Sometimes it takes effort to get to the point where you can enjoy a good thing. I'm proud to say that I can actually appreciate a Thai massage now.

A few years ago, my muscles were so tight (on the verge of exploding into agonizing RSI, although I wasn't aware enough to note the pain yet) and my ability to consciously handle touch so underdeveloped that I would either flinch or blank out when someone hugged me. Massages (they're cheap in the Philippines, therefore my family gets them because it's (1) social and (2) "good for you") were things I mostly blanked out during; my mind and body separated, and my mind was mostly thinking things like "damn, that hurts" during the process.

And it did hurt. Thai massage assumes that you can do things like, oh, clasp your hands together behind your back without pain. My bound-up muscles had a limited range of motion. My arms and legs and back didn't move the way they were trying to get them to move. I didn't know how to understand the things that were happening with my body, so I just shut everything out. I was... not a huge fan of this entire process.

Then RSI hit - hard. After months of denial, frustration, a constant sense of uselessness, and a bunch of other unpleasant stuff along with unrelenting pain, I started asking everyone and anyone for helps, tips - what the heck is happening? and was finally referred to Abi, and to Rolfing, where I found Donald and Diana. (I highly recommend all three of them. If they can help this kinesthetically impaired, musculoskeletally messed-up geek, they can help anyone.)

And I discovered that whoa, it makes a world of difference when people talk to you and explain stuff and start with where your body's at instead of assuming it's normal and attempting to treat it as such. Ah, okay, I had knots here and there, because I tended to do such-and-such, and we were going to work on them this way, and hey look, it's closer to normal now, but not quite; here's what "normal" is, and where it fits in. Ah, okay, this fascia buildup was restricting the movement of my neck which threw my gait off-balance which... okay. They told me what they were going to do, how it worked, what it would feel like, how the touch was going to happen, how I could be aware of how my body was reacting to it, what I could do.

This taught me two things:

  1. Touch is a conversation. (Dancing was also excellent at helping with this learning process. Actually, blues dancing "clicked" for me midway through my RSI recovery - I don't think it's a coincidence.)
  2. I control my body. (I can understand it and control it better, I can communicate with other people about how I'm feeling and what they can and cannot do to me or with me, and so forth.)

For someone who's attempted to avoid the physical world as much as possible - the cerebral space is vastly safer and more comfortable for me - these two things were revelations. They happened slowly, over the course of many, many months. And I didn't realize that I was learning them until midway through (I am still learning).

So when my family and I went for a Thai massage (we are in Thailand for Christmas), and my parents complained about how much it hurt, I could understand a little about where and why they were complaining, and I could probably talk with them about how to improve it if they were interested. My own body was in good enough shape to take it (which is to say, "not awful" - it's still pretty tight and very out of shape, but I've got some basic tools to tune it up now, and the notion that "I'm my own bike mechanic" and that I can and should keep learning), and I knew enough of how to shift and respond to the pressure to be able to take... pretty good advantage of the massage, I thought.

And something that would have caused me discomfort several years ago, which I would have zoned out on in an attempt to avoid awareness of pain, is now an experience that I enjoy and learn from, benefit from, and am able to be aware for. Not fully aware - I still zone out a little when things tickle or hurt, because there are still things I don't understand - but I am seeing progress, and know how I can progress more. (Kind of.)

Can haz teh win.