Yesterday, I told my boss I was going to take an afternoon break.
As soon the masseuse can get me in.
As it turns out, that time was 1:30.
There are two remarkable things about this decision: 1) That I asserted my needs (a massage, pronto); and 2) I respected those needs (I actually followed through.)
For as difficult as Sunday was, I felt guilty walking into a massage parlor without him. He enjoys massages. We’ve often gotten couples massages together. But this one was for me.
The room was lit by a small lamp that cast a soft rosy hue on everything. My skin looked amazing. I undressed and laid on the table and felt confident. Confident that I was getting a midday massage on a work day. Shock! What glamorous life have I stumbled onto?
I had left both of my cell phones in the car, click-clacked into the parlor in my pointy-toed black heels, my purse dangling from my left wrist, stripped off my black skinny jeans that made me feel sexy and lean, and was now lying mostly naked on a massage table prepared for one hour of impermeable bliss on. a. work. day.
And it was bliss. The whole hour of it. In fact, it was the best massage I’ve ever had.
She worked out knots between my shoulder bones, therapeutically moved my head this way and that. She pressed on pressure points I didn’t know I had. Her hands felt like they were sculpting my hips. And just when I thought she’d over looked them, she tapped, rubbed, and pulled on my feet.
Except that it wasn’t impermeable. Because I was in the room.
As I laid there, I caught my thoughts often drifting to him, the guilt I felt about Sunday, the guilt I felt about the massage. Castrophizing thoughts began to creep in. I’d have to catch myself.
No, no. This time is for me. And it’s for me because I am worthy of it. I deserve this. I am beautiful and engaging and worthy of this moment.
Yep, I began repeating every affirmation that came to mind when I felt my thoughts tiptoeing outside of the room. And when I got tired of that, I practiced meditating. I felt a stillness at the back of my mind.
When it was over, I dressed, paid at the front door, and walked out, relaxed and ready to tackle the rest of my work day.
Everything felt different for a moment. The seat in my car seemed farther from the foot pedals than it had before. My rear view mirror needed adjusting.
I felt smaller. More compact. Even a bit shrunken.
The words of Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love came to mind. The word “stress” is derived from another word meaning compressed. The idea is that stress is constrictive. She had begun her journey physically shrunken, stressed, unhappily compact. In fact her weight gain in Italy was equated to be filled with life again. All hail the power of carbs!
I didn’t feel stressed. After the best massage I’ve ever had, I felt quite the opposite. I was relaxed, loose, and light. Not unlike a suitcase crammed full of clothes and shoes and accessories and other must-haves, when it’s suddenly emptied–surprising light, the sides falling in where they once bulged out, that when you pick it up, you feel like Hercules–it flies upward–what was once so heavy from its contents now empty and seemingly lighter than air.
Massage is all about working things out, after all. The baggage we subconsciously and consciously carry: the knots between bones, the lactic acid of achy muscles, the toxins we’ve absorbed, welcomed, and crammed into our bodies through choice, circumstance and…stress. Oh, the stress.
Perhaps then, stress does indeed mean constricted–but from the inside, out.