Aggressive Self Care


I went to the massage therapist last Friday because there was that thing in my back that appears again and again after days or years like a reincarnated demon. I'd tried rolling on tennis balls. I'd asked my husband to dig his elbow in. But it hung on between my neck and shoulder squeezing like a vice. 

"That's grief," my sponsor said. I've recently been assigned the role of executor over my dad and stepmother's wills. There's no known timeline, it's just an eventuality. The only thing we know is that, sooner or later, as for all of us, death is coming. And the grief that comes in stages does not wait for death in order to begin. I've written some really raw, painful things about my childhood recently and sent them to my dad, conversations I'd only tiptoed around before but now feel the need to face head-on. Opening this line of communication has been terrifying but I don't want there to be things unsaid, issues unresolved as we make our way forward. And so. our relationship grows closer, more tender, more painful, more real. It hurts and it heals.

My massage therapist digs her thumbs into my shoulders as I lay on her table. I'm proud just to be there, to have taken the time to practice this level of aggressive self care. Because in addition to the revolutions in my inner life, my outer life is going full throttle with no end in sight. Workshops, seminars, conferences, birthday parties, mothering, wifing, housing, adulting, cleaning up cat poop, dog poop, lizard poop, wrestling with the plastic, bloody skeletons of Halloween. Sometimes it feels like I'm running a marathon through a jungle on stilts, attacking the wild with a straw instead of a machete. Even when it's all wonderful stuff. Especially when it's all wonderful stuff. Because now that life is so good, if I crumble and fall, there's so much more to lose.

So. Naps and baths. Forced and prolonged kitten/hound/lizard cuddling. Medication. Meetings. Dancing like a fool. Putting on lipstick to go to CVS. Buying the cute socks. Telling myself I love myself even when I eat the damn cake. Strong, strong coffee. Saying no. Going to bed at 6:30. Wearing high heels around the house and comfortable shoes everywhere else. Dancing like a fool. Praying like hell. God, please 

"This is control," my massage therapist says as she rolls down my spine, unhooking knots. And it's that too, the deep, desperate need to order the universe so it doesn't spin out of control. So I don't lose myself and go under. I breathe out heavily under her tender, firm touch and imagine the grief and control losing their grip on my body. As she instructs, I imagine columns of luminescent white light streaming through my power center. I imagine what it would be like if I knew I was OK even awash in the tornadoes and hurricanes and tidal waves of feeling that make up a life. My life. And when she was done, I got up, put my clothes on and dove back into my day.

Valley HaggardComment