Monday, April 26, 2010

Be Willing to be Touched by Others

There is a place I noticed called, Blind Massage. The blue sign would be darkened, the shades drawn, and I would exhale deeply at the missed moment. I was drawn to this place like a magnet, because I like to find things that are in plain sight. The title intrigued me, a new mystery for me to discover, that seemed to taunt me on my evening walks.

Sometimes, you forget things when the door appears to be closed, and it just seems like a missed opportunity. On one night, I peered in because I just couldn't let this place go. Every time, the same scene; a strange foreign girl (me) peering in at the massage tables...only three of them...and a darkened room. Blind Massage seemed like a strange name. I would have easily forgotten it, had it been named something else. I could have gone anywhere else, but I would look at the glitzy spas and just keep walking. The young women dressed more like call girls, rather than masseurs. Long red lacquered nails and gowns with furs that said nothing of any deeper ability. Sure, I shouldn't judge them. I don't. I just kept thinking of a little place where only the locals frequented.

After, I returned from teaching today, I decided to take my walk earlier. My messages to friends and family could wait, after all I was filled with thoughts of a lecture I had just given on our need to create and to imagine. It was a strange walk, one of those walks where I just felt like everything was magic. Those too happy moments, that tend to irritate people. I was in a strangely great mood on a Monday, a day that everyone hates, and I always have loved (yes, I love Mondays). Mondays were a day were I would think about how I could improve on something, during the attitude, a belief, a habit gone wrong - in short, a day of new beginnings. Instead of once a year, I got 52 opportunities to recreate my life. That was the way I used to view Mondays...the placebo effect worked, because that mindset spread to everyday.

A PhD student was staring at me in class, and he apologized, "I'm sorry, I just realized you are beautiful." Every teacher with gray hair should be so lucky to hear that from a student, let alone from a culture that doesn't believe Western women are 'hot'. I went into a store and found a pair of pants I liked, but they were too long. "Wait, try them on and I can shorten them for you in 20 minutes." Ah...OK? Yes, look at the map...ah...yes, I am in China. I went down the block a little further, and there was a make up store...ladies...I can't tell you how hard it is for me to find foundation...yes, foundation in this country...I have been looking for 3 months. A lady was making up a young girl. I smile, and look around, and then pull out my compact...and let her know what I need..."Oh, of course we have that here..." REALLY? I went through a search of at least 50 stores...not a one...OK... The next, had a scarf I was looking for...the right fabric too.

It's Monday...a special day. And the blue light was on. Blind Massage was open. Oh, no, this was tooo good. Not for a moment did I hesitate or even worry that I might be turned away. I walked in and there was a line, but oh, just enough space for me to sit down. I didn't know any Chinese, but I saw with my own eyes...why...the blind were giving massages. I was excited...and became willing to be touched and not just touch.

I pulled out my practice script, and showed a lady my limited ability...and was encouraged by them. "Look...she's learning..." I took a picture and realized what I was seeing. I learned how to stop seeing when it was my turn and closed my eyes and surrendered to feeling. A massage with my clothes on...that felt like I had been invaded with healing fingers. A man articulated every muscle and I realized the journey in that moment.
A beauty that surpassed the girls I walked away from, to the beauty of their sighted hands in this little place. I felt I learned how in this moment to be touched by people who are normally either stared at or walked away from. I was the first foreigner that had ever come into their business, who wasn't afraid to be touched by their hands.

Simply Stunning

I am really hot and bothered this morning. No, seriously, I am mad enough to spit nails, breathe fire, see red and all at the same time. Have you seen the latest about the good Samaritan left to bleed to death on a street in Queens? It is enough to make you cry and I did. Seems a woman was being mugged and this homeless man stepped in to stop the assault. He was stabbed by the mugger and left to die. For over an hour. As people walked by. And took his photograph. And lifted his body, saw the blood and walked away. What the hell has happened to us?…..hell being the keyword here. Have we become so numb to evil acts that we can just walk by as someone helplessly bleeds to death right in front of us?

I am going to tell you all something right now. I will never, and I mean never, walk by. I can’t. It’s not the way I was raised. It’s not the way I raised my children. It’s not the way my grandchildren are being raised. I would rather get hurt or even die doing what is right than to live a safe life that I am ashamed of.

I do not regret for one minute, the time I moved a battered woman and her baby into our home. Yes, her six foot tall “husband” came to my door looking for her. Yes, he threatened me. Yes, I was scared. But guess what? I never showed my fear. What I showed that woman beating coward was claws and fangs. And he left. Without another word. Because that’s what cowards do when confronted by a short crazy woman. Now do you think that six foot man was afraid of me? Not for a second. What he was, was stunned. Stunned that someone would stand up to him and speak the truth. And the truth, as spoken to him that day, was that he was not getting into my house to get to her. Not without a fight. And if he chose to fight, he better make it a good one because I would go down to the end fighting like a crazed lunatic to protect that woman and her son.

I don’t regret jumping into the middle of two grown women fighting as a group of men stood by watching and laughing. I could not walk by the “entertainment” of seeing one woman pummel another woman at the beach. Sorry, I’m just strange like that. Was everyone involved drunk? I am pretty sure they were. Does that matter to me? Not in the least. All I saw was someone being hurt while others watched and it made me crazy. So I grabbed the injured girl by the shirt and pulled her back while stepping in front of the other girl. And you know what happened? The other girl just stared at me and the idiot men got quiet. Because I am so big and bad and brave? Hardly. It all stopped because they were all stunned that some ridiculously short, round, middle-aged lunatic would actually step in. Do I think they listened to a word of my tirade against the inhumanity of man? Puhleeze! They laughed in my face and walked away. So I won. They. Walked. Away.

I don’t regret confronting the man who was beating his girlfriend in public. Yep, right there in the Taco Bell parking lot. Sitting in his truck. Beating her. So when I confronted him, he stopped and stared at me. Because he was stunned. Because other people had just parked, looked at them and walked inside to order their tacos. And when his girlfriend didn’t want to come with me, she was stunned that I gave her my phone number and told her I had a room for her when she finally got sick of being hit.

I am not telling any of this so you will think I am wonderful or crazy or desperate for therapy. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you think of me. It does matter what I think of me, however. It matters when I am laying in bed at night trying to fall asleep. It matters when I look in the mirror. It matters when I look into the faces of my husband and children and grandchildren. What I do, what is in my heart towards my fellow man, matters.