A normal person, a regular smart sensible person, who is also a massage therapist, does not do 13 massages in three days.
I’m not particularly well known for being sensible.
I’m also not used to making a crapload of money. I had a thousand dollars in my hand today. The hand with the sprained finger. The other hand, with the sudden sharp pain in the radio-carpal joint, is in an ice bucket. A thousand dollars, from about a week and a half’s worth of work.
The hand in the ice bucket says, “lets retire now.”
One of my clients at Massage Pimp is a nurse from the community clinic. Maria is the epitome of nurse-ness – stout, practical, 50-something, with Popeye forearms and thick glasses. I loved her immediately, then loved her more when, during the massage, we put two and two together and figured out she was one of Rocky’s nurses – one of the team of people who laid hands on my daughter when her heart was still fragile and surgery was the unthinkable future.
I poured my love, all my heart and soul, into that woman through my hands today.
She’s a talker, and we got to talking about God. She asked what my views are on the Almighty. I told her that God is so much bigger than any one individual, it’s crazy to think we can define it. I believe our brains can’t comprehend it. We can only sense it, this energy-thing. When we need to (which is usually), we can put an image on it, to help make sense of it, to put it into a vocabulary that we can comprehend. When I need an image to hold on to, God is a Great Mother, and the universe is her womb.
That’s quite a broad view for such a young person, said Maria. How did you come to feel that way?
I’ve always had that sense, even when I was little. It probably helped that I come from a family of creative thinkers, and no one really ever told me about God. I had to discover it for myself.
Maria was raised very differently from me, in a hard-core Christian sect I’ve never heard of. She has arrived at a belief in God very, very similar to mine. We marveled at that, while I rubbed her feet. She recommended a book to me – The Shack. She said it was an incredible revelation about God. When the massage was over, we said goodbye, I with an awkward sideways grin, she with the grace and love of a matronly saint. She returned five minutes later, smiling, handed me a freshly-bought copy of the book, and left without a word.
Still warm from Maria’s quiet gift, I met my next client. She was a sweet-faced woman who has been running between her three kids at home, and her sister in the hospital, recently diagnosed with lymphoma. She had The Look – on the surface, the look of someone holding it together. Underneath, a riptide of dread, exhaustion and shock. Her friends had surprised her with a gift certificate. “This is your hour,” I told her.
I anointed her face with witch hazel, rubbed her feet with lavender, smoothed the knots in her jaw and the wrinkles between her brows. I breathed with every deep breath she took, noted the moments when each muscle, one by one, finally released and softened between my fingers. I cried quietly. It was me, lying there. It was my daughter in the hospital, my imperfect, beloved, gorgeous four-month-old daughter, born with ten fingers, ten toes and two holes in her heart. Maria held us in her arms, four years ago. She spread love and hope into us like medicine, like lavender salve rubbed into trauma-locked muscle. As I helped this woman regenerate herself, something inside me released.
The human body has an incredible capacity to store information. It is true that muscles hold memories. Traumas get locked away in a tight low back, a blocked-off chest, an armored stomach. There’s a widely-held belief, at least in the “alternative” medicine field, that this storing away of memory can be the cause of chronic pain, IBS, breathing problems, deformity caused by lifelong postural deviations – some might even say it opens the door to stroke and cancer. I’ve wondered if chronic childhood anxiety tightened the muscles deep in my face, causing my seemingly degenerative nearsightedness. Muscle memory might also explain the deep currents of change that have swept through me since I started massage school, and started getting regular bodywork.
The body is connected throughout by a connective tissue called fascia. It runs inside and around our skeletal muscle and, in theory, through a force called tensegrity, holds our bones in place – much like the tent fabric that works to hold the tent poles up. When I look back on my life, 34 years of experiences, I see that the fabric of time does not stop and start with each new phase. It’s tensegrity, each year adding a pull from a different angle, continually shifting the position and relationship of bones, ligaments and joints. Out of alignment at an early age, making up for what was missing with painful and awkward leverages and angles, creating a balance, come hell or high water, in order to live and function among the normal people.
Somewhere, in all that spiraling mess of time-fabric, my innate sense of God was buried, gone from my sight. It has come and gone from me many times with my searching – usually found in dance, writing, cartooning, birthing – any true creative acts. God has also appeared when I’ve disengaged myself from the world. That was one of those crazy tent-pole positions. I’ve known I’m missing it all my life, felt it slip away, the more I tried to tighten my fingers around it, to reappear at strange times and under unlikely circumstances.
This year, under very difficult life circumstances, I found myself broken loose from all my moorings. It’s been ten months since I was aware of God.
When the held thing in me released today, I started to dance. Literally, there in that soup green massage-in-a-box room, with my hands kneading the woman who was me, after talking to Maria the Living Saint about God, I started dancing to the piped-in music. Just like I was in Body Choir. Body Choir, my long-lost dance group, was one of the last places I felt spiritual, before things went to hell. Now, I can’t wait to get back to dance. I’ve started working, albeit in my head, on my graphic novel again. Did I ever tell you I’ve been working on a graphic novel for the past ten years? I have. And I’ve been surviving without a sense of God for long enough.