This week’s adventures: knuckles, knives and needles


“I don’t think there’s anything you won’t try.”

I didn’t know whether to be flattered or embarrassed.  Leanne knows me better, I think, than I know myself.

We have been friends for about 25 years, and we’ve been through a lot together.  She’s the one who, probably 15 years ago, made the comment, “It’s never been about the money with you.” At the time, I couldn’t see it.  I was working my ass off climbing the corporate ladder and enjoying my well-deserved riches.  Cars, trips, Louis-Vuitton handbags and Waterford biscuit barrels. Now, looking back, she was spot on.  It was about the kudos; the trappings were just incidental.

Catching up over a lunch of ceviche and tortilla soup at Escalante’s in Highland Village the other day, I mentioned I was going to Austin to try something new:  Resistance Stretching.  I had recently met up my friend Bob, in town from California, to discuss a fun project.  Bob, who turns 70 next year, floated out of his black Porsche like a butterfly.  I, in my 50’s, with niggling back and neck pain, was both impressed and envious.  Butterfly Bob told me he had discovered this thing called Resistance Stretching.

Channeling Meg Ryan, I decided I’ll have what he’s having.  So later that day I Googled Resistance Stretching and found The Guy, Bob Cooley, and his Genius of Flexibility, endorsed by Oprah herself:

[Bob Cooley’s] groundbreaking flexibility discovery: the necessity to contract and resist while stretching produces immediate, cumulative, and permanent increases in flexibility and strength. This ‘resistance stretching’ eliminates traumatized accumulated dense fascia surrounding the muscle. Removing this fascia results in totally reshaping posture, immediate performance upgrades, and significant improvements in physiological health.

The website made some bold claims, which, being a marketing person, I admired, despite the awkward grammar:

Experience yourself and the world differently. These differences are then used by the person to actively improve the ways they are being, knowing, perceiving, and having perspective. The personal growth that is possible from his work can only be realized by direct experience. The results exceed all beliefs of what can happen. These personal upgrades are used to dramatically upgrade the health of everything on our planet.

Whoa, heady stuff!  Poking around on the site I learned that there’s one guy in all of Central Texas that practices Resistance Stretching.  Jay, in Austin.  I made an appointment, and Jim and I hit the road to Austin.  A day trip in the middle of the week.  Jay was fit, dark hair, glasses, looked to be mid 40’s. He started by explaining the theory behind the physiology.  The difference between stretching and resistance stretching, he explained, is with the latter you push back.  Apparently, doing so releases all that nasty fascia that’s built up over the years, causing stiffness and lack of mobility. He showed us a photo of himself before he began practicing, overweight and unhappy.  This ‘after’ Jay reminded me a little bit of my friend Bob, lean and lithe. Then he mentioned he had  grandkids.

For the next hour and a half, I lay on a mat on Jay’s studio floor while he rotated my limbs, pushing and pulling, with me obediently following his directions to push and pull back. Jim stood by watching.  (Tiny bit kinky.) I have to say it felt good, but I suspected I wasn’t going to be able to move the next day.

To my surprise, I woke up the next morning feeling great, void of my usual morning stiffness.  I know to achieve lasting results, I would need to keep practicing, but I don’t see myself making regular daytrips to Austin for it.  I am awaiting the delivery of Bob Cooley’s book The Genius of Flexibility, which I picked up on Amazon for $3.99, and I may try to DIY it on my own.  I’ll report back.

Over lunch with Leanne, the waiter replenished our chips and salsa.

“I’m thinking about having my eyebrows microbladed,” I said.

“Doesn’t that hurt?,” an I-smell-cat-poop look on her face.

“Yeah, I think so.”

I had read in a magazine a few days earlier that microblading was all the rage.  Natural looking semi-permanent eyebrows, created using a very thin sharp blade and tattoo ink.  I have always had lame eyebrows, even more so with age, so I looked into it.  Doing my research (what did we do before Google?), I quickly decided the artist featured in the article wasn’t for me.  The ‘after’ photos on her website depicted brows that were clearly created using a stencil, the outlines too sharp and perfect.  Freakish, almost.  All I wanted was to restore what God gave me and hormones or teenage plucking had taken away.

I switched to Yelp and found a gal, Tenya, a self-described perfectionist (good when sharp objects are involved) with a cute little shop, Bespoke Brows (cute name), tastefully decorated in all white, like my kitchen, in Montrose.  During my no-obligation consultation, Tenya drew new brows over my deficient ones, to give me an idea of what my new brows would look like. The ones she drew on were much thicker than my own, and they stood out like caterpillars on my otherwise naked face.  (She had failed to mention that I should come looking as I normally would, with make-up, to put the new trial brows in their normal context.  I wear little make-up – concealer, mascara, lipstick and of course, eyebrow pencil, so it really didn’t make a difference.)  I imagined looking into the mirror after an hour and a half of painful blading and being shocked by what I was going to have to live with for the next year or two — semi-permanent brows with the emphasis on permanent — and I just couldn’t do it.  I chickened out and am happily filling in my lame brows with a pencil. I think Leanne will be relieved.

Strangely, I noticed that my checkout gal at Sephora the other day had bladed brows, thick like the ones Tenya drew on me.  Then I looked at the whole line-up of check-out gals, who all looked spookily the same (early 20’s, sleek dark hair, a tad overweight, wearing red), and they ALL had identical bladed brows. Like dolls. Creepy.

“Oh, and my physical therapist is going to try something called ‘dry needling’ on my neck.”

The water had brought the check, but Leanne and I were still lingering over watery iced teas.  She donned the cat-poop look again.

Without going on about my ailments, none of which are serious, just artifacts of middle age, I oversaw a physical therapist I have been seeing for neck pain, Ingrid, poking another client, Allison, repeatedly in the neck with a needle.  I was horrified.  I grew up with a crippling fear of needles, must have been something from a past life, and it took me going through infertility (which turns one into a human pincushion, but for a good cause) to be able to stand needles.

Ingrid saw the look of horror on my face and laughed.  She explained the technique as ‘dry needling’, which looks like acupuncture but is actually completely different.  The client in whom she was “pistoning” the needle seemed to actually enjoy it.  Ingrid said needling can be very effective in releasing spasming, tight muscles.

I Googled it.  It looked promising.

So yesterday, there I was, on Ingrid’s table, gearing up to be dry needled.  She located my problem muscle, grabbed it gently but firmly between her blue-glove-clad fingers and swabbed it with alcohol.  I held my breath, having not a clue what to expect.  The needle is very fine, like an acupuncture needle.  I felt it enter my skin with a prick, and I expected repeated pricks, but instead it felt as if she were rooting around in the muscle.  When she hit the trigger point, I felt almost an electric shock, the muscle spasmed, then released.  And to my amazement, the tightness in my neck that had been giving me fits for weeks, for months, disappeared.  When it was over Allison came over with a wry smile on her face, saying something about my being a virgin and bravely living through it.

To Leanne’s comment, is there anything I won’t try?  I won’t try skydiving, for one.  Nothing involving snakes or liver.  But I do enjoy trying new things, and there’s an infinite number of new things to try on this journey we call life.  One friend mistook my exploring as searching and counseled me to find Jesus.  But it’s not about searching or getting to the end – we all get there eventually – it’s about learning and exploring new things along the way.

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