Massage fascinates me.
Sure, the benefits stare one in the face. Back when I swam 3 times a week at 3000+ yards a pop, every-other-week massages were as central to my 30+-year-old physical well-being as eating plenty of protein. If someone else didn’t work the kinks out, my body would coil in on itself like a frizzled piece of ribbon.
Back then my massage therapist was one of my best friends. (She’s still a dear friend, but no longer my practitioner.) Our sessions did double-duty: bodywork and friend-work. And while we talked about the flow of each others’ lives, she would interleave critiques and biomechanic details. “What are you doing with your shoulders? Is your work-chair set correctly?” “See, here on this hip? This knot is because your opposite shoulder is hanging on to something we don’t want it to.”
I could feel within my muscles and tendons the interconnections she referred to, and more besides. As one area was kneaded, others would send a trill along my nerves. Or radiate cold. Or hurt. It seldom made sense to me which area created ripples in which others; all I could do was marvel. (And ask her more questions.)
Psalm 139:13-14, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My left elbow has been tight-muscle aching when I wake for a handful of weeks now. I’ve been treating my poor body like a head-transportation device again, ignoring my left IT band’s tingle and the sharp line along my shin. The elbow pain worries me more intensely, though; I fear I’m setting up a body pattern that will spiral further into poor function. Maybe even permanently. So at last I’ve set a massage appointment—for an hour and a half. That much I remember from my time with my friend… any lapse from our working rhythm, and it took her an hour and a half to set me right.
And on the table, as this practitioner endeavored to undo what I’ve been tying together for many months, I listened to my “muscles better and nerves more,” in a way very different from the poem but somehow connected.
Like the rubber bands behind my shoulder-blade and the slot of sore muscle in my forearm. All knit together.