Massage and monkey brain

I got a massage last night, after nursing a migraine for two days. Ibuprofen hadn't helped much, so I thought that getting a massage would help me sleep better and better sleep would fix the migraine.

Lying there on the massage table, as the lady kneaded the knots on my shoulders, I remembered how much I hated my first massage, done by a blind person with firm but gentle hands.

If I wasn't stiff, I was ticklish -- which made me stiff! All my muscles were tense, so the massage hurt like hell. The masseuse kept asking me if everything was okay, and I lied and said yes because I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

The massage after that wasn't any better. I still couldn't relax, perhaps because I was expected to, and when it became painful, I wondered if there was something wrong with me that I couldn't appreciate what many people loved.

Was there something wrong with my body? Were my muscles incapable of relaxing? Did I have a super low tolerance for pain?

A few more massages later, one that involved hot volcanic stones on my back and another that had me bathing in milk, I learned to tell the masseuse how much pressure I wanted. I learned to tell her when to press harder and when to stop. Most importantly, I learned to shut my brain up.

Last night was all about stopping and shutting up.

Not perfection

I watched The Equalizer last week. It was a fun movie, like Taken fun. I'd been overthinking a lot of things lately, so I welcomed every bit of onscreen violence as that day's catharsis. I was only after escape, but a line, one I'm sure I'd heard many times before, stayed with me: Progress, not perfection.

I've been feeling quite paralyzed lately. It comes and it goes, and the intensity varies, but there it is: I've been finding it difficult to make steps forward.

Perhaps it's because I haven't been doing what I want and creating things I love. And because I've put it off for so long, I have somehow convinced myself that when I do it, it has to be perfect to be worth the time I wasted.

Crazy, right?

Progress, not perfection. I have to remember.

Dream: Timey-wimey

I was visiting a seaside town. The coast was part beach lover's paradise and part surfer's heaven. I stood at the part of the beach where the two intersected, looking at the calm crystal clear waters to my left and then at the perfect wave tunnels to my right, trying to figure out where to go.

But I was in love with the big resort-style house in front of the huge waves, so I turned right. I met the owner outside. His name was Jim (and for a brief moment in my dream, I knew that the big house at the other end of the coast was owned by a man named Danny), and he loved that I loved his house and offered to take me on a tour.

The house was even bigger on the inside! There was a mall (with a Forever 21), cafes and restaurants, and even a boutique hotel (where I saw a relative packing all her stuff in a light metallic purple Samsonite luggage set for a trip to the US). Right away, I told Jim that I didn't like his house after all, and he agreed.

On our way back out, we passed by a garbage disposal room, where a Chinese man was making a jack-in-the-box robot, made entirely out of plastic bottles, dance for two scruffy 
little children. The man held a metal crank box (that said "Made in China" and had Chinese characters on it) that controlled the robot's power supply.

One of the children explained that the music actually came from them, so *they* were making the robot dance.

"I don't hear music," I said.
"Just think it," said the child.

So I thought it, and the robot turned to me with its dead plastic bottle eyes and started to move to my thoughts. Awkward movements, for sure, but I was making it dance. It was fun -- until I remembered I was just leaving and I thought, "Crap, I'm out of time."

Suddenly, the robot froze. Then a digital countdown appeared on the Chinese man's box: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, then 0. "No more time," one of the children said.

"Wtf just happened?" Jim asked.
"Did I do that?" I wailed, "What did I just do?"

The Chinese man slid into the darkness, leaving his box and robot behind.

Then somehow I knew what had happened: from the present continuous state, everyone was trapped in the simple present. Things that were just happening now had become things that were always true. My cousin was packing, but now she just packs. She would never be leaving.

After some time, Jim said, "Reverse the countdown! Think of the start of the countdown!"

I tried my best to picture the numbers as clearly as possible in my head: 0, 1, 2 ... And the numbers on the crank box moved. At 5, the box collapsed into a ball, sucking in everything in a flash of light.

(I don't know why I saw this, as I was sucked in too. My dream suddenly took an omniscient POV, I guess).

As fast as it imploded the universe, the ball unrolled it out again: to an earlier state, to the point where everyone's stories of regret started.

I thought of travel. I thought of flight.

Dream: Flip-flops and volcanoes

A dream from a few nights ago, which I remembered only yesterday.

I was walking on a rocky beach, looking for beach glass, when I decided to wade into the water. I took off my rubber flip-flops and, fully clothed, splashed about in the water. Several people followed suit; they left their footwear on a rock with my sandals.

There was a small volcano island not far away, and it started spewing out smoke. A guy on the beach called out to us in panic, "Come out of the water! It's going to get really hot!"

Everyone ran out of the water and towards the man. He helped us onto a thick wooden platform, explaining that when the volcano starts blowing out smoke, the waters around it reach boiling point, heating even the rocks.

The rocks! I remembered our footwear, left on one of the rocks. I stepped back on the sand, making an attempt for my sandals but the man pulled me back. "Too late," he said.

We watched as our shoes and sandals and flip-flops melted. Thick liquid rubber trickled down the rocks in many colors. Nike sneakers. Havaianas. My Grendha pair.

"Those were really expensive flip-flops," I thought.

Dream: Life, naming

Last night's dream: There was a baby, a new niece or something, and she was so small she fit in the palm of my hand. I showed her to a man who was visiting. The baby cooed and snuggled in my hand; she was playful and happy.

"But I asked to see life," the man said, "There is no life in that bag of protein and enzymes."

I looked at the baby. I started seeing its skin only as thin biological membrane holding a soupy substance in. It moved in my hand like that lizard I saw hatch prematurely when its egg accidentally dropped on the floor.

I showed it to its mother. "Look at your baby," I said.

The mother smiled, but didn't look because she was busy. "Yes, she's very tiny, but she's healthy."

I stared at the thing in my hand, recalling her name, calling her name, until its eyes became distinct again, until the smile in them was back.