A massage therapist’s response to life in quarantine.
HOW DOES ONE MAKE SENSE OF BEING A TOUCH-LESS BODYWORKER DURING THE PANDEMIC?
I am a toucher. I love to touch and be touched. A casual hand on the arm of someone I am talking with, a hug in greeting or parting, massaging a friend’s shoulder while absently talking in a group. I now can’t remember the last time I touched someone. I know it must be over a month. I get surprised when I read a book and it mentions hugging or touching. It takes me aback when I watch a show and see people touching others without even thinking. How fast this has become engrained as the new “normal.” I wish I could remember what that last touch was. Would I have let that touch linger, stayed in the embrace a moment longer just to savor what it was like?
I spend longer in the shower now. I try to focus on the scratchy feeling of friction as my body pouf exfoliates my skin. I apply lotion more slowly, concentrate on glide and feel of my skin and muscles beneath my hands. I feel for areas of tension and work them back into pliability. I tease my fingertips over my arms, neck and face and feel those light touch receptors come alive. Sometimes it helps, other times it makes need more acute.
I have started daydreaming about body work. When I hear people who have pain, I think about how I would treat them. How I would introduce my touch. I’d work my way through the muscles and decide how best to approach them. Would I start with myofascial release techniques or dive right into their tissue with lotion and get deep in muscles? I’ve started getting back into studying the muscles and how they all interact. I think about problem solving for my clients. I remember the massages that stand out in my head. The ones that really effected change for their bodies, minds, or spirits. The people who came out with their pain relieved, their spirits refilled, and minds calmed.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, I’m doing as recommended. I’m isolating myself while doing my best to up my self-care routine, meditating, exercising, reading, limiting streaming entertainment. I’m reaching out to people to FaceTime or Zoom. However, there remains a void where touch used to live.
As I turn my attention away from questioning when will this end, to what the future will look like, I’m wondering how touch will change. No longer greeting people with a kiss to the cheek and a hug, but with a nod. I used to tell my students that, yes, it’s possible to massage with a mask on, but clients could find it unsettling. I think now, this will be a standard of practice for a time.
I remain hopeful. Eager to greet students again and share with them this amazing practice of massage therapy. Assure them that what we do makes a difference. Massage will have a huge role to play during the recovery of the world. For some it will bring a sense of normalcy. Others will have chronic aches and pains increased by the restrictions of quarantine. For those of us deprived of touch, what a balm to our spirits it will be. Until that time, I will continue to trust the process, whatever it may be, and dream of touch.
The Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy is the world’s premier study abroad program for massage therapy. We offer both a 600 hour and a 700 hour COMTA Accredited Massage Therapy course which satisfies the licensing requirements for massage therapy in most of the United States. Additionally, we offer continuing education for massage therapists.