Sunday, September 20, 2009


Yesterday was a trip to the Olympus Spa in Lynnwood with girlfriends to celebrate my 40th birthday. It was, indeed, an incredible celebration....but it was also a good way to prepare for tomorrow.

The spa is not like other spas I've been to. This one is a Korean spa, and uses traditional Korean ideas. It is a series of pools and rooms, all in different temperatures, and with different elements. The areas range from swelteringly hot to freezing cold, with everything in between. The rooms have different elements: jade, mud, charcoal, sand, salt - and these elements are supposed to help with different bodily or emotional cares. It is women only, and women walk around either in a light robe provided by the spa, or are naked in the pools.

I wasn't sure how the naked part would be for me. In addition to concerns about belly fat and cellulite and other "normal" thoughts about my body, I have such a tortured body, with the most obvious part being that I do not have nipples. Would I get stared at? Would I get pulled into conversations about breast cancer and how "my grandma died of breast cancer" and such? Would I be told that if I had just eaten more soy or less soy or something that I wouldn't have gotten cancer in the first place?

None of the above. Though the spa is very open, people maintain a sense of privacy. Anyone who caught my eye gave me a slight smile and looked away. Only one woman saw me and then, perhaps unconsciously, flew her own hands up to her breasts, covering them as if to protect them.

My girlfriends stood by my side, proud and strong. And frankly? With them around, I wouldn't mess with me. I know some amazing, powerful, centered, spiritual, articulate, intelligent women, and I would not mess with them. I felt strength with them by my side.

...and then those thoughts went away, and despite it all, I lost all sense of my body, and just threw myself into it. Many of the rooms are silent, and women softly slip in or tiptoe out, but mostly there is just silence. There is a meditation room, and a room with journals to write in, and a reading room, but most of the other rooms are designed just for laying down.

I warmed my body, cooled my body; I soaked my body, I dried it out. I drank gallons of water and tea. I shared the company of my friends, and watched them let some of their cares and worries drift away. I inhaled ancient herbs, and I read a silly magazine.

But I can't describe any of it. All these words don't come even close. The coccoon of the spa, the power of the women in it, just filled me with peacefulness and centeredness. What an incredible gift.

I got one other unexpected gift, thanks to Jenny, one of the friends I met while teaching at BHS. Jenny went into the super-cold pool - the one I'd dipped my toe into and said, "NO WAY!" because it was so cold - and had such a smile as she did it. I offered her some question like "Are you crazy?" and she explained that the heat followed by the cool felt so soothing. Soothing? How do you get to that? She said that she relied on her childbirth teachings, and went towards the cold instead of shrinking from it, and that she embraced it by breathing deeply. Ohhhh - old lessons that I had forgotten. With this reminder, I inhaled, set feet in the pool, and exhaled. I walked in, still breathing deeply, up to my neck. I submerged myself under the waterfall, my body surrounded by the cold water. It was incredible! It was like summoning my center, reminding myself of my own strength, reminding myself how much control I really did have over my body. I was not a victim, I was a powerhouse. For this reminder, I am deeply, deeply grateful. I don't have to remind anyone reading this how fortunate that reminder is this weekend, as I face what is ahead.

(Yes, I'll go back. Wanna come? And really, set aside your body worries. There are women of every size, shape, age, and color. To me, they were all beautiful - from the gaunt to the round, from young to old, from milky white to ebony black, from smooth to wrinkled. I envied each and every one of them those two circles on their chests - brown or pink, large or small, pronounced or hidden - and thought how beautiful health was.)

So today I will try to take that with me into the coming week. I am less concerned about surgery - although let's face it I'm not looking forward to it - and more about results. I've played out every possible scenerio in my head, including some morbid ones that I won't get into. But I am determined to face my life head on, whatever my life gives me. (Thank you, Lisa Prisco, for teaching me about that.)

I will continue freaking out, but I've got some calm mixed in, too. Today I will do chores like change the sheets, stock some groceries, tidy things up....but really, I think I am prepared for tomorrow's surgery.

Thank you for your continued thoughts, wishes, prayers, white light, karma, and love.

1 comment:

Anna Banana said...

Amazing post. You are amazing for being open to the teachings of your friend and spa experience. I'll be thinking good thoughts for you tomorrow.