a hands on experience

Using my backpack for a pillow, I stretched out on the padded bench and closed my eyes. I was too wired from free coffee and weeks of accumulated worry to sleep, but I had run out of diversions.  I’d arrived too late for art therapy in the lobby. I’d eaten the turkey sandwich I’d packed. I couldn’t concentrate on my book. I had a list of people to call, but nothing to report. I’d paced the family lounge as if logging steps on a pedometer. I had at least three more hours to kill plus the drive home, so a nap seemed prudent.

Fluorescent lights penetrated my eyelids. I heard the murmur of multilingual conversations accompanied by the fervent yet indistinct pitch of a television ad. A disembodied voice demanded, “Would the family of Mr. Smith please report to desk A20 for a doctor visit?” My head throbbed with each insistent beep beep beep, beep beep beep of a pager announcing a patient update.

I gave up. My aching head protested as I sat up. I felt the weight of the silent pager hanging around my neck. I pushed the button to read the last message:

11:39 A.M. Surgery has begun.

I slung my backpack over my shoulder and began another circuit. On this lap, I spied a therapy room. My husband’s patient binder had mentioned this service was offered to waiting families. I read the sign:

Sign up here for free Reiki therapy

Reiki – isn’t that some New-Agey thing? I avoid massage in general since I don’t like people touching me. Yuppie shit. That’s what Peter would call this. Yet, I had a headache that wouldn’t quit and hours I couldn’t fill. I signed up.

Fifteen minutes later the therapist summoned me. She wore a badge that identified her as a volunteer. She led me to a dimly corner of the room partitioned off by a screen.

“Put your belongings on this table. Set your pager here so I can hand it to you,” she instructed.

She pointed to a table and I climbed up. At least I get to keep my clothes on, I thought. She gave me a triangular pad to put under my knees. I laid down but twisted my head up to see what she was doing. She rubbed lotion on her hands. A not unpleasant scent I could not identify drifted to me. Aromatherapy, too? Yuppie shit for sure.

“Close your eyes,” she said.

I stopped staring at the ceiling.  The quiet woman placed her hands on top of my skull. I could feel warmth from their proximity, but it didn’t quell my awkwardness. Am I supposed to make small talk? What the hell do you say to someone touching your head? Despite the comfort being offered, I was uncomfortable. I had been on the prowl for hours. Without motion to distract my mind, my anxieties had my full attention. Mocking this seemed a better alternative.

The therapist shifted her hands over my eyes. I took a deep breath and noticed that my headache was gone. Minutes passed. I let my weight sink into the table. It no longer seemed weird to be still and quiet.

Beep beep beep, beep beep beep.

“Sorry,” the therapist said, and handed me the pager. I leaned on my elbow to read the display:

1:49 P.M. Surgery progressing as expected.

“Everything okay?” she asked. “Should I continue?”

Despite the interruption, I felt refreshed and ready to face the wait ahead. Maybe I would read. Maybe I’d call a friend. Maybe I would just sit still.

“Yes, please do.”

21 thoughts on “a hands on experience

    1. I waited almost two weeks to tell Peter I had done this. I tried to play it off, but he surprised me by pointing out how deep pressure and cuddles make our son feel better, why can’t it work for us? He didn’t call it yuppie shit once.

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  1. I love this for the sense of relief it seems to have given you, and the breathing space. Sometimes you need someone else to make you stop. Also: the bit about whether you’re supposed to make small talk? That’s the kind of thing that I have yet to figure out. Sounds like you did it right, though. 🙂

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  2. Never underestimate the powers of being still and in the moment. It’s highly underrated, and so very hard to achieve for those of us who are constantly buzzing with activity or nervous energy. I love how you led us to that stillness and your enjoyment of it.

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    1. I ended up reading a novel in which the no-nonsense main character has a Reiki treatment after this and I realized, “hey, this is legit.” Still feel weird about strangers touching me, but I wouldn’t discount it as a treatment if I really needed it.

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  3. This is beautifully written, Cyn. The detail brings the setting to life and I can hear that beeping and those buzzy hospital lights. I don’t know if you’ve become a massage convert or not, but it took me a long time to love it (because, hippie). This brings me, too, to Erica’s piece about introverts. I love massages. I hate talking during massages, which is why I never get one anymore. With the exception of my first massage therapist who I saw for 3 years, every one thereafter must have been an extrovert.

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  4. After reading your post that linked me back to this one, this Reiki session sounds relaxing. I had to look it up. It is a Japanese healing practice that brings the spiritual world together with life force energy. It actually dates back to the 1800’s. It’s old-fashioned; not yuppie or hippie 🙂

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