I settle my face into the cradle and take a few deep breaths. Soft new age music plays in the background of the dimly lit room. It’s meant to reassure me but I’m tenser than usual. I adjust the bolster with my feet, trying to get comfortable. The sheet slips free with my fidgeting and tangles around my legs. With a sigh, I reach a hand down and slide the bolster into place, attempting to smooth the blankets back into place and untangle my feet in the process.
“Honestly, settle Sara. You’re making a mess of things. She will have to spend the first five minutes getting you untangled,” I think as I lay back down and try to release the tension in my shoulders.
“It will be fine,” I whisper to myself. “Dozens of people come in here every day, the details have to blend together. Ugh, why did I do this to myself?”
Earlier that morning the schedule chime had gone off on my phone, reminding me of this appointment with 15 minutes to spare. I had brilliantly scheduled it for the morning after all the holiday hoopla knowing I would be desperate for a quiet room and some time to myself. And yet, in the chaos it had slipped my mind until my alarm sent me into a panicked hurry.
Switching it off and checking the time, I realized I could either jump into the shower and quickly shave my legs or grab a desperately needed cup of coffee. There was not time for both. With this journey towards bravery in mind and in a fit of defiance, I picked coffee and now paid the price. The hair on my legs seemed to mock me from under the skewed sheet. I felt every one of them, scratching against the blanket, certain I would be judged and found lacking when my massage therapist reached my legs.
A soft knock on the door stills my fidgeting.
“Ready?” her soft voice asks.
“As I’ll ever be,” I mumble unenthusiastically into the cradle.
With a practiced flourish, she closes the door and flutters the sheets into place, nestling the bolster into the crook of my feet at the same time. The music switches to a song melded with trickling water as she begins to work the tension out of my shoulders. I sigh, melting into the table as each kink releases and my muscles begin to relax.
Twenty minutes later I am shocked awake as I begin to feel the blanket shift as she uncovers my left leg.
“Oh no, oh no. Here it comes. She’s about to feel the stubble. I’m so nervous. And on top of that I have to pee. Crap. Why, oh why did I pick the cup of coffee?”
“Ugh. This is ridiculous. Thousands of people go into massages unworried every day with leg hair. Just relax already. It’s not a big deal.”
“Maybe, but I don’t. Ever. My legs are always smooth, unmarred by stubble. The smoothest legs of her day.”
“They don’t give gold stars for that you know. So why do you care? Let it go already and enjoy the moment. It’s leg hair for goodness sake, the entire population has it.”
My mind whirls, each thought tripping over the one before it. The moment drags on, suspended in time. I clear my throat, furiously thinking of something to say to fill an awkward silence only I can hear.
Fresh oil applied, she digs into my calf muscle. There isn’t a shift in her speed or her pressure to indicate she thinks anything is amiss, unusual, or awry. I sense no underlying judgement. I release a breath I didn’t know I held.
My rational brain knew things would unfold this way, and yet I’m still surprised. The negative thoughts in my head pushing endlessly for perfection in all things feel so incredibly real and right, it always catches me off guard when they are wrong.
I smile into the face cradle. Not only does the massage itself feel heavenly, so does the little bit of extra freedom I just gained.
How much time would I gain if I rewrite small moments like these going forward? What if I never again felt the need to apologize for leg stubble? And if conquering leg hair feels like a huge win, what might my life look like if I am able to shed the need for perfectionism in all moments?
I melt into a puddle of relaxed goo, in this present moment it feels not just possible, but probable.
And I’ll take that win, celebrate it, and hopefully carry it with me long into 2019.