A few months ago I purchased a Groupon for $20 for a deep tissue massage. I finally went in for my first appointment about two weeks ago. I already knew, prior to the appointment, that I stored all of my nervous energy and feelings of inadequacy (in the form of tension) in my neck and shoulders. I knew this, but I didn’t really understand how bad it had gotten. At all.

I received an initial consultation before the massage and was told this: “You’re shoulders are essentially two solid stones of tension… if you don’t go here, please go somewhere.” I told the specialist that I was an actor and asked him if this build up of tension could be effecting my emotional availability. Obviously the answer was yes (when I was asked by my acting coach this week “how many times a week do you cry” I think I may have shocked him when I answered “zero”).

The specialist also said that the tension could be contributing to feelings of lethargy, depression and a lack of motivation. I have been experiencing all of these things. They later discovered that the tension grew up from my back and into my neck, vocal cords and face… so it also effected my voice. Interesting. The massage that followed was a little bit painful and uncomfortable, but I also felt a strange sense of freedom after it was all over.

My persona online and in person are a little bit different. In person I’m often reserved and somewhat apprehensive in my interactions with others, and there’s a part of me that sort of enjoys this discrepancy. It’s like I have a secret in the form of a hidden identity – a swallowed person who dances only when no one is watching. This massage, along with many other occurrences over the last month, have prompted me to reevaluate this reasoning. Obviously it’s faulty, and obviously it impedes any real semblance of happiness or genuine interaction, but it’s just so comfortable to hide.

Turns out that as I’ve hidden my passion, my dreams and my opinions in my verbal life, I have been inadvertently building a wall of tension. What’s the purpose of a wall? Well, a wall protects, shields, and divides. Do I want my body to be a wall? The answer is no.

So I booked a package of ten hour long deep tissue massages in order to address this problem head on. Each massage will also be followed by a 20 minute acupuncture treatment. However, two one hour appointments a month are not going to alleviate the problem on their own. I know that I need to make some significant changes on my end as well, and I have.

drum circle
Learn more about the drum circle on third beach

In addition to the daily stretching and rolling on a ball (which is amazing if you’ve never tried it), I have also made a shift in my life toward having way more fun. YAY! This week I went to a drum circle that is held every Tuesday on a beach near where I live. People from all over the city bring their drums to this little beach and a completely nonjudgemental musical collaboration ensues with people dancing and playing in the sand. I was scared when I first arrived, but once I allowed myself to let go and just dance, I couldn’t stop.

The other thing that I’m experimenting with is visualization. Right now the tension forms a solid block on my back that is almost a continuation of my body. I knew I needed a powerful visualization to break through it, but my mind was drawing a blank. Then I came across this poem:

Cheshire – by Kay Ryan (from her book of poetry “The Best of It”)

It’s not the cat,
it’s the smile that
lasts, toothy
and ruthless.
It’s facts like this
we like to resist–
how our parts
may lack allegiance
to the whole;
how the bonds
may be more casual
than we know; how
much of us
might vanish
and how well
some separate part
might manage.

Every person will get something a little bit different from this poem, but this is what I got. We place so much importance on the parts of ourselves and how those define us, but forget who we are as a whole person. I believe that we are spirits having a human experience and our bodies make up so little of who we are. This build up of tension is not me, and it doesn’t need to remain apart of my experience. So, I thought to myself: What if I imagined myself as the Cheshire cat from Alice and Wonderland. What if, when I closed my eyes, I imagined the tension in my back slowly fading away into nothing. I think the “separate part[s]” of myself will manage quite well without it. Time to let it go.

Christine: On Tension Overload and Cheshire Cats
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Christine Bissonnette

I'm a spoken word artist and writer originally from Nova Scotia. In addition to my own private writing practice, I also works with adults and teens by facilitating the writing of their own spoken word poetry. Topics which fire me up are voice, perfectionism, and those parts of growth that don't follow a list. You can learn more about me at 9creativelives.com
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