though, can't even scratch my back, hardly.

I bought a 1200 dollar massage chair so I can stop whining...

ammogirl said...

Okay, every week? Girrrrl...I need to get some tips from you.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Oh My God.

I NEED your guy.

Great writing Kari!

Eileen said...

This post was so well written, excellent really. I felt like I was the one getting the massage! Too funny. Good for you for going every week thou, you deserve to feel like that (at least at the end of the 30 mins.) My pain tolerance is pretty much at 0! We have a Massage Therapist come to work every so often with her chair, and a co-worker treated me once, and the all the therapist kept saying to me was muscles are not suppose to be this tense and all I kept thinking was, this really hurts, get me out of this chair. But, I am glad you can endure the discomfort, and really reap the benefits!! Again, your writing was great!! XO

Suzy said...

Geez, I almost felt this massage all the way in Connecticut! Talk about living vicariously....
Fantastic writing. Fantasy writing...

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