About twenty years ago, a received a gift certificate for my very first registered massage therapy (RMT) session.
It was a very kind and generous gift, especially at a time when I was dealing with the grief of my Dad’s passing. At the same time, I was recovering from the final sprint to the finish line for a major project at work. The timing was absolutely right for what I would consider my first real dose of self-care.
I admit that at first I was bit shy about the whole idea, but the massage therapist assigned to me took the time to ask me questions about my health, what I was looking for from therapeutic massage and to walk me through the process.
Any apprehensions I might have had disappeared within three minutes into the treatment. I relaxed and turned into a mass of jelly which allowed the therapist to gently work out some of the knots that had accumulated over time.
By the end of the session, I was a convert. I was so deeply relaxed, I worried about the long drive home and accidentally veering off the road, but I successfully made it home in one piece.
Sadly, the distance to this particular spa made it difficult for me to promise my return. But I was immediately hooked on that amazing feeling that followed, that “clean slate” sensation when the knots and kinks are eradicated. And so began what I called “the massage therapist auditions”, closer to home.
I first started seeing a therapist at my chiropractor’s office. I definitely appreciated the convenience and the proximity. Unfortunately, a few months later, the service was discontinued.
Shortly thereafter, a local men’s spa hit my radar, offering a vast menu of services. Given my quest to take more time for myself and to surround myself with the best “pit crew” possible to do that, I decided to give it a try.
In the first months, I had the opportunity to try three different massage therapists, all of whom were excellent. I quickly become a loyal customer.
To me, the best part was that all three could read me like a book. During the treatments, they all spoke in calm, hushed voices, allowing the soothing background music to waft over me. They used the right pressure, the right intensity, and adjusted as necessary, based on how my body responded.
As a result, I didn’t have to communicate much, allowing me to drift out of consciousness pretty easily.
Regardless of which massage therapist I booked, I always walked away relaxed and feeling better than when I walked in. However, I didn’t realize at the time that winning a trifecta of three massage therapists, whose styles were compatible with what I was looking for, all at the same establishment, might be a rare occurrence.
I had yet to discover that not all massage therapists worked that way.
To me it seemed that my goal was pretty straightforward: a gentle, relaxation massage, with a side order of light kneading of a few knots, with soothing music, lightly fragranced massage oils and a gentle whisper at half-time, “André, it’s time to turn over.”
As time went on, two of the massage therapists accepted other opportunities and left the spa. I was happy for them, but sad to see them go.
The new RMTs that replaced them were definitely well-qualified but their ways of performing RMT treatments differed from my previous “dream team” as I didn’t reach the same degree of relaxation. As a result, I reached out to friends and neighbours for recommendations.
And so began a string of limited-series appointments trying out massage therapists and then moving on, which is so not like me (… as someone who isn’t a huge fan of change to begin with).
To me, strong massage oils, loud or energetic music, conversations about topics that made me tense up and working aggressively on knots till I jumped off the table did not appeal.
It was factors such as these that had me realizing just how my senses got easily overwhelmed when I was trying to get into a state of healing from the challenges of a stressful life that called upon a lot of extrovert energy.
Of course it made perfect sense that I needed to communicate those wishes when working with an RMT who was unfamiliar with my preferences. I accepted that a little “steering” was sometimes needed.
Just the same, I felt bad when I had to become a backseat driver, a feeling made worse by the fact that I wasn’t able to get into a deep relaxation mode when I had to keep directing the massage therapist.
I tried to incorporate humour, joking with one very committed RMT that I was only 140 pounds (at the time) and could break easily, so please take it easy.
Sadly, when an RMT didn’t dial down the intensity despite the parameters I offered, the auditions resumed.
I didn’t realize the extent to which I had been spoiled by my original dream team who seemed able to figure out those factors with very little guidance on my part.
After a few years of RMT auditions, I was beyond delighted when I located one of the original RMTs from my dream team. I went back to see him and remained a client until the pandemic. It was just like old times, being able to completely check out while on the massage table and waking up feeling relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on whatever the world was going to throw at me.
But now, I find myself at an interesting decision point. As the world is starting to return to a new normal, I would like to enjoy the benefits of therapeutic massage again.
However, geography has messed up the equation, given my relocation to the country. Do I undertake the long drive back into the city to return to the RMT whose style is exactly what I am seeking, or do I start another series of massage therapist auditions closer to home?
Given that I am still relatively new to retirement and have not fully bounced back yet from a busy career, a major move, and the stress of the pandemic, I think it may be a good idea to stay with the comfortable, familiar option, at least for now. Time will tell.
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