Nichole Collins MacMillan

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Lessons from the Massage Therapist and My Dad

The past few weeks have been hard.

Life changing hard.

My body and my soul are weary.

My tear ducts have worked overtime.

And my mind has chased every how, what if, and why you could imagine.

You know the feeling when all of your senses are on high alert, yet you can hardly manage to remember why you walked into a room.

 

That.

That has been me for the last month.

 

The people closest to me have cared for me deeply and consistently.  Listening, loving, checking in, inviting me to get away.  They are reminding me of the love and grace of friendship in new and powerful ways, and I am grateful.

The past few days, though, have brought me to a silent retreat of sorts including a few hours at a spa where the massage therapist unwittingly served as my Spiritual Director (but how I miss you, Fay Key!).

It wasn’t the best massage I’ve ever had.  In fact, I’m a little tender from his efforts to release the knots in my neck.

Very, very few words were spoken in that 50 minutes, but his one instruction floated through my day as the mantra I didn’t know I needed.

 

Let your head go.”

 

If I could relax for just a minute so he could cradle my head and work to release the stress I’ve so carefully tucked into those muscles, I would feel a little better.

But what he was asking seemed so far from my reach.

My head has been so busy, and letting go seems risky.

 

But maybe for today.

Maybe for this moment when I am away from all that beckons me.

When my children are safe and well cared for.

When I can’t do a damn thing about anything anyway.

 

Maybe for today I can let my head go, let my heart rest.

 

So I carried his words to the hotel pool and set up camp in a corner of the deck praying the quiet would last for a while.  I dozed a bit, read a bit, watched the clouds churn and then pass by.  When it was hot, I did a simple breast stroke through the still water and returned to my towel.

 

Let your head go.

Let your head go.

Sit.  Bake.  Swim. Read. Sit. Swim.

 

It was on one of these dips in the pool that I made the connection my soul needed.

The deep muscle memory of childhood led me to instinctively push backwards from the wall and just glide.  I felt more free and more settled than I have in months.  And as I rested in that calm, my breathing got slower and deeper and I floated on top of the water for long, long time.

 

Held by a Force I don’t understand.

Safe in the midst of my fears.

 

When I was a little girl learning to float, I remember being in the pool with my dad.  He would stand behind my head and slowly work his support from completely holding me under my back, to just holding my head in his hands, to just having one finger under my crown.

Whatever it took to get me to let go and trust.

And then he would ever so carefully move it away.

And I would float in the mystery of breath and water.

 

When you let your head go, your body can rest in what cannot be seen.

When you let your head go, your heart can be filled with peace that cannot be understood.

When you let your head go, your spirit becomes a part of the larger Spirit, and you begin to know things you mind could never show you.

 

There will be days I need to use my head.

Decisions to make.

Details to understand.

 

But there are also days to let my head go and give myself over to a grace I could never think myself into.

 

Thanks be to God for those moments on this day.

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