CURE WORSE THAN DISEASE

I don’t like massage parlours. There’s something about the neon flashing open signs that makes me wonder if these establishments are legit or not. But mainly it’s because I’m uncomfortable with the idea of some random person touching me while I’m half-naked.

It’s been about a decade since a girlfriend roped me into a couple’s massage with a Groupon. The place ended up being a seedy joint with blacked-out windows and questionable stains on the carpet. I was tensed the whole time. Probably not the usual clientele outcome.

Fast forward to yesterday, after enduring a headache for five days straight and waking throughout the night with pain, I was at my wit’s end and ready to try anything, including a massage. There had been little relief from the assortment of pain killers I’d been taking and so a remedial massage was my next treatment option.

Have you ever been elbowed in the ribs by a small child or by someone with bony elbows? It hurts, right?

There should be a warning sign that reads “Remedial massage – not for wusses!” Cos I’d have retreated faster than Road Runner himself.

When I showed up to my appointment, I explained to the massage lady that I wanted a neck and shoulder massage to attempt to alleviate my headache.

She got me to lie face down on a bed in a darkened room and asked if I wanted a dry or oiled massage. Not wanting to remove any layers of clothing, I opted for a dry massage.

The massage lady was zen-like in her focus, saying little in her words but vigorous in action. She worked on giving me a deep tissue massage on my shoulders and neck.

I kind of think deep tissue massage is just code for elbow the crap out of the person until they cry. Because that’s what I did… cried. My four-year-old son would have laughed at seeing me cry like a baby as a little Asian woman karate chopped my back.

But seriously, it was so bloody painful. I had to take deep breaths, count sheep and remind myself that the torture was a necessary evil.

“Is it supposed to hurt this much?” I wheezed out between her finger jabs. Being jabbed in the eye would have been preferable to whatever she was doing between my shoulder blades.

“You are very tense.”

Of course, I was tense! It was like someone was pulling the tendons and muscles from my bones then doing karate chops with their elbows. Why did she have such bony elbows?!

I swear I could hear my bones clicking and croaking as she rotated my hip bones and stretched out my back.

“You can turn over.”

Can you imagine my relief? The thirty minutes felt like forever under her painful ministrations. Unfortunately, only fifteen minutes had past so my relief was premature. Being asked to turn over was just the halfway point, the torture would continue for another fifteen minutes.

Did you know hair pulling is part of therapy? I should have stopped her on the account that I’m shedding hair at an exponentially fast rate and entering the balding phase but instead I quietly suffered through.

I whimpered and got teary-eyed even after she reduced the firmness of her kneading, elbowing and finger jabs. It didn’t matter, my muscles were so tightly coiled that it was going to hurt regardless.

“Go home and relax. Don’t wash your hair.”

That was odd. Not sure why I wasn’t supposed to wash my hair. Paying proved difficult with two sore arms not wanting to play ball with the brain’s commands.

Did the massage relax me? Hell no.

Would I ever go back? No bloody way!

Did the remedial massage help with my headache? Unfortunately not.

I suspect the torturous pain of bony elbows and finger jabs would far outweigh the pain of any headache.

Sometimes the cure really is worse than the disease.

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PUBLIC SPEAKING PAIN

Yesterday I finished the first week of my face-to-face classes to become an adult educator. It was a tough week of learning and trying to absorb new information, and doing things outside of my comfort zone.

The class was small with about twelve students of differing ages and backgrounds being taught by a knowledgeable trainer. Everyone had similar challenges in balancing studies with life commitments, and so they were supportive and helpful with one another. It was a great atmosphere to be a part of.

Despite some experience with public speaking in previous jobs and volunteering in classrooms, I get nervous standing in front of a group and talking.

It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to children or adults, I’ll still react the same. It could be a bunch of staring lizards and I suspect I’d still get the shaky hands, tremor in the voice and sweating.

On the first day of classes, we had to do introductions. Say your name, why you’re there and what you want to improve on. If you wanted to elaborate further, you could talk about a hobby. There were talking prompts on the board. Sounds easy right? You’re talking about subject matter that you’re an expert on…you.

There’s just something about having the focus of your peers and standing in front of a room that automatically has my pulse racing and my hands wringing. I got through it but internally berated my performance, dissecting it to pieces. I wondered how others felt despite everyone seeming to sail through their introductions.

The next few days, the trainer got us doing one on one, small group and class activities. There were fun learning tasks, short quick “energisers” (quick games to refresh during the arvo slump), and public speaking tasks.

It was rather clever how the trainer worked on building group rapport to create a supportive and comfortable environment for us to do talks. Initially, the trainer got us to do micro public speaking tasks, increasing the time and complexity as the days went on.

By the last day, we had to give a lesson to last twenty minutes that involved a resource of some kind and ideally involved class participation.

I used a PowerPoint presentation on customer service and looked at some of the worst scenarios I’ve experienced. One example involved a customer double parking his Mercedes-Benz in front of the pharmacy and demanding I did his prescription quickly because he didn’t want a ticket. That was used to explain the entitled customer.

After each slide, I tried getting audience participation by asking them their ideas of how I chose to respond in each of the scenarios, using multiple choices as options. It generated some interaction but nowhere to the extent of other people’s talks.

I also got a couple of people up to role-play a scenario but that didn’t work too well. I think I needed to work on my lesson plan and found better ways of generating fun, practical and engaging activities. What I learnt from watching other people do their presentations was that I needed to make my delivery more engaging.

I knew that I’d be more critical of myself, and how I thought I performed wouldn’t necessarily be accurate, so I asked the trainer for her feedback.

Hand tremors, sweaty armpits and hands, shaky voice, racing pulse and jitters aside, I needed to know how I “presented” to others.

The trainer opted for the sandwich method. You know, one good comment on either side of a constructive comment.

“You’re really professional and presentation was great. You could smile more. You look stern, a bit serious. You could inject a bit of humour to lighten the talk. Otherwise, it was good.”

I need to work on my delivery. The problem is, I’m pretty sure smiling isn’t possible when I’m in fight, flight or freeze mode. As for humour, does laughing at your own jokes count?

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DRUNK AND DISORDERLY

What is it about weddings that bring out the drunkenness in people? Is it the free booze mentality? Or is it that people are so happy for the bride and groom that they overindulge? Whatever the reason, drunk people are hilarious to watch and makes any event that little bit more interesting.

We had my brother’s Vietnamese tea ceremony last Sunday. It was basically a Vietnamese engagement party and formed part one of my brother’s two-part wedding celebrations. Next week will be the civil ceremony and reception.

How was the tea ceremony? It went off like a rocket. Let me give you a rundown of the day.

At 6 am that morning, I had a makeup and hair lady come to my home to turn me from an ugly duckling to a Swan Princess. Unfortunately, she missed the brief and instead of making me look like Elle McPherson on runway day, I resembled a drag queen. Not that there’s anything wrong with drag makeup! It’s just the dramatic look didn’t quite fit with the daytime event.

Anyhow, my husband and daughter took great pleasure in teasing me, comparing my look to that of a clown. Not nice, right?

“Oh you know I’m just teasing you. You look beautiful!” said my backpedalling husband when he saw my angry face. Or at least what looked like anger under the cake of foundation on my face.

“Mummy, you really do look terrible. You look like a panda or a clown.” My eight-year-old daughter’s bluntness was not refreshing in the least.

It didn’t matter what anyone thought as there was little that could have been done about the makeup. At least the Ao Dai fitted and that was already half my battle won.

The tea ceremony started at the bride-to-be’s family home at 10:30 am. While introductions were being performed, my four-year-old son decided it was a good time to complain about being hungry, not just once but repeatedly. Luckily he wasn’t the only child being disruptive. To their credit, it was hard to stand in one spot for 30 minutes while oldies rambled in a nonsensical language.

My dad reluctantly gave up the role of cameraman to his brother but was unhappy with his camera abilities and made a fuss about angles and shots. My dad had to be reminded several times like a child to behave and to keep his focus on the role of father-of-the-groom and not a cameraman. Let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy task for those around him.

After our obligatory feast at the bride-to-be’s family home, the party of people travelled to my parent’s home for the second part of the tea ceremony.

It was at my parent’s house that I had to do a small speech. Part of the tradition involves the bride-to-be and groom-to-be offering tea to their elders and receiving well wishes and a gift in return. As public speaking isn’t my forte, I was worried about giving a good speech that would encompass how I felt. My brother is eight years younger than me and growing up, I was more of a mother figure than sister to him. And so, the moment meant a lot to me. Thankfully, I was able to get the words out in a coherent manner despite heckling from someone to speak louder and the billions of cameras and phones shoved my way.

With the official part of the tea offerings done, people let loose. My husband, children and I went upstairs, away from the noise and crowd, and the alcohol-fuelled ruckus. Being a part of the immediate family meant that we couldn’t leave early. We spent time upstairs with other families until it was socially acceptable to leave.

The only downside of leaving was missing the part where my aunty chucked her guts after challenging my brother to a vodka slamming contest. Apparently, she was out after six shots. And by out, I mean she passed out on a couch where she laid for several hours after the party ended. She wasn’t the only aunt passed out on a couch either.

There were lots of boozy, half-drunk people everywhere but we left before any of any real fun started. It’s a shame because I’d have captured those moments for your viewing pleasure. Anyhow, this post was just an update on how the tea ceremony went.

Part two of the wedding celebrations will be next week. How long do you reckon a hangover lasts when you’re in your sixties?

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