Hello, hello! So recently I found myself in a big, chaotic gathering amid a lot of people who don't know me all that well, namely my brother's wedding weekend, and one of these relative strangers, namely his new mother-in-law, said to my new sister-in-law (stay with me here) that she thinks I'm very, and I quote: "laid back and go-with-the-flow."
Wait, what? Who? This Liz?
It was obviously not something I'd heard much before, so I jokingly brought it up to a few people who do know me better and they all...confirmed it. That yes, I am a person with the capacity to be wildly neurotic and controlling but also a person with the capacity to be, as Monica Gellar might say, breezy.
We all contain multitudes! Who knew?
This off-hand conversation has led me on a -Trigger Warning for Oprah Language! - personal growth journey. It's interesting to consider how the ways we see ourselves might differ from the way others see us. Perhaps if I can begin to recognize my multitudes, I won't be as hard on myself in those instances when I am well, not breezy. Perhaps I could begin to appreciate myself for the times I do, actually, go with the flow while letting myself off the hook for the times I don't. It's possible that I'm not the uptight control monster I always envisioned but just a layered individual who can, on occasion, be a little tightly wound.
Though I was, apparently, really leaning into my breezy side while feting the newlyweds a few weeks back (and yes, I'll go ahead and say what you're all thinking, I am making my brother's wedding weekend all about me...I haven't personally grown that much yet), the ensuing weeks have hurled me in the opposite direction and I've felt myself winding tighter and tighter until like a spring, I'm ready to snap.
I'm not like, hovering on the edge of a breakdown or anything, don't worry, but I am maybe not being the best me I can be. Thanks to a spicy mix of high pressure work projects, dumb personal life stuff, and this continued knee injury, which has left me unable to run, thus providing me with an extra thing to stress about while effectively wiping out my #1 coping mechanism, I've been feeling like a hot mess express. I need to chill out...and fast.
I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns if you will (I have no idea what that phrase even means) this past weekend and treat myself to a massage, hoping it would loosen some shit up, physically and emotionally. I have only had one massage ever in my life, in Cambodia and I would not say it was a stellar experience. I mean, the masseuse was great but I was, as always a total spaz, and spent the entire time stressing about class issues and thinking about boners. You can read that whole saga riiight here. But desperate times call for desperate measures so I boldly made an appointment for Sunday afternoon at the wellness clinic down the street where I have occasionally visited for acupuncture. I mean! I've been so calm and normal during those appointments, just think of how relaxed I'll be laying there fully nude while a stranger massages my armpits.
Mid-massage the masseuse started going in on that area of fat that hangs over strapless dresses no matter how many half-assed push ups you do (ladies know what I'm talkin' about) and advised that I ask Brian to massage me in the same location. What? I can't. I have, god-willing, 50+ years of keeping the mystery alive here, we are NOT in the armpit massage stage of marriage just yet.
But the pits weren't even the worst of it. APPARENTLY I am even more tightly wound that I thought and here are all of the places I hold tension: back, hips, ankles, glutes, mid-torso, shoulder blades, neck, pits, and especially forearms. What! How are even my forearms stressed? The masseuse did do something wonderful that made my hands feel all loose and wiggly and then asked me how big my office was. "Big enough!" I replied, thinking he was going to advise me on some stretches. Instead he offered me one takeaway: buy a hot towel warmer from the internet and wrap my forearms in warm towels every time I begin to feel stressed.
LOVE your enthusiasm, bud, but I am never going to purchase and install a hot towel warmer in my office I just don't think that's how the real world works. And as routinely demonstrated, I am so deeply neurotic AT ALL TIMES, this just ends with me fully draped in hot towels like I'm Andre Agassi after a rough match at Wimbledon.
But, all things considered, the massage was actually great and did help to bust some kinks out of my back and I would for sure do it again. And next time, I might even come prepared with cash!
That's right. Superfans of Ye Olde Hott Sauce will surely recall that I left my first acupuncture experience at this clinic in a total panic after seeing a tip envelope, unsure of the protocol on tipping for these sorts of services. Post massage I dressed and languorously made my way to the front desk only to again be instantly snapped out of my relaxed reverie by the sight of those damn tiny envelopes. Acupuncture is a grey area but massage surely falls under the tippage category of physical services.
I paid for my appointment with my credit card and, nervously looking around the room, sucked up my pride and in a loud whisper asked the very nice young woman behind the desk "can I ask you an important question?"
"Of course!" she replied politely.
"This is so embarrassing but...are you supposed to tip? For a massage, I mean? I've only ever been to acupuncture and..."
She cut me off with a kind but chastising all the same: "for massage, it is customary. And we do only take tips in cash."
Here's how much cash I had on my person: zero dollars and zero cents.
I gave a frenzied laugh, yelped "OK I'LL BE RIGHT BACK!", and sprinted out into the day in search of some dolla bills. All along my plan for the afternoon had been to go to the massage and then do my grocery shopping at the big, reasonably priced grocery store three blocks from clinic, in the opposite direction from my apartment. As I came out of the massage place in search of some cash, I decided I didn't want to spend $2.50 on bodega ATM fees, so my best option was to walk to the CVS which is directly next to said grocery store and get some cash back. I should have just done my grocery shopping at this time, but decided it would be too weird to go back to the clinic carrying all of my groceries, so instead I purchased one solitary paper towel roll at CVS and took out $40 cash back and hiked the three blocks - uphill, mind you! - back to the massage place. I know you're thinking that is a very generous tip for one massage and you are right but I wanted to be prepared just in case. You see, I'd never actually tipped for my few acupuncture appointments and decided as long as I was already embarrassing myself, I'd just ask the front desk gal what the protocol was on that front and, if needed, leave some kind of retroactive tip to atone for my sins.
Formal confirmation for the equally confused: massage = tip. Acupuncture = "considered a medical practice" = no tip. The more you know!
Once again I found myself leaving an appointment intended to help me relax even more stressed than when I first begin.
Exhausted by it all, I decided I did not have the energy to walk all the way back to the cheap grocery store and instead just visited the smaller, v bougie grocery store a block away from my apartment, effectively cancelling out any and all savings I'd accrued by avoiding bodega ATM fees, and then some.
Shopping alongside me was a rumpled older gentleman - picture the drunk uncle character on SNL Weekend Update and give him a bushier beard - who was muttering a grouchy monologue throughout his shopping, lamenting the high price of groceries these days, the rents, the pesticides.
"You just can't afford to live in this town anymore!" he groused to his lettuce. "The rents will kill you, if the chemicals don't first," under his breath while pawing through a stack of carrots. Then louder: "FIVE DOLLARS FOR PINEAPPLE, are you fucking kidding me??"
I managed to bob and weave around him as I filled my cart with ingredients for the evening's meal, indulging in plenty of fresh produce and herbs, a new bottle of olive oil. I like to buy nice foods and besides, I was having a bad week. Don't I deserve to treat myself?
I thought I'd lost him until I turned into the cheese aisle and found him having cornered a deli worker beside a stack of fancy Parmesan wheels, ranting about The Cost Of Things These Days.
"You can't even live!" I heard him exclaim. "Look at her! That's a month of my salary in her basket!"
The her he was referring to? Me, of course. I glanced over and there he was, pointing an angry finger in my direction, glowering at my basket piled high with shallots and dill.
Needless to say, between the tip fiasco and this character, any positive relaxing effects of the massage were very swiftly departing.
I checked every item off my list except the keystone ingredient of my dinner recipe: dried chick peas. I was planning to make this falafel recipe which says in no uncertain terms that one should NOT use canned chickpeas. Dried or GTFO. This fancy-ass grocery story had dried kidney beans and dried peas but nary a dried chick pea in sight.
I was frustrated, to be sure, but not defeated. I live in New York City, after all! I had two more grocery shopping options within a two block radius: the medium-sized, medium-priced Food Train, and the tiny but well-stocked Asian grocery memorably named The Bad Wife. I decided Food Train was my best bean bet, so I loaded my heavy canvas bags (reduce, reuse, recycle!) onto my rapidly re-tightening shoulders and trudged on over. Again: a wide variety of dried beans but NO CHICKPEAS.
A Garbanzo Goldilocks, I huffed out of the store, took a deep breath, and headed for The Bad Wife. This time, things would be just right.
I wove my way through the narrow aisles and there in front of me, my bounty lay: dried chick peas! They were a fancy organic brand, rather than the basic Goya I'm familiar with, but who doesn't love organic? GMO free, baby! I grabbed the bag, turned it over, and stopped in my tracks.
"SIX NINETY-NINE," I barked aloud, "for some dried beans?! Are you fucking kidding me??"
Sweet mother of pearl, there was a new unhinged grocery shopper in town ... and it was me.
I flung the beans back on the shelf and sprinted for the comfort of my home, locking the doors behind me and throwing myself on the couch with a dramatic sigh.
"Welcome home, babe!" called Brian from the other room. "How was your relaxing day?"
Great, great, SO GREAT.
And here we are. I think I'm in the home stretch on the work stuff but life loves to throw curve balls so if anyone could recommend some tried and true de-stressing activities that do not involve the following, would you please let me know?
Touching people, being touched, an option to leave a tip, needles, the use of one's knees, drugs, interacting with other human beings in any form, or dried chick peas.
There's a breezy person inside me, yearning to break free!