I am back on the job with my Muslim friend. Treatments were aborted because he was not satisfied with the pace at which he was recovering. We often forget, or prefer not to appreciate, that the roots of our physical issues are not fundamentally physical and that healing has to take place at that other level before it is affected in our bodies. I was called to the Home to assess a new resident whose wife had iFnquired about massages for him. I saw him and I knew him, but neither of us could say from where. He recounted having a stroke about ten years ago. Interesting. I was informed that it was a recent occurrence. Nevertheless, I listened and agreed that I will treat him. After our conversation I stopped at Mr. Muslim’s room to say howdy. He wanted to know if I could resume treatment as of that moment. I reminded him that protocol needed to be observed and advised that he discuss his new decision with his son. He was upset as I don’t seem to understand that it is not his son who is running the show, but him. Either way, I suggested that he have a talk with his son. The next day his son called advising me that he is prepared to pay for his father’s treatment now that he has renewed interest in such. We agreed that I would treat him on same day that I would be working with the other gentleman.
On the day appointed I showed up and my new client suddenly remembered me. Said there was a Therapist who resembled me very much who used to visit another Home at which he stayed some time ago before returning to his home. She wore wraps and a distinct perfume that he never smelled on anyone else. Hmmm. She sounds like a strange enough character. I told him it is/was I. I was wearing jeans and one of those long tops on this occasion. I heard how much he liked me, but it was a good thing he was never rude to me then as he would have been uncomfortable with his wife permitting me to treat him. He wanted to know how she found me. I told him we have never met or spoken, it was all arranged through the Matron. I said it was a good thing that I had not treated him badly back then, or I would not be having him as a client now. Over at the other Home my work is strictly voluntary. I guess the good Lord felt it was time for him to pay so the switch was made. The left side of his body is adversely affected. The arm is almost locked to his side because the anterior connections to the torso are severely shortened. There is more play at the back, so that the arm can rotate forward, but not backwards. A similar lock exists at the elbow with the flexors being shortened, and again at the wrist. He can squeeze my hand easily, but the extensors do no permit much opening of his fingers. As for the left leg, it cannot be straightened. The back of the knee is tight. After massaging it we tried some stretching and the best we got were the toes of the left foot meeting the ankle of the right. Overall, I like his attitude. He is a fighter. His right side overcompensates for the left as he drags himself across the bed, or picks up his left foot with the aide of the right, and the same with his hands. He also rides around in a wheelchair with his right arm doing all the work.
I went to see Muslim after my sanitizing routine. While we were talking I was assessing myself. I think I have grown during our absence and he has changed too…positively. I did not feel the heaviness in the air as I had before. The eczema he had on his leg dried up and his skin condition had generally improved. The right arm that used to be on the bed all cold and puffy, now looked normal and he could move it with some ease. I held out my hand and he was able to squeeze it. Sometimes we need to step away from a situation and return before we are able to observe the extent of the progress. He was seated in a wheelchair and I decided to work with him there. I put a pillow on his lap and had him lean forward onto it so that I was comfortably able to do his back, shoulders and neck, then I worked the arms and legs, which were both elevated with and a cushion placed under his heels – he used to have a deep sore on his right heel so it is not tolerant of firm surfaces. He asked what arrangement his son and I made. I asked what he meant. He said regarding money. I said money is not part of our conversation. He then wanted to know if it was a secret arrangement. No. He insisted that he should know. I told him nothing has changed from the previous arrangement (except that his son showed up at my home to pay me the night before the treatment). Your son is your son, and he has your best interest at heart. He said I am talking what I don’t know. Maybe so. He said I should have contacted his niece, she is the better person to deal with. I said that she, like every other woman, might be swamped with responsibilities and might prefer not to micromanage his treatment. You see? You’re doing it again. What am I doing? Talking what you don’t know, he chided.
The facts as told to me indicate that his niece works at a Bank. For reasons not clear to any reasonable person, he feels that she has access to all the money in the world and could spend any amount on him. The average man knows that is not practical. She also has a family and her share of stress, but he feels that she should be at his beck and call. I asked forgiveness for presuming that his niece does not have the time to attend to him as his son does. I asked why it is that he seems to prefer not to deal with his son. He bypassed that saying that his niece was the better person. I said his son is closer to him so he is the better person. Closer? What you mean by closer? Well, he has your blood, and they say blood is thicker than water. People don’t know what they talking about. He is my son, that’s all. Very well, Sir! But, he has your blood. You talking ‘bout blood and blood. What’s in blood? Let me see…blood has life and light/knowledge. Everything about you at the minutest level is being carried around inside your son, so whatever it is that you feel you don’t like about him could be things about yourself that you have suppressed and it is upsetting you to see them in him. I don’t know about that, he rebutted.
I decided to change the topic. I asked if he still prayed in Arabic. Yes. Very good. Do you do it aloud? Religion is a private thing. I don’t want people involved in what I believe. I believe what I believe and I pray silently. Understood, and He who sees in private will reward you openly. Isn’t that what the Scripture says? Which Scripture is that? I thought to leave this one alone. I was irritating him and that was not my intention. The massage continued in silence. As I worked on his right arm, the rotator cuff area, I found bruised skin. He explained that he had a nightmare one night in which something gave him a hard lash and the next morning the bruise was discovered. There across the posterior deltoid was a bruise (brown skin peeled away) about a finger’s width and length. Well, some things never change, like him and his extraterrestrial encounters. I enquired about the child in his bed. Does it still visit? Yes. Hmmm. I worked his legs and feet and got him to do a bit of exercise. There was definitely more physical participation from him on this occasion and I was glad. For a moment I was so focused on what I was doing that I did not realize that he was talking to me. I looked up at him and he repeated his question. He wanted to know if I saw any bite marks on his legs. Bite marks? Yes. Now I have to say: Jeez! This man is too much for me. I told him I did not see any and asked why would there be such. He recounted another nightmare in which something had sunken its teeth into his leg.
This brought to mind a remark from another person. Remember Lady 90 with the pink smoke that possessed her? She has many laments, one being how her husband was a ‘great adulterer’ and she had remarked that right now he must be bawling in his grave. I had asked how that is possible if he is in his grave. She believes that the Lord is capable of making such possible. Point taken. It seems like an eclipse. Mr. Muslim having a physical existence and bearing in his body the effects of non-physical encounters, while Lady 90’s husband is dead, but he is supposed to be screaming in pain as live people do. He has a live son whose youthful sins he can’t seem to forgive, and she has a dead husband whose misdeeds still haunt her. Interesting. I asked why he should be screaming. She said for all thing evil things he did. Evil? I thought he was a Muslim. She said: he was supposed to be a Muslim, but he had the character of a heathen. My my. Her most prominent memory of him was the way he referred to her as a ‘nasty nigga.’ Interesting, as she is more white/fair than he ever was. He was East Indian, while she is Mulatto with naturally straight hair. It makes you wonder what really one means by such remarks. She said he was disrespectful to God as we do not have a choice about our race, we can only humbly bow and accept the body given us. So to call her a nasty nigga was to swear at God, all the more reason for him to bawl in his grave. I said that there must have been pleasant times, times of loving utterances. Yes! Those times passed long ago. This is what I remember now.
When I had first entered her room and inquired of her interest in a massage that day, she was in prayer. She quickly pulled her things together and told me that she was just rereading some things she had written some time ago. She agreed to have a massage. She could not remember if she should undress. I told her that would be convenient for both of us. She stood up and began the process. After the first set of clothing, there was a vest and a second skirt. The vest was long…halfway to her knees, with skirt over it. In addition, she had tied a band across the vest just under her breast. She looked at me and asked if she had to remove everything. The vest, yes. The skirt, yes. She then reached into her bosom and pulled out a handful of flowers and went towards the window to throw them out. I stopped her. I told her to put them back. It was a beautiful concept – flowers in the bosom. I wanted to hear her reason for doing that. She had taken her a stroll outside earlier and had gathered the flowers. When she returned to her room she filled her bosom with them because she felt that the life and beauty in them would be transferred to her. Remarkable. Things in the bosom are considered precious…a secret. I did not want to take her secret from her. There and then I decided that I would do the massage as is. No more disrobing. Only her arms and legs got oil, I worked the other areas through her clothing. This lady is clearly out of the ordinary. A simplistic thing she did, yet beautiful…heartening. Fresh flowers in the hair is a fairly common sight, but not in the bosom.
I thought of the various things that persons do to feel good, or empowered. Some clients wear trinkets that are never removed for the sake of a massage. These we can see and form opinions about the clients and their belief systems. The sight of some of them could a turnoff especially if we associate them with a belief that we do not subscribe to. What about the things we cannot see, the things hidden beyond the bosom, in the heart? It’s like Mr. Muslim said, if he is a Muslim that is to his benefit, not for public knowledge or participation. But I am thankful that he did cooperate during those times when I asked him to pray aloud. It helped to lighten the session as there were times when the air was so heavy it was suffocating. And what about us as Therapists, what do we carry in our bosoms and in our hearts when we enter a session with a client? Would our clients still want us to massage them if they knew?
Lady 90 sets a good example. She has shown that we can literally fill our bosoms, and by extension our hearts, with the beautiful things in life. We can consciously choose to start our day by picking the things that bring us joy, that support our development, that make us feel empowered, and fill our bosoms with them. This attitude in itself is a prayer. There is the practice of selecting flowers for prayers, but it is not random. While the flowers may vary, they have a certain amount of petals. In this case, the flowers had four petals each. At a basic level we can think of the four directions, temperaments, elements, seasons…etc. Four is associated with calmness, stability, roots, centering ourselves. Did Lady 90 know what she was inviting into her bosom, or did she do this intuitively? That is not important, not to us. Introspection is however. We need to look at what we are (have been) embosoming and its symbolism. The ‘why’ of what we are doing. We might be surprised at the answers. We might suddenly cease a certain practice, or continue the ones we are doing with more fervor, having come to a realization. The heart is a deep place where we can lose our balance if we don’t know where we are stepping. Hence the need for stability…the figure four in our lives, which life has graciously provided for us in many aspects if we would only look around and see.