The Tale of Us Against the Monster: High Blood Pressure, Sisyphus, and Massage Therapy

The other morning, my husband announced that he had made me an appointment to get an hour’s massage…and that I had to be there at noon. My immediate reaction was irritation caused by the fact that he had made the appointment without consulting me. I am in the center of a scheduled diet and exercise routine to rectify high blood pressure and out-of-control blood sugar levels. And I had plans! I was going to the gym, and then I was going to work on a paper, and then I was going to do errands, and then I was going to do a little shopping for my mother, and then I was going to get some vacuuming done at home, and finally, make supper. All that went out the window when my husband made the massage appointment for me…without my consent…without first checking on my busy day. I took it personally. And then I found out that I couldn’t reschedule without a fee, and was stuck with that day and time. I was so flustered and pissed off, that I forgot that I was being upset by a “spa day.” Well, I went. I begrudgingly kept the appointment.

So I’m there, at the spa, gritting my teeth as I fill out annoying and invasive questions on a questionnaire. Why do they need to know my family’s health and wellness history in order to give me a one hour “rub down” with essential oils in a darkened room while ocean waves play in the background on a CD player? I just don’t have time for this!! I am served green tea with eastern flavors and a cayenne pepper finish poured into in a little earless cup of turned pottery as I sit there barefoot on a bamboo floor, spilling forth personal information, while the front desk staff, operate in hushed tones by cheerful, fragrance-free, vegan, yoga-posing students of Eastern philosophies, smile and wait on the forms I am filling out. “No rush. Please take your time.” Ugh…fine. I’m happy. I’m peaceful. I’m at one with the universe. Whatever…

My “Registered Massage Therapist” comes to the waiting area to collect and deposit me in the massage room. She leaves for a few minutes as I shed my clothes and get onto the massage table—all covered up nice and discretely and modestly, even though I know that, in the middle of my busy day, a stranger is going to pour essential oils on my naked body and put her hands directly on me…and all over me. It’s an odd dichotomy…the impersonal intimacy of a body massage.

So now I’m staring at the floor through the little donut hole face rest…waiting…again—thinking about all the things I still have to do today. Listing them in my mind. Pissed off at my husband for not respecting that I had a day ahead of me! I have high blood pressure that requires medication and regular cardio work-outs!! I absolutely MUST do a regular stress detox!! Doesn’t he understand that I’m headed for a stroke? I need to stay healthy so that I can look after him!! Doesn’t he realize that the bills aren’t going to pay themselves, and the milk doesn’t just, of its own volition, walk over to us from the grocery store? And who is going to pick up and drop off mom’s coffee cream and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios?? And when am I going to find the time to put in a couple hours on my paper and tutor foreign students?? I’m just so angry now! My face heats up. I can hear my heart beat in my ears. Ah crap!! There goes my blood pressure again!

And then the Massage Therapist returns. After a few moments, she learns what style of massage I need in terms of pressure, and where I ache on my body—which is literally everywhere. Yet, I can’t resist the urge to inform her that my husband booked the appointment without my knowledge and in a roundabout way “can we just get to it please?” I feel grumpy, but then she delivers the deathblow to my stressed-out, irritable, self-righteous, completely obtuse indignation. “What a loving thing for him to do for you…to take you away from all your running around and worry, and put you in a place of peace…sometimes it’s enough that we accept and receive…”

Damn that new age eastern philosophy!! She pretty much nailed it though. And my husband was completely right.

In the battle with the Monster, we can feel like Sisyphus…rolling a boulder up a hill, watching it roll back down again, and then rolling it up the hill again, forever, never finishing our task—our arduous, meaningless task—and always, we are at the task alone. The Monster wants you to believe you are alone, and that you and only you are capable of completing the tasks that hold your life together. The Monster insists you buy into the belief that all your many tasks must be performed in order to maintain your grasp on reality—like a sacrifice on an altar—and it is this sacrifice that brings peace and somehow holds the Monster at bay.

He’s lying to you…and messing with your head. He’s convincing though, isn’t he? If the Monster has deceived you, you’re not alone. He’s deceived me too. Many times. There is an old proverb that says “A problem shared is a problem halved.” Let people help you. Even if help comes from the one you must help. It’s not selfish to escape for an hour now and again. Actually, the brief escape is a stress release. You just have to receive every now and then. You must forget about the Monster and just do you. As it turned out, my life didn’t collapse in on itself just because I missed a gym day. We did without milk for an evening. My mom had toast and fruit instead of Cheerios. It worked itself out for me, and little things like this will work themselves out for you too. That being said, you are not foolish. I know how distorted and big the little things seem when stacked alongside the Monster’s looming shadow.

I always fall back into that “being all things for everybody” routine…or, rut. It consumes me. It blinds me so that I am unable to see the gift in something. I can’t see that my husband is providing for me…still. He’s in the very center of this with me, after all. Our battle with the Monster. Nevertheless, he stands by quietly as I scurry back and forth, making not a dent, and changing zip… “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (from Macbeth). The Massage Therapist urges me to breathe deeply and to put away my ideas of what I want to do today, because I will need to go home and recuperate after the massage. “Give yourself permission…” and so, resigned, I do. However, when I do, the day evaporates, I release my clenched muscles, and I am able to receive. The sound of the Monster’s taunts are drowned out by the rhythmic crashing of waves and the light airiness of the pan flute.

Thank you, my love…


#Cancer  #Surviving Cancer  #Fighting Cancer

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