Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Awareness Tree


     The Voice that saves my life at fourteen when I am drowning is not a one hit wonder. The ageless intonation continues to arrive during situations that are similarly life-threatening, as well as mundane and unlikely.
     An event with the characterization of the latter occurs in my early forties when I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Words flood into my consciousness as my husband Bill and I are on our way to a hotel and stop at a red light that has a spa situated on the corner.
     “Go get a massage.”
     A natural assumption would be that my ego commanded the instruction, kind of like “eat ice cream” or “buy a Jaguar”. As a massage-newbie-woman, ego would not want to go for the first time during a long engaged fat period. I have a lot of issues with the idea, many of them involving cellulite, jiggling underarms and strangers touching me. Obviously, this sentence did not come from me. It is equally apparent that Bill didn’t make the demand as he is oblivious to anything outside of finding a parking space, after having determined he likes the look of a cozy pub next door to the spa I am stare drilling.
     As Bill maneuvers the car, I mull the Voice ownership. Having previously fittered over silly possibilities, like leprechauns, split personality disorder and my mate attempting to gaslight me, I consider one surprisingly, not yet thought of contender.
      Could this be a higher being?
     Raised on Catholicism, as an adult, I’d tried on Methodist and United Church of Christ and now labeled myself an agnostic, with a slight tilt toward a mother-nature-free-spirit genre that is secretly opined at chick only book clubs. This conclusion had been drawn merely as a convenient alternative to naming myself atheist and because deep down I’m a God fearing scaredy cat.
     Sneaking a look out of the car window I worriedly search for signs of a toad rainstorm. Just thinking that I might be judged as peevish by He who must not be argued with, brings up bits and pieces of bible study that stubbornly cling to my brain cells. If I were to say no, will I be turned into a plus sized pillar of salt? I round on my unsuspecting husband.
     “Let’s get a massage.”
     One of his eyebrows shoots up to the hairline while he directs the car into an open space. He responds while braking.
     “Because of our check-in time, you’ll have to get in and out in less than two hours.”
     Knowing the man as well as any woman knows another species, I suspect he may be thinking he can ride out my unlikely plan on the bar stool next door. So I cut him off at the pass.
      “Both of us, because no way in hell am I doing this alone.”
     He holds the stunned but curious look of a man whose mate has suddenly developed a new and possibly wondrous personality trait. I toss him one last stipulation as we enter the serene waiting room of the spa.
     “If there is a guy and a girl therapist I get the girl.”
     His face falls, any delusions of my being new and improved fading completely. Sighing in unison we timidly approach the receptionist. Secretly I scheme to set enough rules around this fiasco so as to ensure that our next steps lead to alcoholic beverages and then a nap. The twenty-something girl, who has no idea she’ll ever be as old as me, effusively greets us.
     “Hi, welcome to Ren; may I help you?”
     Since this is my brilliant idea, I answer for both of us.
    “We’d like a massage, but only if something is available right now.”
     I smirk inside, one foot and body propulsion already motioning toward the door. Not needing to look at the appointment book the girl exuberantly responds.
     “Yes! And I happen to have two openings since we just had a cancellation!”
     My foot hesitates, my brow furrows, and a light sheen of sweat erupts simultaneously. Still grasping wisps of hope, I list in the direction of freedom while tossing stuttering flotsam.
     “Okay…great…good…but…I want a female therapist and if that can’t be accommodated…well…uh…we’ll have to pass.”
      The cutie pie continues to grin broadly at me.
     “Perfect, one therapist is female and the other male so lets get you settled. I should also mention that the sessions can be 90 minutes.”
     Rigidly I grab the assertive reins.
     “No. Thank you, no. We need to get back to shower at our hotel.”
     As though I am a lottery winner, she shares exciting news.
     “You can shower here! There are two beautiful rain shower rooms for use after your massage.”
     I believe that I hear guffaws from the unknown Voice, but it’s probably the splashing wave wall near the entry. Grimacing at an uncertain Bill I meekly follow the overly helpful girl. She leaves me inside a gorgeously appointed room, with calming music consisting of tinkles, whispers, and flutes. Quickly stripping down to big girl panties, I clamber up on the massage table so as to be covered neck to toe before anyone enters. This I complete at hyper-speed since my bra needs to be wrapped up and out of site, yet not looking like an attempt to hide something. This skill was mastered during doctor visits. Waiting for whatever comes next, my thoughts drift to Bill lying in the room next door. A guy will soon rub his back. Settling more comfortably face up on the cushioned table, a sneaky, snarky smile blooms across my face just as the body worker enters, softly greeting me.
     “Is this your first massage?”
     My mumbled response slips out from beneath a crisp sheet clutched under my nose.
     “Uh huh, how can you tell?”
     She off-handedly answers while lighting a candle across the room.
     “I don’t know just a guess.” 
     It must be my panic breathing.
    The woman continues talking while settling a blanket around me.
     “I love working with people new to massage. It’s up to me whether someone gets another treatment. I’m going to make sure this is something you want to do again.”
     After her declaration, she stops speaking and begins with my neck and shoulders. Within minutes my anal sphincter relaxes and the world outside floats away. The Voice returns to offer an idea seed to root.
      “What a great job. No yelling or phones, just peaceful music.”  
     Whoever, whatever you are, please go away.
     Acquiescing to my request, the trespasser departs, leaving me to revel in the new experience. Shortly after the wedding weekend, a college catalog arrives offering a certification in massage therapy. It appears that my questions about the Voice are beginning to lean in a direction.
     One for the God column.
     I enroll. Other than my husband, every person who hears about the plan laughs; not a chuckle, a flat out guffaw lasting several minutes and ending with one gasped out word.
     “Really?” 
     I’m widely known for my truck driver mouth, anal organizing, and anyone who spends more than a couple of minutes in my presence might have serious concerns about whether I have a pair of Chinese throwing stars in my back pocket. Yet, inexplicably, I manage to graduate and open a practice specializing in chronic pain, directed to classes in CranioSacral Therapy and Visceral Manipulation by unencumbered sentences from somewhere. In the quiet space of each session more of me wakes up from my rule-dominated existence and less of me fights advice that the Voice offers. My grip on life softens, as my rigid task master begins to wear away like a river stone washed by centuries of ancient water. Eventually, I stop asking where the formless words come from, accepting that the answer is probably something that would freak me out anyway.
      Late one afternoon, three years into practice, I invite the wisdom to come, we having evolved to one of soothsayer pontificating to cranky five-year-old.
      “Are you ready?”
     For what?
     “Does it matter?”
     I suppose not.
     “Are you ready?”
     Sure.
     An anxious, unsure shudder runs through me. That sounded awfully confident for someone whose panties are suddenly damp.
     Every heroine’s story has a leaping off point, an intention that propels a story into motion. This was mine, the auspicious moment my awareness tree began to bloom.



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