The words that make me immediately tense up: “Just Relax.” If it was that easy, I would be a surfer or own a marijuana dispensary. But instead I am a writer and at the end of my five week Stunt Writing practice, and I have found that I love the fire in the belly, the tension, the striving. I enjoy drinking strong coffee that puts me on edge. Feeling my shoulders hover up by my ears is nothing new, as my body contorts to take on the stress. I have a never-ending “to do” list that might as well have a line item for enjoying myself, planning fun things, and breathing. I’m a planner, pure and simple. I’m a bit obsessive, and enjoy the details of I oddly consider, “crafting” my life. I work hard so that I can relax, but honestly I find that working has more of an easy inertia to it….I start working and then I look up and I’ve accomplished something, or at least finished something. At the end of relaxation is what….sleep?
So I am on the massage table, again. My fiance sends me out regularly for massages and I am extremely fortunate. I do love getting a massage, but I have noticed that what used to totally relax me has now become something different. I pay too much attention to the massage….each stroke, cataloguing where my tight spots are and thinking about where past knots existed. I don’t seem to have any median ground between on and off. There is awake and asleep. I am attached to my thinking, and it is an ego-based idea — that I am my thoughts and if they stop or slow down I am less, “me.”
My body has become a mindmap of my stress, a minefield of where I catalogue my neck problem, the left shoulder knot, the weird pain in the center of the bottom of my foot. It is a constellation of muscles that refuse to take “Just Relax” into consideration and will continue doing what they are doing regardless of what I want. It is, to be accurate, not relaxing but frustrating.
I went to get a Swedish massage and you are always asked, “enough pressure?” I have had massage therapists get gnarly with my knots and press and try to break them up like they were mining asteroids. I have had a light touch that barely registers, and feels instead like a little dainty dance is taking place across my back with pirouettes and fine step work. I’ve had hot stones. Salt scrubs. Korean scrubs. I’ve been wrapped in mud. Oils of all kinds.
My last massage was at part Swedish and part Thai. I love Thai massage, it is like yoga mixed with massage but also involves some acrobatic moves on the part of the therapist. My back was rubbed with mentholatum, I could tell my left side was receiving the stress of being a right-hander, since he focused his work there. He walked on my back pulling apart areas of my body that were starting to stick together. Is this aging? A fusing of yourself into one tired mass? His feet understand the art form of pressure and knowledge.
And in an hour I am done, sitting on a sloping rattan chair back in my loose-fitting dress and slightly oily. My therapist brings me a plate with a glass of water, a glass of hot mint tea, an artfully sliced apple, and a wedge of an orange. And the final, my favorite, one perfect date.
I eat the apple first and nothing has ever tasted as crunchy and sweet. Then the water, which I down as fast as possible. The heat in LA has been intense and I am probably dehydrated. Then the orange, which has been thoughtfully carved between the pith and the peel. And finally the mint tea, interspersed with small bites of the sugary vanilla-tasting date. Those two together are heaven, mint tea and a juicy date….so perfect.
And I try not to think, why do I not eat a date and mint tea every day? Why don’t I put that on my list of things to do? But I won’t after writing this, there are some pleasures best kept off a list so that when you find them you can be charmed again.
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