I have battled arthritis in my hips for many years. About 10 years ago I started paying attention to how complementary treatments could help with my energy level and pain management. I was not a big one for being touched by strangers, so I kept pushing the thought of massage therapy out of my mind. I mean really, who wants to lie on a table in a dark room with someone you don’t know touching parts of your body that hardly, if ever, see the light of day. Now I have birthed two children and I don’t wear a bikini to the beach for a reason.
An opportunity for a chair massage [a quick 10 minute intervention] showed itself during an informational session for one of the programmes in the school I was working at. I took a deep breath and sat down—and although my body was seriously tense at the beginning, I felt the muscles give way and relax at the very skilled hands of the massage therapist. I was instantly hooked—this stuff was like magic!
Soon, full-body massages found their way into my calendar every month. My body was responding well and I was letting go of my stranger-danger thoughts. Oh, how accomplished in my mindset I had come… well, temporarily anyway.
I was so wrong
A couple of years later, I was at a conference with several of my colleagues/friends and we were talking about the pure joy and relaxation that comes with a massage. I was in full agreement, until the point when one friend [who we will call Beth to protect her innocence] said something around how freeing it was to be naked during a massage and to just let all inhibitions go. Ummm… really? Nakedness in front of a stranger? Not ME!
In that moment I felt like I had just stepped into a conversation that I might want to run from. I was having palpitations just thinking about this insane scenario. My friend [and friends at this point] were chuckling at my reserved behaviour, and asked why it was such a big deal, commenting, “You get naked in front of your doctor, don’t you?” In my mind that is completely different! My brain was doing some heavy rationalising here.
Now for the moment of truth
When the receptionist asked if we preferred a male or female therapist, Beth instantly answered that she did not have a preference. I had a preference; yet in that moment of pure perceived peer pressure, my mouth lost control and blurted out, “I do not have a preference either.” Oh my word, what had I just done? My mind kicked into its judgement stage and started beating up on my mouth for the moment of lost control. I opened my mouth to take the words back, yet my mind won and I stayed quiet.
I took some time to enjoy all that the spa had to offer, steam shower, mineral pool and sauna and wondered why on earth was this not part of my everyday living. This was truly the life—I was feeling relaxed and excited for my massage session. I sat in the comfy chair of the spa waiting room dressed in a fluffy white robe and white slippers, sipping on a glass of refreshing lemon water.
I was feeling awesome, truly awesome until the moment of truth… Mrs Covey, [in a deep-voiced tone]. I looked up to see a man searching for me, a tall, large man with black curly hair. My first thought was, where can I hide—why, oh why had I thought that being open-minded was a great thing to do? My friend smiled at me, so I got up from my chair, mumbled something [likely inappropriate] under my breath, and went to greet my massage therapist. Believing in life lessons, I was already whirring about what I am meant to learn from this. Oh, I know… keep my mouth closed!
The unlikely ordeal
We exchanged polite conversation on our way to the massage room; and I am thinking, this guy could be the massage therapist world cup holder and I was going to miss out due to my ‘issues’. I was now alone in the room getting comfy—I go to pull my robe off and realised, “Oh my word! I have no clothes on.” I wondered to myself if I could take a quick run to the locker room to get my undergarments.
I panicked, and jumped under the sheets—I was now breathing loudly as I was in mid-swing of a mild panic attack. Mr Massage walked in, we decided on essential oils, type of massage [I chose the deep tissue as my shoulders were now up around my ears from the tension] and the music. And… off we went. I started to relax and told myself, “This is all a life lesson—quit being so controlling and open your heart and mind.” I was distracted, I began to do some yogic breathing and told myself I will not be putting my hard earned money to waste. I will enjoy this!!
Just as I began to fade into the world of total relaxation, I heard something… what on earth? What I heard is the breathing of the massage therapist. The guy was a heavy breather! I tried to close my ears: impossible! Have you ever heard a repetitive sound that drives you buggy? Well, this guy was a champion breather dude, oh my soul—how did he hear himself think?
I figured I had about 50 minutes left of my time alone in a tiny room with no clothes on, with a man I did not know. I felt like I was sinning! “Get a grip”, I told myself. I shut my eyes as tight as I could, focussing on the music in the background and imagined that I knew this person, that he was indeed the massage champion of the world and that I was going to relax if it was the last thing I did.
The ordeal was over
I finally heard Mr Massage say, “I will be right outside the door when you are ready.” Ah, I was done—I had lived to tell the tale! I do believe I beat record time getting my robe on and meeting him at the door. I actually felt a little bad for the guy as I am sure he was wondering why my muscles were so ridiculously tight and were just not giving to his skilled hands. Thank goodness, he could not read my mind!
As I made my way back to the spa waiting room I was contemplating my silly self and the choices that I had made earlier that day. My lessons learned—be true to myself, don’t cave in to peer pressure, keep my clothes on, and never, never say yes to the idea of a male massage therapist again. I may dream of being a totally free, open-thinking and loving human being; yet it is obvious, I am not quite there yet. And likely never will be!
This was first published in the November 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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