When she touches me, amazing things happen.
Got your attention, I suppose.
In preparation for my marriage to Tony a few years ago, we each read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Great, accurate concepts about communication; if you have relationships at all (which should be just about everybody, right?), you should read this book – for yourself, and for those you care about. Anyway, my primary love language is actually a dead on tie between two: Words of Affirmation (I am SUCH a words girl!) and Physical Touch.
Seriously, I’ve learned from this book; I’m more self-aware, and it helps me communicate with others and REALLY helps my husband and others communicate with me.
In the past year or so, I’ve been on the receiving end of exhortations to “take care of myself” from various sources. Most of them know me well enough to give good advice. I’ve explored a few methods of self-care, most of which seem – alright, to be honest, all of which – fairly self-indulgent to me.
But since I’m a words girl and a physical touch girl, I began to consider how this knowledge might help me stay emotionally and spiritually healthy.
Words are words. Tell me something good, as Chaka Khan said so poignantly. That’s pretty easy.
As for physical touch, let’s get something out of the way first: Physical Touch is not necessarily the same thing as Sexual Touch. Obviously, there can be a connection – but the love language part of it clearly delineates a difference.
Touch. To me, touch communicates with great power. It is affirming, connecting, healing. I’m a touchy person – it’s how I say, “I love you” most often to my kids, to my husband, with a touch or a squeeze or a pat or a hug. One of my dearest, fondest memories of my grandmother – who was built the same way – I feel. She scratched my back on a long car ride, or kept her hand on my leg while we sat on the porch talking. I knew she loved me. I felt it. I’ve never forgotten it.
So, back to the touching thing. I know this woman, Marian.
Marian is a massage therapist.
Every three or four weeks, I spend an hour with Marian.
And when she touches me, amazing things happen.
Marian works a a local chain that is convenient to my house. She’s been to my church a few times; I’ve met significant others in her life, so there’s an interesting sort of trust and rapport. We’re not really friends, but we’re more than acquaintances, and that makes a difference. To me, anyway.
So, now to the massage thing: because I trust Marian, because I know that she places her hands on my forehead before she begins her work and prays for me, because I believe that this is good for me, I have come to believe a monthly massage as something other than indulgence. It once seemed like something only bored, rich ladies would do. Because I am far from bored OR rich, I’ve come to see a different purpose.
Massage therapy heals me. It restores me. In the context of my love language, I know it affirms me. And, interestingly enough, something more powerful has begun to play out. In a world where body image is a challenge for many of us, women in particular, massage therapy has given me a place to connect with my physical self in a way that is completely and totally non-sexual. There’s no evaluation of my weight or shape or height or skin tone; it’s my body, as it is, being worked towards healing, much like a doctor would do. I feel better about myself, because I have a chance to experience my body in a context that feels a whole lot more like what God intended than the daily struggle with how I look and whether or not I’m acceptable.
I didn’t expect this, and I certainly didn’t start out feeling this way. It was awkward, because I didn’t really know how it would be, to be touched and pushed and prodded and rubbed. But what I experience now is almost surreal and sort of existential: I just am. I am there, in my body, and the touch affirms me, and I am better for it.
When she touches me, amazing things happen.
Through massage therapy, I’ve learned more about myself, about my health, about my need to be still. I’ve learned to accept myself. It’s been very healing. It is spiritual, prayerful. It brings clarity and peace. Sometimes it still feels self-indulgent, but if I forfeit a night out or a dinner with my husband, it fits our budget. And I think it’s an investment worth making.
I’m better for it.
What about you? Massage – yes or no? Good or icky?
BTW – special shout out to Lindsay Durrenburger, who writes wonderfully over at Fueled By Diet Coke. Her blog has caused me to think much more carefully about self-care and body image and all sorts of things that matter. One of the reasons I’m so okay with massage therapy is because of Lindsay. Even though I don’t know if she thinks massage is cool or icky. Whatever. That’s what friends are for, right?