I just had the most intense Thai massage. I’ve kind of been putting it off for a while now. Putting it off, even though my neck and back have felt so incredibly tight and sore from all the swimming and LIFE I’ve been doing recently.
I cried on the massage table. I don’t know why. Massage does that to me. Same as when I do yoga. I remember being so confused the first time I cried during a yoga class. I was embarrassed. I asked my friend, Aoife, why the class made me teary, especially during the hip stretchy stuff, and she said, “Oh, yeah, people, especially women, store a lot of emotion in their hips. It’s all good, man.”
It is all good, man.
To let it all go. To work through the knots and soreness and tightness. My shoulders were stiff, it was affecting my swimming, I couldn’t lift my arms as high out of the water. My neck kept creaking and I just felt constricted and heavy, you know? Someone once told me that I’ve got a really strong upper body in comparison to my tiny, tiny feet. That it indicated that I shouldered a lot as a child, took a lot on, stuff weighed heavy. She was right. I did. And now I use that strong upper body to swim with power and tenacity.
It occurred to me on the massage table today that massage is a little like coaching. I sometimes struggle, to describe exactly the kind of work I do with people. I don’t really like the word ‘Coach’, it brings to mind some shouty, in-your-face, whistle blowing wanker, and that’s pretty much the opposite of what I do, but ‘Coach’ it is, because I can’t think of another word that most people ‘get’ when they ask what I do.
Coaching gently works through the knots and tightness and soreness and BLOCKS in people’s minds and lives. It helps them to let go of shit that gets in the way of them living their life and being able to lift their arms high out of the water, instead of treading water all the time, going nowhere fast, but fucking exhausted. Coaching thumbs the areas where emotion stores up when it’s shoved down and not expressed, you know, perhaps in the two stones too many around your stomach, or in the bottom of a bottle of wine, or the arms of someone you shouldn’t be in the arms of. Coaching gets curious and it kneads and challenges and soothes and clears the way for new perspectives and angles. Coaching makes space so that you can think more clearly and get focused and feel calmer, instead of DOING ELEVENTY BILLION THINGS AT ONCE AND CAN I JUST GET A FUCKING BREAK HERE?
I thought about the kind Thai lady who was massaging my back and neck, as I lay there, underneath her hands, and I thought how weird it is, to let a complete stranger touch you in such a moment of vulnerability. It takes trust. And so does coaching. To allow someone to come close, right up to and beyond the shield you put up every day—the shield you use to stop people seeing the real you.
And yet when you do, when you let someone in to see the real you, the naked you, the ‘you’ you were before the world and other people decided who you should be, well, as my friend, Aoife, once told me, it’s all good, man.