Charles: Ah, there’s the rub

My daughter, the light of my life, gifted me with a massage last week. She got one for herself as well, because she knew I needed it (less than two weeks after laparoscopic abdominal surgery), but that it wouldn’t be something I would do for myself — or on my own.

We’ve found a new thing for the two of us.

I should have known something was up when she decided just she and I would go for lunch. Her dad was around, but no, she just wanted time with me.

We went to a mall, and she said she had to pick up something from a store first, while we decided where to eat.

I found myself following her into a place called Oriental Relaxation Therapy. Surprise!

We opted for 40-minute massages. I’m still processing whether this experience was a slice of heaven, but it was definitely a slice of Zen.

You know, everyone always talks about needing a massage, or a spa weekend, or something like that. But we rarely actually follow through.

The last time I got something even close was when I went to a massage therapist for back and hip pain. She helped pinpoint how I was sitting awkwardly and through an excruciating treatment, helped with some of the issues related to other chronic pain issues. I had about three sessions with her, it was good for my mobility problems — but it wasn’t relaxing by any means. The manipulations there were downright, unequivocally, painful.

But this, this was different.

The hardest part of getting a massage is actually just being in the moment. You’re facedown, so you really don’t engage with your masseuse (I usually like to talk with people, doctors, nurses, plumbers, car mechanics, etc., but it doesn’t work well when you can’t see them and they don’t understand English), so you have to lie there and try, really try, to let yourself go.

In the meantime, the woman is working very hard to rub out those muscle knots in my shoulders that I didn’t know I had, but ouch, I guess that’s where I hold my tension.

And unless you actively cringe, those rubs get more and more intense. Then she finds the acupressure points near your spine and holds a finger there while you decide whether to breathe into the sensation or cry uncle.

So here I am, trying to just enjoy being in the moment, forcing my mind to try and empty out all the things that need to be done in the next few days.

Letting go of my generalized anxiety around appointments and deadlines is a constant struggle. But lying with your head in a doughnut hole pillow while a stranger kneads your muscles like so much raw dough, forces you to set your worries aside.

Especially when she pulls out the hot rocks!

I’m familiar with the hot rocks that are used on my legs during the pedicure portion of our semi-regular mani-pedi sessions. But having those smooth heated stones glide along your back is another of those sensations that can’t be called pleasurable. It’s well, intense. Is my flesh on fire? Is that bacon I smell?

Thoughts like this can easily make me dissolve into the giggles, or it would if I wasn’t so busy trying to yes, relax into it.

When all the rubbing and kneading is over, the pummeling begins. I am being lightly pounded all the way down to the soles of my feet. The thought crosses my mind that we are paying to be beaten up. After it’s all done, the warm towel actually does soothe my back and the silent masseuse quickly leaves so I can get dressed.

And, strangely, I do feel better.

As we leave, we see the chairs out front are full of people getting a quick neck and shoulder, or foot massage for their lunch break.

My daughter agrees that it’s both painful and pleasurable. And I tell her, from now on, when she comes home on break, we will have to make this a regular stop.

Forced relaxation — our moment of Zen has just become our newest thing together.

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