I’ve been getting massages every 4-6 weeks for almost two years now. I started going because the work I do, both sitting at a computer all day, and wielding jewelry tools all night, had caused some repetitive stress injuries and chronic tension. I’ve kept going because it’s made a huge difference to my health and to my awareness of my body. Also, you know, massages are lovely. Not always while they’re happening, and my therapist has his elbow dug into some muscle or other, but afterwards when I feel like a puddle with nothing on its mind.
It’s made me far more aware of how I hold myself and what I do with my body. Things that cause injury or pain that I can change or avoid, and things that use me up in some way that I can’t avoid. There’s a lot of talk among the artists and crafters I know that has to do with awareness of our bodies as resources for what we do, and whether or not we look after that resource with the same care we’d give a laser cutter or a jeweler’s torch. Important things to think about.
That’s not really what I’m thinking about now, though. My favorite thing about getting massages is what I’ve learned about how my body holds experience and emotion, and how it can let them go. I’ve cried twice during massages. The second time was simple stress and exhaustion and both the difficulty and relief of letting them go under the influence of that competent, impersonal affection for my wellbeing. The first time was a complete surprise to me, however. I was feeling relaxed and not particularly focused on anything; certainly not sad. Then my massage therapist hit a specific group of muscles and I just started to cry. I had sadness lodged in a specific part of my body, and then I let it go. It was startling and unsettling and later on, really fascinating. That type of thing doesn’t happen very often, but since then I’ve had the same experience with anger and when I had a massage last Sunday it was laughter. Apparently there was laughter in my right Achilles tendon. It’s still strange every time it happens, but I love the awareness it’s given me. It’s made me think about how I’m holding myself when I experience stress or sadness, and that in turn has made my muscles less likely to work into chronic knots.