What I Learned on the Massage Table

I used to say that a trip to the grocery store sans children was just like a trip to the spa.  I spoke this analogy before ever having gone to a spa.

I hereby retract that statement.  There are some serious benefits to shopping alone, but not nearly as many benefits as the soft music, scents, royal treatment, and transporting qualities of going to the spa.

***

“Ma’am, we have you all set here with locker number five. There’s a jewelry box in the locker where you can secure your jewelry. We just ask that you don’t take the jewelry box home.”

Deal. I wont’t steal the jewelry box.

“Here’s your robe, you may undress to your level of comfortability, and when you’re ready, step out into the Women’s Retreat where Oscar will meet you.”

Oscar. Oscar was my massage therapist. Oscar had nice hands. Nice voice. Nice green tea lotion.

I kept asking myself, checking my emotional barometer: Am I okay with this right now? All of this … greatness?  A stranger touching me? A man who doesn’t belong to me, I don’t belong to him, and I don’t even know his last name? How ’bout now? Still okay?

Tricia, he’s a trained professional. Think of him as a doctor.
And also, just enjoy this, you crazy overthinker.

I am lying face down on the heated table, and I am discreetly and modestly covered in layers of sheets. My face is smashed into this pillow that lets me breathe and rest on my face at the same time. I’m pretty sure my face looks like that joke that begins with, “Hi, my name is Chubby.” But I’m facing the floor. So I’m okay with whatever distortion is happening to my cheeks and lips.

“Take two deep breaths.”  I breathe in the scent of the green tea. Minty goodness.

And this reminds me of the time Robb and I got a couples’ massage. It’s an intimate thing to get a massage in the first place, and yet another to have your spouse in the room, both of you disrobed on separate beds, with two other adults in the room. Again with the constant assessments of the emotional barometer.

Robb’s massage therapist began the aroma therapy and boldly commanded him, “Eeeeen-haaaale.” And we both got the giggles by such an odd command. So then we were lying there, together and apart and very much not alone, giggling and snorting over a word that would now be part of our marital vocabulary. Months later: “Hey, babe? Smell my perfume. Eeeeen-haaaaaale.”

Anyway, Oscar did amazing things to the muscles that carry a writer’s tension. In my dreamy state, I was pretty sure he had to be part octopus for all the action happening to my tense muscles. No person can do all of that with just two hands, right? Trained professional.

I paid attention to his masterful technique, in part so I wouldn’t fall asleep, but also in greater part because Robb once told me I gave the worst massages of anyone he could imagine. I was shocked. It reminded me of when Phoebe asked Monica, “Oh! Get off! Ow! Why are you doing that to me?! As a masseuse and a human being, I am begging you never to do that to anyone.” We had been married for more years than fingers on one hand, and now he tells me? Now I learn that he’s been miserably tolerating this? Well.

I will learn from Oscar. I’ll be good at this someday.

Of course, no event seems to happen without incident for me. When Oscar finished and I went back to the dressing room, found my locker #5, my clothes were there, my purse, my glasses, my shoes, my book… oddly, not my bra.

Where the freaking smack hashtag could it be?

Did I wear it into the massage room under my robe? Oh, great day… did I leave it in the massage room? Please, God, don’t make me have to walk out of here and ask for someone to find my bra. Please let me find it. I’m begging you, from whom all blessings flow. Please bless me with my bra as soon as possible.

I found it in the corner of the dressing room, on the other side of the chair and ottoman, tossed aside on the floor. Nice, Trish. Way to act like someone needing to pick up your bra and cast it out of the way in a public place isn’t totally weird and awkward for everyone involved.

For crying out loud.

***

Here’s what I learned from my day at the spa: the gift of touch is significantly absent in my life. When I jacked my ankle those few months ago, I nearly cried when the nurse touched my ankle. Not because it hurt; because she touched me. Her hands on my foot, her skin against mine. To receive touch without any expectation to give, this is missing.

Please touch someone you love.  Rub his shoulders during the commercial breaks of the football game.  Let her rest her head in your lap while you watch The Voice.  Twirl her hair through your fingers.  Massage her scalp. Massage his hands, one finger at a time, one knuckle at a time. Touch someone who likes to be touched by you. And don’t ask for anything in return. It’s a grace all its own.

Thank you, Oscar.

Seven Feet of White Lit Brilliance.

I’m sitting in my papisan chair, the one that must be balanced against a corner of my writing studio or it will undoubtedly revolt and topple me over or just plain throw me out. But when I’ve piled the pillows in order, when the center of gravity is perfect, and when stars align just right, this is a glorious place to sit.

Max thinks so too. From his perch behind my head, he can see for miles. He pretends like he owns the neighborhood. He’s very charming until he walks across my keyboard.

I put up my Christmas tree in this room that is circled in windows. The tree is narrow and artificial, seven feet of white-lit brilliance that shines down over the neighborhood, with an Ikea blanket piled underneath in a way that’s supposed to look cast aside and nonchalant.

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The whole neighborhood can see my white tree. The boys and I checked on the way home, and you can actually spot it from three blocks away. It’s our declaration that Christmas is happening, here and now.

Robb would have hung all the outdoor lights by now. This house begs for new nail holes and hooks. The boys have many questions and big hopes for what the outside of our house might look like this Christmas.  I don’t know, guys.  I’m not making that decision right now.

Robb used to start hanging lights in October. And he would ask me to hold his ladder steady as he climbed up high. And I was always annoyed – he had interrupted me, I didn’t want the boring job of standing under him and hoping he didn’t fall on me, and I was probably dealing with some degree of score keeping or entitlement.

But he was afraid of heights. And he was decorating my home, our home. And when I was nearby, he felt safe. I was his security.

And I wonder why I didn’t just hold the ladder, why I didn’t partner with him for his favorite tasks of the year, why I didn’t encourage and appreciate his outdoor design, and why I didn’t choose joy.

Why didn’t you just hold the ladder for him, Tricia? That’s all he wanted you to do.

Sometimes I Don’t Miss Him

Sometimes, I don’t miss Robb.

(My love, I’m sorry for that sentence. It’s just that it’s true… I don’t always. You mattered and you matter; I loved you and I love you; and there are times when I don’t miss you and – always more shocking to me – I don’t feel sorry for not missing you.)

I don’t miss him when I’m in a social scene that he would have hated, when I know he would have looked at me from across the room and subtly lowered his eyelids to tell me he was tired and would I please, please, please wrap this thing up and begin my farewell tour.

I don’t miss him when I’ve had a great date or a fun conversation or a spark of interest in a man. Not quite surprisingly, that’s not something I want to tell him about. And sometimes, when I’m looking for silver linings, I think about the unexpected gift that is mine: I get to fall in love again. The butterflies, first kiss, hours of infatuated conversation, learning someone new – the stuff dreams are made of – I might get to do it again.

Sometimes I don’t miss him. But one thing I’ll never stop missing is his friendship.

I had a safe place beside him, guaranteed mine, always open if I was willing to slow down and settle in. Whenever I needed to find my place in the world, I turned to Robb. When a friend hurt my feelings, when insecurities ran rampant and I didn’t know where I belonged, I could turn to him. My hypersocial tendencies kept me running with a full calendar, and he was always glad to have me back.

Off my computer, away from texting. Unplugged, we called it.
I could close the door against the world, and I could know just where I fit, just where I belonged – his arms around me, his chin resting on the crown of my head. I could know the one who knew me.

You know what’s crazy? It’s the book deals and endorsements and speaking engagements that are making me a little fuzzy around the edges, wishing for boundaries while I wonder how big this might get. Who knew ‘dreams come true’ bring insecurity and careful footing? Who knew that when your world doubles in size, it’s even more comforting to have an extra snug and cozy spot at the end of the day?

Robb could hold me. Contain me. I could find my own boundaries, feel grounded and safe again. I miss the gracious silence that said, ‘Hey, I know you. This is where you belong.’

And tonight I miss that friendship.

S-P-I-R-I-T – SPIRIT.

Tonight, I will take the boys to their first high school football game.

They will see the crowds,
smell the popcorn,
feel the gravel underneath their shoes.
They will see school spirit,
on t-shirts and painted faces
and likely a group of senior guys who are shirtless and unified.
I might buy them a candy apple
because that was my favorite treat when I was their age.
I might buy them a BlowPop and a Three Musketeers bar,
because that was my favorite when I was a few years older than them.
They will hear the drum candence, first far away and distant, and then loud as the drum line marches by.

They will see the trombones, the section that has always received my greatest respect, since any other musician can fake it in a sea of brass and woodwinds.  Not the trombones. A trombone slide doesn’t hide mistakes.

They will see the mysterious intrigue that is cheerleaders.
They will see the stands open up at halftime, when most of the world buys their concessions, and only the real fans stick around in the bleachers.
They will see their first marching band halftime show.

And when they climb into bed tonight, they will know what their daddy loved.

Truly Something.

“What was the first thing you noticed about your spouse?”

 

The women are seated on one side of the table, the men on the other.  We didn’t choose to sit this way, like a middle school dance, but here we are.

 

The women go first.

 

“I saw him in a sea of his old girlfriends, gathered around him at a wedding reception.  And I guess that’s not a bad thing.  All of those people still wanted relationship with him.  He was pretty captivating.”

 

“We were in college, and I heard live music playing.  I went to the student life center, and I could see through one small sliver between the black paper on the windows.  And there he was, playing his drums.  And I wanted to meet him.  I wanted to know him.”

 

“I watched him with his friends, and I knew his relationships were real.”

 

“I watched him play the drums, and I knew he was interested in me because he kept looking at me.”

 

“He was the only person in my high school who was kind to everyone.”

 

And then it is the men’s turn.

 

“You girls said all these nice things. Now you’re about to hear our answers, if we’re honest… butt, boobs… but really, I noticed her eyes and her smile and her hair… that went all the way down to her cute butt.”

 

“I noticed her sweet smile.  Actually, I don’t remember noticing her.  But I sure did.”

 

There was an emptiness in me.  Oh, to hear those words again, to hear Robb tell about falling for me.  It is something to be loved.  It is really, truly something.

 

A sweet friend, who knows the emotional temperature in the room and the words that are never said, pulled me aside after the meal.  With tears, she said, “Tell me what he would have said about you.”

 

And with my own tears, I told her.

 

“He said I had curves in all the right places.  And he loved my hair.”

 

It is something to be loved.  Truly something.