Sunday, March 25, 2012


I had my first massage today.

I had mixed feelings about it. I was meeting in Itaewon with the Kiterunnner for an early-afternoon late brunch/early dinner and we didn’t really care what we did at as long as it ended in wine. I’d just finished what would probably be my last work with the most recent group of teachers coming to Korea and I needed the wine.

I sat in the fancy French restaurant waiting for the Kiterunner. She had her own things going on. Her university was currently embroiled in the business of hosting diplomats, which always made things go haywire. Between her trying to figure that out and me with my book writing we hadn’t seen each other in ages.

As she walked in the door a bit after me I suggested the set menu, which would get us an all-too-good bottle of wine with free mussels.


We fired that up and enjoyed a potfull of muscles in blue cheese dressing with a bottle of wine that was certainly to hurt other people at one in the afternoon.

“What I really want is a massage,” the Kiterunner exclaimed.

“I’ve never had a massage.”

“We should do that. I just don’t know where to go, I mean, I know a place in Apujang.”

“Where is that?”

“On the other side of the river.”

“Let’s just go get more food and wine.”

“But a massage.” And truly it did sound like a good idea, even though I had never had one so I said, sure, why not, and we used our varying boxes of knowledge to look up places. Healing Hands won the round and it was just up the street from our lovely snack, so seemed the way to go.

“We have to go through the restaurant to get there?” she asked as we arrived. And yes, we did. We went up the third floor, walked in, and asked if we could get a massage. We were sort of in a bind since I had a train schedule to get to and had not made appointments, but to our luck there we had only a short wait and were able to get in on the couple massage rate.

When we walked in, confronted with the table in towels, I looked over at the Kiterunner.

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.”

“You put on the shorts.”

“Do I need to take of my bra?” I had already realized this would be a part of the deal, but I was having trouble acknowledging this particular part of the deal. The joys of early childhood abuse lurked in the background, but I refused to allow that to enter the realm of the current process.

“Yeah, take off the bra.”


Kiterunner suggested I put all things in a basket at the front of the table, so I did. I tucked my bag in a corner, climbed on the table with nothing but knit shorts on and tried to relax. That did not go so well. Issues being touched aside, my brain was just too busy to allow me to relax in full. I had thoughts of work float through; thoughts of the Irish and the One also tried to sit and spin, I tried to breathe, clear my mind. I chanted in rhythms and tried to think of anything I remembered about meditation from reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, but really, there was only so much you could do and if the mind refused to be still there you were. Above all I worked to not think about the thing that was really bugging me. The issue underlying all the other issues and tried as I might it was still there.

That was the thing about issues. We all had them. Some of us chose willfully to acknowledge that they were there and worked to root out their existence in our life. Others just  pretended they didn't exist and continued life around them as if the issue was not important, relegating the importance to nothing. It wasn't just nothing, though. Those experience shaped everything we did. Maybe it was my years at Shimer, maybe my years in therapy, or maybe it was just my years, but those experiences mattered. Knowing them, confronting them, experiencing them, it was all part of what a person had to do to become more whole, and without it a person was floundering, nothing.

So I embraced the memories and the lack of control and the moments that I thought would most assuredly break my down and make me snap, and in that single moment where I wanted to run out of room, all of it a mental combination of pain while the physical was nothing more than what it was supposed to be, there was a simple massage, and a good massage at that.

The girls who were conducting our rub had us sit up toward the end and as they beat off the last bits of stress they could find in our back they said goodbye and left us wrapped in towels.

“That was so necessary.” The Kiterunner piped up from next to me.

“It was.” And here I was. I had not told the Kiterunner aboutmy past, and in reality I don’t like to do it. Although I will talk about my past and my pain and my trauma with downright impunity it had never really been easy for me and I didn't like to think that past experiences beyond my control colored future opinions of me. However in that moment there was no way to avoid how my own personal past was encroaching upon my experience.

“It was good, but I don’t know if I would ever want to do it again.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Let’s discuss it over wine.”

We left the shop after a glass of tea, and I felt more relaxed and more tense. There was confrontation on the horizon and processing and reflection on those things that are physically necessary and those ridiculous memories that want to take unopposed grips. There was exposition that I would rather avoid, and the necessity to share, yet again, with someone who I must admit being bonded to.

“Let’s discuss it over wine.” I repeated and we exited from the warm and comforting aromatherapeutic den into cool chill air, with warm backs and decidedly more mellow attitudes, into brisk reality and early evening.

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