(…cont. from “Don’t Touch Me: Part 1“)
“Yes,” I continued, with growing confidence. “It’s true. I mean I don’t like random touch. You know? ‘Hiiii, how arrre you,'” I said, and I pawed at the air, mimicking someone coming at me with gropey hands.
She laughed. I felt a little better. Maybe I was getting at something here.
“Like if you’re at Rollies and there’s always this person who finds you who’s just had one too many, and there they are: in your face, falling on your shoulder, grabbing your elbow…helllOOOOOO…”
I used Rollies – Belfast, Maine’s famous watering hole – on purpose, because everyone goes there: from laborers to city council members. We all watch the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins here; families gather at the big tables for meals; there’s a pool table and a modern jukebox and free peanuts. It’s a microcosm of Waldo County community life. We all drink there, and all of us have either had too many at one point, or been with people who have. As I hoped, she laughed at this too.
“So, just to let you know, I think I understand – in my own way – what you mean about not wanting to be touched. I get it. This is not unwanted hugs or weird pats, this is professional body work. I do this for a living and I take it seriously. Which means I take your needs and sensitivities seriously too.
“There’s nothing happening here that is not under your control. I will tell you everything I am doing, before I do it, and you can say whether or not that works for you. I don’t have to know the reason, just say “huh-uh.”
“This is your session. Your time. And, from moment to moment we’ll see how it goes. I know you’ve signed up for an hour session but personally I will be thrilled if we can get in 25 minutes. That will be a major accomplishment!”
“Yeah, I know!” she replied. Her face was starting to relax and she was getting a little color in her cheeks. I could tell what I was saying was helping her trust me more. I was feeling better, myself.
“So, this is how it goes. I’m gonna leave the room. Let’s just start with you face up, today, okay? This way you can talk to me easily and we can end things more smoothly if we need to.” She agreed to lying supine, supported by pillows, even mostly disrobing so she could be more comfortable under the linens. “I’ll knock before I come in and then we’ll get started, okay?”
“Right!” she said, and she closed the door behind me while I went to wash up and she bravely attempted the impossible: lying down on my table, waiting to be massaged.
I went into the bathroom and felt a slight tremor inside. I did as I always did: pray, for myself and my client, that it would be for our mutual benefit and the greatest and highest good for all. I noticed, however, that my internal voice had an edge and squeak to it that bordered on hysteria.
“What if, Lord,” I prayed, “I get in there and all I do is touch the top of her head and she says, “Nope, I can’t do this,” and we have to end the session right there? I want to help her! I think I can! What if she really can’t let me? Agghkk, what-what-what?”
I felt access to peace, suddenly, as if a giant angel hand came to rest on top of my head and pressed gently but firmly: the equivalent to a verbal “Shoosh.”
Don’t go in there acting like she’s going to quit on you any minute. Do everything as if the next minute will certainly come. And for heaven’s sake, stay calm! If you’re at ease, she’ll be at ease.
So I knocked and went in, and began.
I have to say, there is an immediacy to your work if you know that it could end at any moment. And, while I began simply and calmly, and checked in with Tracy every 15 minutes that went by, like clockwork, like I promised her I would — and, while I also told her what I was going to do in a soft but distinct voice, before I did it, like I had promised (“I’m now going to drape your upper chest a little more and work both arms, starting with your right.”) — I also was waiting, on some level, for her eyes to open and for her to say, “Stop.”
But that never happened. Instead, fifteen minutes went by, and then another, and then another. Her response to my inquiry, “How you doing,” went from “Fine” to “Mumph,” the happily unintelligible response of someone in deep relaxation. I used medium pressure and if i dipped into certain areas more deeply, I was hawklike in monitoring her response.
There were no adverse ones, so far as I could tell: her eyes were closed and stayed closed. Her face, while still retaining traces of tension (and her brow still knit), was placid. Her breathing deepened and softened. She even let me take her whole arm without even attempting to help me (something I haven’t accomplished even with certain long-term clients, see “Up in Arms“)
Finally I nudged her. “Guess what,” I said. “You did it. A whole hour.” And left.
“How are you feeling?” I asked, as I came back in the room and she was sipping water.
“Well,” she said. “A lot better. Maybe because it’s over.” We laughed at this one. Boy, if nothing else, I realized Tracy had a great sense of humor, just like her cousin.
I reviewed the session: headache was still there, but she felt a lot looser, right where she needed it the most: all around C5-T2. Would she feel like coming back for more? Certainly she did. I got her rescheduled and tried not to show how much I felt like dancing in my chair with joy. Perhaps this was a turning point for her body: a chance to start feeling better more often. This is the kind of thing that makes massage therapists want to cry with happiness. I also refrained from doing that.
“I did do a tiny bit of leg compressions, like we had discussed, but it was the one time in the session I noticed your visibly tense. You didn’t like that, did you? I will totally not even touch your legs next time. I apologize.”
“Yeah, thanks,” she replied. “I just don’t want my legs to be touched. And I really don’t like people touching my FEET.” That tense dubious look surfaced one more time, then went away.
I made a note in her file, and in my mind: Do Not Touch Legs or Feet. With the sincere hope that someday, even that could happen, if she says she is ready. But, as with everything else with Tracy, I will take it moment to moment.
Tracy is now a regular client and, while she’s experiencing new soreness and discovering other parts of her that are tense (“I think I clench my teeth!”), she is hanging in there. Her name has been changed for this story.
With a tip of the hat to my friend, colleague, blogger and all-around awesome person Rowan Blaisdell, and his post “You Are in Charge.”