Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hands...Reaching Out...Touching Me

The excitement of last night was my move upstairs to Labor and Delivery, precipitated by a deceleration in Baby Tootsie's heart rate which my nurse and I both detected on a routine Doppler (Tootsie's customary gallop sounded like a sluggish trudge).  As soon as they put us on the monitor, she perked up; perhaps she was lying on her cord.   Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, I was sent to L&D for constant monitoring. And less sleep and the possibility of a c-section on the horizon.

But it's 5AM now, and Tootsie has resumed her normal patterns, so I'm returning to my hopeful spot among the Ladies in Waiting downstairs, and the potential for more uneventful days of growth and strengthening lungs and brain.

Anyway, what I really want to tell you about is the massage I had yesterday, in the context of some other similar experiences.  Bear with me:

I'm a slacker when it comes to making haircut appointments; I don't like to plan them too far in advance, and when I feel like today's the day I want a haircut, I'm often tempted to just head to SuperCuts or the equivalent.  Getting a haircut has become more of a semiannual event for me (and in between, I take the liberty of giving myself trims, with mixed results...).

Last fall before school started, though, I wanted a reasonably good haircut.  I called a local salon and told them I had no preference for hairdresser; I was only hoping to come in that day if they could fit me in.  I met the stylist that afternoon after work, excited for a shampoo and freshly trimmed ends.

We made small talk at the basin as she washed my hair.  With conditioner in, she began to massage my scalp.  She took her time, her strong fingers kneading my neck and moving slowly across my crown.  I sunk more deeply into my seat and sighed.  I don't think I'd ever had a scalp massage that felt so good.  My hairdresser spent a luxuriously long period of time rubbing my head, long enough that I was moved by the generosity and kindness in her touch.  Tears welled in my eyes as I thought about everyone--even those of us with loved ones who express affection everyday--deserving to feel as honored and grateful as I was by the warmth and physical comfort of a stranger's touch.

I thought about Jesus washing his disciples' feet, an act of humility, kindness, and love.  I thought about San Diego's annual Stand Down event, in which homeless veterans have an opportunity to shower, to receive medical and dental care, and have haircuts, acupuncture, and massage therapy, all provided by volunteers.

When I was in high school I was very involved in my church youth group.  Youth group and its related activities created safe spaces for me and friends to be honest, authentic, attentive, and kind to one another, and I craved that respite from what seemed like a more cynical, callous, harsh Real World.  I remember one time in particular when we were challenged to pair up and gently give our partners directed facial massages.  It was one of the most peculiar and intimate physical acts I'd engaged in as a young teen, but I remember being deeply moved by and grateful for the experience.  Exercises like that bonded our youth group members together in some of the most trusting, innocent, safe, and healthy relationships I've known.

Yesterday morning a nurse stopped by my room and shared that today was a quiet day; she specialized in childbearing massage and would I like one?  Oh yes, I responded.  Oh goodit's my passion, she smiled.  I will see you in an hour.

When she returned she set up my bed for maximum comfort, rearranging pillows and sheets.  She had me lie on my side, hips bolstered by cushions and my arms embracing another pillow.  She turned the TV to the meditation station about which the girls and I had cracked a few jokes as we surfed channels (Look!  It's a soothing bunny!  And meditative horses!).  And then my nurse gave me a wonderful neck and back rub.  I lay in that position, heavy and deeply relaxed amongst the pillows for over an hour afterward, listening to the meditation station and thinking about people who bring passion and generosity to their jobs.

This nurse used a free moment in her workday to give her patient extra focused and special care, and to share an aspect of her professional practice she finds meaningful and rewarding.  I am guessing my hairdresser that afternoon felt the same.  In my line of work, while touch is not appropriate, deep listening, time, attention, and thoughtful words often give the same sense to students that they matter a little more than regular "clients."

What gifts we can give people through our lines of work?  What are opportunities for us to move strangers into understanding they've been acknowledged, cared for, honored, loved by another human unexpectedly?

These are beautiful moments in life, I think.

1 comment:

vertigomama said...

This moved me to tears.