Face down on the massage table, a few hundred miles from home, in a warm room in the Sierra Foothills, I flinched when the sheet was pulled back and I heard a long silence ~ I felt the massage therapist staring down at the long scar that runs the length of my back. I explained matter-of-factly, as I do every time I get a massage, “Oh right.... ~ yeah ~ that ~ not to worry ~ I can have massage ~ you see, I had scoliosis and back surgery when I was 16 ~ but I'm stressed out so I just need massage on my shoulders and low back, you know, not anywhere near the scar, because it’ll hurt ~ the rods and pins and screws, you know, I don’t think I can take any pressure on the hardware.....”
Oh. Well, that won’t do ~ she said back to me.
She lightly ran her index finger along the smooth scar ~ the laser left only a shallow, slender border; she stopped just below my scapula, where one of the screws connects to my spine ~ I flinched; guarded. She continued, lightly touching the exact spots I just told her not to touch. She explained.....
You see, your peripheral nervous system forms a network of nerve fibers that branch off of your spinal cord, radiating throughout your body so that every region has a communication path back to the brain. So, your spine is a communication path for your entire body. The hardware blocks that communication, and so does the scar tissue. There is scar tissue all along the muscles and nerve endings along your scar, and over the years, as you’ve internalized stress and emotions, that scar tissue has tensed up, gripping itself around the pins and hardware ~ if you’ve only ever allowed massage to your shoulders and low back, well, you’ve only ever dealt with the surface scar tissue ~ you’ve never delved deeper, you’ve never allowed anyone to work out the true, deeper, issues.
Well ~ there’s a metaphor in there somewhere, isn’t there?
So, she took matters into her own hands. Literally.
She informed me she would use a modified Chinese pressure point method, where she would press down, hard, on a spot ~ using hand signals she explained to me, I would let her know if there was no pain (fingers flat), or mild pain (hand at a 90-degree angle), or more severe pain (hand at 140-degrees angle), or unbearable pain (clenched fist). Press, breathe, release, breathe, press again ~
“The nice thing about this exercise,” she proclaimed, “is that you start with pain ~ you recognize it, you acknowledge it, you wait for it to pass, and you move on.”
Ohhhh, there’s a metaphor in that one, too.
(Really, she really said all of this to me.)
Can you imagine if we had conversations like this? Say we’re having a conversation about our past ~ uuf, discomfort ~ give me your hand signal ~ how painful is it? That bad huh? Clenched fist bad ~ wow. OK, let me adjust the conversation ~ but we’re going to continue our discussion. You will have to finally tell me how awful it was when your dog ran away, you will breathe and release, I will finally understand why you don’t want a dog; your fingers will relax, will ease into my palm....and we’ll adopt another cat instead.
When she was done ~ my back felt, literally, like an open window ~ or an open book, but a few of the pages were blank now ~ I told her she is amazing ~ She told me my scar had "called out to her"...... ~ only one other person on this planet has ever said something like that to me.
Later, after an amazing dinner, we all went for a hike to the “sunset ridge” ~ but we’d missed the sunset and so we called it a star gazing walk instead; it felt like we could see to the other side of the world ~
the dark outline of the Sierras reached up into the blue-back sky and shook stars out of its valleys like confetti ~ ~ later that night, the person I am reading about reaches the Dochu La Pass, and says to me, "I always feel so happy to be able to see so far."