Friday, August 23, 2013

Massage School: The first day

I'm thinking back to the first day of hands-on class, and it's like being sentimental about how you viewed life when you were a freshman in high school.  Everything seemed so scary and exciting and new, and vitally IMPORTANT.

We all arrived, milling nervously around the closed-up classroom's door.  I checked to be sure I remembered my two twin-sized sheets (hoping that they were a cool enough pattern, but not boring -- I had pondered bringing my son's Clone Wars/Star Wars sheets, but ended up bringing the Hello Kitty ones instead), my brand-spankin' new lotion bottle and black snap-buckle lotion holster, still in its crinkly plastic wrapper.

I looked around, wondering who would be my first "person."  Would it be the tall, lanky young guy with shoulder-length hair? Or the tiny goth girl? Or the older-looking woman?

One member of our class seemed very self-assured and a bit (just a *teeny* bit) full of himself, having taken the "massage for non-majors" class already, and he was telling us all about his holster that had TWO holders, so he could have lotion on each side, OR even maybe hand sanitizer in one.  I was simultaneously intimidated and irritated.

Finally, the door opened, and our instructor, a 70-something gray-haired Irish-looking man smiled and waved us in.  He was dressed in khakis and a red polo shirt.  Little did I know that he had an entire closet devoted to khakis and red polos.

He had us all plunk down our bags and "circle up," each grabbing either a grey plastic chair or a padded rolling stool, and forming an elongated oval.  He welcomed us, introduced himself (a retired physician and longtime massage therapist), and told us to relax, close our eyes, breathe, and "follow the sound of the bell."

With that, he held out a bell (the kind you imagine an old schoolmarm would call kids with), and bonged it once.

I closed my eyes and tried to meditate the way a Massage Therapist would.  I couldn't.  I kept shifting in my seat, peeking out through my eyelashes, trying trying trying.  Finally, something shifted inside, and I could almost taste the air.  It got thick and warm and palpable.  I breathed in, savoring this new sensation across my tongue, in my mouth, my lungs. I sensed the people around me, and noticed I was rocking minutely, forward and back. Not enough that anyone else would see, but rather as though to a silent rhythm.

After a few minutes of this, I heard a light gentle bong as he rang the bell again. We opened our eyes and sheepishly smiled and looked around.  It was time to do it.  Time for our first experience touching someone else. Eeep.

Our instructor (J) told us to choose a partner, and that for each class we'd choose someone else. I looked wildly around for someone who didn't scare me, and I saw a very gentle-looking girl next to me.  "Want to work with me?"
She smiled and nodded.

Today, J informed us, we would not need our lotions, and we would not get undressed.  Today was just an experience of being in someone else's space in a therapeutic way. We were to simply sit on our stools with the other person on the table (with sheets.  NEVER on a bare table), and touch them. Hold our hands on their shoulders, their mid-back, their head.  Just sit and close our eyes and experience whatever happened.

He turned off the overhead lights while we scrambled around, putting sheets on the tables, turning on the "side lights," and awkwardly, each pair chose who would be on the table first.  My partner climbed on the table, and lay down, face down, face in the u-shaped cradle.

J reminded us to put bolster pillows under our "client's" feet to keep their ankles from hyperextending, and told us to always slide the bolster under the sheet.  Never ever let a client's skin touch bare vinyl.

My partner, A, lay peacefully, face down.  We were instructed to lay our hands on the upper back, and simply feel.

OK. This is it.  I sat on my stool, took a deep breath, extended my hands over her, and gently lowered them to her back. I closed my eyes.

Emotions washed over me.  My mother-instinct was making itself be known, and I had to fight the urge to stroke her hair and kiss her head, because that's what I do with my kids. After that initial reaction passed, I began to feel with my hands. I noticed the texture of her shirt, the heat of her skin, the movement of her breath. Unconsciously, I began to breathe with her.

My hands began to tingle with awareness.  Literally.  I started to feel a pulse similar to the rocking I felt during our opening meditation. I wondered if it was her pulse I was feeling, or mine, or something else.  The tingling that began on the skin of the palms of my hands sank further in, moving into my muscles, then up into my wrists and forearms. I noticed that I had opened my mouth a bit and was breathing through my mouth, the air palpable on my tongue. Heavy. Comfortable. Warm.

Then J told us to mentally say goodbye to the back before we moved our hands.  I felt as though a magnet held my hands there, and as I visualized myself detaching from the magnet, I felt the pull release me. Still in the thickened air, I moved to her head, which was the next spot we were supposed to hold.

Again, I poised my hands over her, preparing. My palms tingled before I even touched her hair, and again the magnetic feeling.  I followed the pull, and my hands sank onto her hair. Once again, I had to fight the urge to "mother her," so I tried to let that need pass through me. This time, the pulsation was much less, but there was much more sensation of a solid connection. I had the image of a barbell, my hands each being the weight on the ends, and the magnetic pull being the bar between them. Soon, I felt myself gently rocking (internally? externally? I couldn't tell) to some unseen rhythm.

Minutes passed, and I floated on my sensations in the near-darkness.

Finally, it was time to switch partners.

[more later]

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

You Think You're Too Fat? Too Bony? Too Hunched? Too... Something.... to Be Gorgeous?

[Taken from a Facebook post a few weeks ago]

I had a bit of a revelation today. I have been massaging older-ish women lately for some reason (by older-ish, I'm talking 65+). I'm willing to bet cash money that each of these women finds themselves too fat, or too lumpy, or scarred, or too many moles, or stretch-markish, or too skinny and bony, or to hunched or too spindly. 

And each and every one of them was BEAUTIFUL to me. 

These beautiful, fat, mole-ish, stretch-markish, skinny, hunched, spindly, scarred bodies were gorgeous. 


Because with each of them, I could see the infant they once were. The young bride. The valued grandmother. The dark-of-the-night cry-because-it-hurts women. 

I felt their beauty emanating from their skin, their muscles, bones, hair, fingernails. I heard it in their voices, their sighs, their laughter. I felt it in their inhalations and exhalations. 

I massaged one woman's surgical scars, and she asked me why. I replied that I wanted her scars to know that they were loved too. They are a part of her beauty. She said that no one ever made her feel love toward her scars before. 

THIS, my friends. This is why I love what I'm doing. This.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Enya Poisoning

You're a massage client at the local massage school.  You and 11 other lucky people fill out forms in the waiting room while you hear laughter, the rattling sound of curtains being pulled, and the clank of pens being thrown back in a coffee cup.

One by one, cheerful blue-shirted massage students open the sliding door and call out a name.  The typical "I'm trying to remember to do a good greeting" greetings occur, with introductions and handshakes.  Clients get escorted to their curtained-in cubicle, and the usual questions get asked. "Any changes since your last appointment? How's your diabetes doing? Any tingling in your feet or toes? No? Good. Any particular aches or pains you'd like me to work on today?"

And so it goes.  The overhead lights are off, but the side lights are on, giving the cubicles a nice cozy feel. Some atmospheric "waves and birds" music is going on in the background.

The therapists step out into the aisle, closing curtains behind them, as the clients undress and get on the tables, covering up with the white rented sheets. Laundry service is a wondrous thing, really.

When the clients call out, each therapist begins his or her session. Warm hands, deep and deliberate strokes, lotion, stretches.  The clients drift off, if all goes well. After a while, the room is quiet. We hear the occasional murmur of a question being asked, an instruction given. We hear a rattle of a chair being pulled around, or a cough.

The "waves and birds" switches to to some "woooooOOOOoooooSAILAWAYSAILAWAYSAILAWAY" stuff. The therapists' hands stiffen for just a second.  Just a wee pause. Then a stifled snicker. The room is suddenly awash in tiny sounds of amusement, annoyance, and resignation.

Another Enya album has come up on the rotation of background music.  Another one. I swear, the instructor promised to never do this to us again. Oh for god's sake. Can't we EVER get through a session without that repetitive Irish woman?
The one with the guy on the panflute playing the Beatles is bad enough. And that one that's trying to be Native American? It's synthesized.

But really?  Enya??
Please sail the hell away.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Peering Out Cautiously


It's me again.  I figured you might wonder what in the heck happened over here.  No, I'm not dead.

I'm a MASSAGE THERAPIST!  Almost all licensed and everything.  So far, I'm 'certificated' (I got my certificate from finishing my program) AND 'certified' (meaning that I passed the National Exam, and so, have been certified).  I am not yet licensed because ... I'm lazy?  I need to get fingerprinted/background checked, and then I need to submit paperwork.  Gah.  I hates paperwork.

Would you like to hear what it's like to become a massage person?  From the inside perspective?  And what it's like for a family to deal with the mom/wife being a music teacher, but adding full-time school?  And trying to figure out what to do NOW?

I think I might tell that story.  It's kind of interesting, in a very "lavender-scented lotion and Enya-background-music" kind of way. By the way, I suspect  there is such a thing as Enya poisoning. My little safety tip to you.