Well, my mental health month blogging sadly did not pan out as I hoped. And I haven’t written here in 2 months. But I’m here now, sinking into a huge lounge chair and reflecting.
My childhood best friend surprised me (sort of) with a trip to the spa as a 6-month belated birthday & Christmas present. We agreed last year that we’d buy each other massages for our birthdays from now on, but she went Above and Beyond, and got us an entire package. A facial! Pedicure! Inclusive lunch! Wild and wacky. I’m thrilled and calm as shite.
As I was laying on the massage table this morning, my mind drifted from memory to memory, thought to thought. When the massage therapist got to my legs, I got ticklish. Which meant I got tense. Which made me think Well this was a lot of money to have all her work on my shoulders undone because my legs are too sensitive for human contact.
The negative cognitions started up, ready to take off into a spiral of: You’re wasting your friend’s money, you can’t even get a massage properly you thankless goober, you’re tensing up so much you’re probably going to give yourself a stroke!!! but before it could out of control I said whoa whoa whoa. What’s all this about, brain? Legs? What’s really going on here?
So I took a deep breath, focused my attention on the spot where she was massaging, and let go. I took a moment to consider the source of the unraveling. I get ticklish and tense for one because I am and always have been hypersensitive (physically, emotionally, all of it), but also because I am afraid to give up control.
So I tried to counteract this. I let go.
I remembered a time I was seeing a chiropractor who moved my head to the side and said, “Molly, just relax. Are you used to being a helper? You don’t need to move your head when I start to. I can and will do it for you.” And I was sort of taken aback and somehow put off at first. But then I thought about it, and she was really on to something.
I think part of it is that, yeah, I’m used to “being a helper” and putting people’s needs before me. But that always felt, for myself too inaccurately martyr-like. Or sort of like a misidentification of altruism.
It’s more than that. It’s not pure selflessness, it’s self-preservation. If I dig in deep to my shadowy parts, it’s that:
- I don’t trust others to know what I need, or even that they really know how to do what they’re doing in such a way that I won’t have to go back and fix things.
- I don’t believe I am worthy of relaxation or enjoyment.
- I don’t believe my environment is safe enough to relax or revel.
These feelings / beliefs run so deep that they come out in my body. This is wild to me! This must mean they need some extra attention and gentle undoing.
And the beliefs somatized today, in their own tiny way.
So I breathed. I told myself I trust the massage therapist. I told myself my environment was safe. I told myself I deserve to relax and revel in quiet, safety, and touch. And somehow, gratefully, I believed it.
I realized–this is luxuriating.
Yes, I’m privileged to have and be close with those who have acccumulated enough wealth that we can splurge on spa days. But luxuriating isn’t in and of itself avocado oil slathered on your back as hands of a stranger offer a Swedish massage.
Luxuriating is something that money makes easier to do, indeed, but it is not just expensive beauty products that smell warm and soothing.
It is sitting with yourself and feeling the bliss of being. Of having a physical form to occupy space with. To connect with others with.
You have permission to revel. To trust in your environment that this moment and the next will have you safe and steady on this earth just as the last one did. To believe that experiencing pleasure is not making you vulnerable to threat; it is making you open to connection and presence.
You have permission to luxuriate. To soak in your being here. The safety of bedsheets before sleep. The warmth of water showering across your back. The sound and smell of rain after a week of unrelenting humidity. The softness of skin that belongs to someone who cares for you.
Getting to this place of trusting and loving oneself enough to fully be here is no small task. But today I think I’m closer to its ease than I ever have been as a young adult.
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