An emergency trip to to the hospital was followed up a few days later by a series of tests. The doctors weren’t sure why I had been struggling to breathe. My wife and I sat patiently in the little beige room waiting for the doctor to arrive with his prognosis. The framed landscape painting on the wall—chosen and hung specifically to create a calming mood—wasn’t working.
Finally, the door knob turned and the doctor in his ritual lab coat entered with an official looking clipboard.
“All of the tests turned up negative”
“There are some other tests we could do, but I am pretty certain that we won’t find anything new.”
This should have been a relief, but strangely, being told that I was fine, only made me feel like a crazy person who was wasting everyone’s time.
“You indicated earlier that you have been under a lot of stress. I recommend a change of pace. Take some time off. Maybe get a massage”
Take time off?! Get a massage?! Did he not understand that I already couldn’t pay the bills? Taking time off and spending money wouldn’t help with that. The reason I was stressing was because I needed more money—not less. I needed to figure out a way to work more hours in a day. Taking time off and spending money on a massage would only increase my problem. I left the hospital thinking about the huge bills they would be sending me as well—so much for helping me not to stress.
I began writing, and taking walks when I could. I took a meditation class. I did look up the cost of a massage and then quickly put that out of my mind. Why are things that are good for us so expensive?
A couple years later, I was walking through a bunch of booths at an expo and saw a sign for a free 10 minute shoulder massage. I knew it was mostly a sales pitch, but I was feeling extremely tight and wanted to give it a try.
The man had me sit on a strange looking chair and put my face through a padded hole. With the first squeeze of my shoulders he said, “Wow, you are really tight.” I felt proud. If the American Dream was to work harder and longer and be more stressed than everyone else then I was winning.
“I won’t be able to do much in 10 minutes, but if you want to come by the office, we could do wonders on you… May take a few sessions though.”
I didn’t go by the office. I didn’t have time or money. But a week later I noticed an a-frame sign advertising $32 sessions at a place called Zion Massage College. That was a ton cheaper than anywhere else I had seen, but it would be students doing the massages, so who knows if it would be any good. They might accidentally break your neck. But still, for that price…
A week or two later, I decided to do it. I called and made an appointment. But I was suddenly nervous about the whole thing. I asked the lady on the phone what I should wear. She explained that I should wear nonrestrictive clothes and that I would have a chance in private to undress down to as much as I was comfortable with.
“Okay, then I will be wearing a large thick coat.”
She laughed at that and took my money.
On the way to my appointment, I remembered the Seinfeld episode where George became super uncomfortable when he realized he would be getting a massage from a man. I began to worry about who would be massaging my body. Would it be a big tough Samoan guy? Would it be a dainty little girl? I wanted someone who could dig deep into my tight muscles but not hurt me. I also didn’t want to be turned on by some gorgeous babe running her hands over me. What if I relax so much that I fart? What if I need to use the restroom? How much of me will they be touching? Is it okay to fall asleep? Will I be alert enough to drive home afterward?
There was no turning back now.
The ‘college’ is in a strip mall between a restaurant and a gas station. Immediately upon entering, you notice the middle eastern theme going on—the music, the drapes, etc. Everyone inside seemed very friendly and the customers leaving seemed quite content.
I soon met the girl who would be performing my massage. She asked how hard of a massage I liked. I told her this was my first time, but I was pretty sure the harder the better. She said she had a tendency to push hard.
She led me outside and then back in through a different door. In this area there was a place to take off your shoes and then several massage tables in a larger room each surrounded by curtains or drapes that allowed for privacy.
This was the part where I was to strip and then slide between the sheets of the massage table. Unsure how much to strip—I left my shorts on and laid face down on the table. She then came in and anointed me with an oil that had a nice scent to it.
The massage was amazing and just the right amount of pressure. I was surprised how good it felt and how easy it was for me to relax. When my hour was up (which was much too soon), she told me that she could’ve gone another hour on just my shoulders and neck. And that the next time I came back we would start there. She also recommended that I lose the shorts next time so my hamstrings can get worked. (No one has ever said that to me before…)
I was ready to sign up immediately for another massage, but I decided I better discuss it with my wife before I spent another $32 on myself. (We might need to buy diapers or something.)
As I walked to my car, I felt like a new man. Every muscle in my body was thanking me. Even breathing seemed easier. Was the sky bluer? It may have been…
Perhaps the doctor had been right all along. I needed to take better care of myself. Feeling good actually helped me to be more productive as well. It all seemed so counter intuitive.
Now I just needed another $32