I hate massages.
But they’re inevitable…especially when it’s your wife’s favorite thing to receive and to give as a gift.
For our Anniversary she scheduled massages for us, a 2-for-1 special on Groupon, and I reluctantly accompanied her for the 19th time (19th anniversary).
Why don’t I like massages?
I have a long history of bad massages with people who seem to be trying to prove a point of their strength vs. mine, forcing one’s ability to mash my tension into submission by pressing their point – usually an elbow, or possibly a crowbar – into a section of my neck that will never give up it’s last stand.
It is a battle of wills, no matter how “Swedish” I request they be, as each masseuse must only hear :“I dare you to deep tissue the death out of my life, and go in through the armpit for good measure”, when I request they be gentle and that I will cry if they hurt me.
And so I crawl away bruised, in pain, like a mid-90’s Mike Tyson opponent who just went into the ring because he lost a bet, and having just received the workout of a lifetime in fighting my body to withstand the pressure of someone attempting to do their job well.
After they have finished their work, both of us having counted down the time, praying it comes sooner, I stumble off the bed, clothe myself, check for bruises like a scout returning from camp looks for ticks, splash the water handed to me in my face instead of drinking it, while considering if a tip has to be financial or can be a suggestion…
And there’s my wife, smiling with joy and relaxing, unbelievably happy, pleased with the soothing time she’s just had, as if she received what I thought was always the definition of “massage”: a relaxing experience.
So you can imagine my horror when I was told the name of the massage I was to receive this anniversary:
The Fire Walk.
Well, you may as well just get some horses and tie my limbs up and well’ “Yeehaw” because I’m not making it through The Fire Walk massage! I can’t make it through the “I’ll go easy on you” massage therapist with a smirk on their face.
Years of hurting my body on stage has put my muscles into a permanent level of tension, spasm, and withdrawal.
I’ll never forget the massage in Vancouver when Tami said, “Hey look, this is an authentic Asian massage parlor, this will be amazing!”
As the lady, who spoke only one word of English, whispered in my ear, “Strong?”, I had mistaken her intention…I thought she was questioning my manhood, my physique splayed before her under a 30-thread count bed sheet, I figured she was looking at my pillsbury doughboy manly back flab and wondered if I was a strong person.
“Yes, I’m Strong”, I stated confidently, to which she left the room and returned with a walker and proceeded to leap onto the bed and began doing a mix of Bruce Lee moves, Fred Astaire tap dancing, and whatever happened to Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart on my back…
As I screamed into the headrest with torturous suffrage, I could hear Tami next to me moaning with massage glory as she relished the authentic experience, as Wreck-It-Ralph stomped, kicked, and dripped sweat in an effort to kill me while breaking buildings on my back.
As the massage therapist/torture chamber lady backflipped from the walker to floor she whispered, mockingly into my ear, “STRONG?”
Of which I had not learned my lesson, still wondering if she was questioning my strength, through tears and blood on my lip I replied, “Yes, I AM STRONG”.
She threw the walker to the corner and stormed from the room, huffing and puffing in resolute determination…
I wondered what would be next.
As she returned I could hear the dragging of chains like Jacob Marley coming to tell me I’m about to pass through 3 stages of doom, and saw from the corner of my wounded eye what looked like a blowtorch, a vat of steaming oil, and rebar with fish hooks.
Why didn’t I stop this?
I don’t know.
Needless to say the bruising just subsided and this happened 7 years ago.
I also know this: If I ever have a secret someone needs to get out of me I pretty much can guarantee I have proven it can’t be beaten out of me. So that’s a plus to learn about yourself.
As the massage therapists left the room Tami looked over at me with the happiest look on her face and asked, “Are you ok?” I was curled in a ball at the bottom of the massage table sucking my thumb, softly humming a Disney song.
You’re asking yourself: This is The Promise guy? What is his problem? How would he not stick up for himself?
Well, that’s why I wrote The Promise to The One as the first book. I break lots of promises to myself, and if you’ve read the book you’ll laugh out loud in shock at the stupid things I’ve done and hopefully it gives you permission to realize you must keep a promise to yourself.
But let’s go back to this massage, the 2-for-1 for this anniversary.
The Fire Walk one.
You can imagine I was terrified. I asked if Tony Robbins was in the back room and I was on a TV Show where I’d have to face the coals, or if she was going to just toss me in the fire.
She laughed and could tell I’ve suffered enough bad massages.
The more we talked the more she laughed, the more I could tell she was aware she is dealing with a wounded massage animal.
Hot stones were involved, as was her holding herself on bars in the ceiling to give me a massage with her feet.
You can imagine the memories I had of Vancouver and the flamethrower lady.
This time I assured her I’m indeed not strong, in fact, I’m a complete wimp and may disintegrate by the 37th minute if she’s not careful.
And she completely customized the experience.
She let me talk the whole time, as I’m too uncomfortable laying there in silence while any person massages me…when I’m not crying into the toilet bowl pillow.
By the time it was over I was stunned. I hadn’t screamed internally. I hadn’t fought her attempts to help me.
I had lived through The Fire Walk.
The question is: How much would my massage life and experiences have improved had I just said something?
Stuck up for myself.
Yelled, “STOP!” especially upon noticing her T-Shirt said, “Chuck Norris told me he’s not STRONG!”
I believe the massage therapist is generally not out to kill you – I mean, sure there are probably a few out there who really like to rip into a sour client – but in general I’m sure they want to do a good job with everyone.
And this massage therapist customized the whole experience. She made it wonderful, memorable, even dare I say redeemable.
But she never would have known that…had I not said something…and maybe her plan was originally to toss molten lava on my back and chant and laugh and enjoy Enya singing in the background as I melted into the carpet…
Yet she gave me a very pleasant experience.
Her name is Lauren.
She is masterful at keeping her Promise to do her job well, be fully present, to make her clients happy.
And I will return to her when my wife and I have another anniversary, since I will request the one who has given me the safest, best, most comfortable, careful, good experience in her profession.
How do you allow others to Keep The Promise to you?
How do you keep The Promise for yourself?
What do you need to speak up about?
And just a word of caution, if you go to Vancouver and find that one place (it’s by the Fairmont), if the lady asks, “Strong?” just answer, “No…not at all. WEAK. I am weak. Very, very weak.”
~ jason hewlett
Leadership Expert * Virtual Keynote Speaker * Speaker Hall of Fame
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