massage education, Modalities, Oncology Massage, Thoughts on the profession

Good Conversation, Better Work

For the past couple of months, I have had the immense privilege of hosting Healwell’s online webinar series, The Interdisciplinary Clan of Mystery.  This past Sunday was Episode 2, featuring Janet Booth, my new best friend and amazing, thoughtful human.  We spent an hour talking about end of life care, and what it takes for practitioners to serve clients at the end of life.  By the end it was clear — we needed at least two more hours.

 

marketing man person communication
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Talk is amazing.  And talk is cheap.  I found myself wondering this morning about the practitioners who watched the webinar, and whether anything practical was happening. We talked a lot about doing the inner work necessary to serve other humans.  Across the video conference lines, there was a sea of nodding, agreement, engagement and awareness.  Now, in our separate states, are we doing that inner work, or are we playing Candy Crush on our phones and ignoring our own uneasiness?

 

Since Sunday evening, I have been noticing all the ways I avoid or numb out.  Let me tell you, there are a lot of them.  It’s not always things that are clearly unhealthy.  Sometimes it’s exercise.  Or a book.

 

I had a new client a while back, coming for a massage after several months of not receiving massage.  Healthy, right?  Good self care?  Yet — I wonder.  During the intake I learned this new client had just received some very difficult health information.  Just received, as in about a half hour before the massage appointment.  The client made it clear that the entire massage was a time to forget this looming diagnosis.

 

It is not my place to tell someone how to handle their own bad news.  It is my place to serve without judgement and to create a place of safety.  But that client stayed on my mind for a long time.  I wonder if there is a place where that person can acknowledge what they feel in a place of safety and comfort.

 

Is there a place to be comfortable with our own discomfort.

 

I am working on creating that place and carrying it around me wherever I go.

 

massage education, Thoughts on the profession

Job Description

The question that often follows “How long have you been doing this?” is: “How do you like this work?”  The answer is pretty easy.  I love it.

I’ve tried several other careers and even done well in a few, yet none of them held my heart and my interest like massage therapy.  This particular work is, for me, a fantastic blend of several different jobs.  I am a massage therapist, which means I am:

A Scientist

It started in school where I did a deep dive into the anatomy of the muscular system, and started on the path to learn more about Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology.  It continues now as I try to connect everything I do with some understanding of the working of the human body, and with information from the latest research I have been reading.  It is my job to be curious, to ask questions and to continue learning and discovering.

A Tradesperson

I learned a skill that I perform with my hands.  After my period of learning and apprenticeship (at the student clinic) I started practicing this skill and I work every day to further perfect and advance my skills.  I have apprentices (students) of my own now, and as I am guiding them through how to work with their hands, I am finding better ways to work with my own.

An Educator

Given the chance and the interest, I will talk to every client about what I notice and what that could mean for their particular body.  I will also take the time to talk through what massage might be able to address and what might need a different kind of support.

A Student

As I said to a client this week, I may be the “expert” in the room on muscles and soft tissue, but each client is the expert on their body.  I am here to learn from them.

An Artist
person with body painting
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Every human, every human body, is unique.  Every day and space that body moves in is unique, so every time a person walks into my office it is the time to create something that never existed before.  Massage does not, for me, happen by formula.  It happens by being completely present in the moment so I can make something new that will never happen the same way again.

I have the opportunity to be all of these things, and sometimes more besides.  This week some asked me, “Have you always been a massage therapist?”  I’ve had lots of occupations, and this is the one that lasts because it pulls in all of those jobs.  It asks the most of myself and give the greatest rewards.

Massage Tales, Oncology Massage, Thoughts on the profession

Don’t Rush the Intake

I have unusual leisure in my practice — I can usually take as long as I feel necessary for an initial intake.  Despite the added stress of being in business for myself, this leisure is one of the things that makes it all worth while.  Here’s a story about that.   All client details have been changed.

My new client arrived late.  She had trouble finding the building, then had to circle around a few times to find parking.  She walked in already a bit anxious because of the time, and because it was her first massage.  I left her in the quiet of the waiting area to finish the health history form and assured her there would be time for most of the scheduled session.

She handed back her completed form, and we began our conversation.  I took my time, making sure to ask about everything she had marked on the form.  After I felt sure that I understood her health history, I told her what to expect during the massage:  how to get onto the table, what parts of her body I would touch and in what order, how draping worked, etc.

She smiled and nodded through this whole explanation.  As I finished she said, “That all sounds so good.”  She paused. “I want you to know, though, that when you get to the front part of my legs I might tense up a little,” she raised her shoulders and tensed her arms, then released them, “See, I’ve been sexually assaulted and I just might be a little nervous.”  She had a friendly smile on her face and tears in her eyes.

I settled further down into my seat.  We had more conversation about how she was in charge of the massage, and that she could tell me at any time to change or stop what I was doing.  “You get to direct how and where you are touched,” I told her.

If I had to rush the intake, I might have missed this vital fact about how she experienced her own body.  I certainly would have missed the chance to reinforce for her that she has dominion over her own body.  I might have never been able to build enough trust with this other human that she revealed her own fears to me.

person holding hand
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She arrived late, and the intake took longer than “normal.”  In that extra time, she was able to trust me a little more and reveal something vitally important.  This helped me approach her with more compassion and awareness.  She emerged from the massage smiling wide.  She thanked me and gave me a hug, and made an appointment to come back again.  This never would have happened if I rushed the intake.

Massage Tales, Modalities, Thoughts on the profession

Presence over Pressing

Yesterday I had one of the best days in my massage career in Louisville.

The day started with a visit to a hospice client*.  I spent a half hour moving slowly around her as she rested in bed, breathing deeply and slowly falling asleep.  Her skin was pale and papery thin.  I could see the round outline of her knee through her sheets.  This person, this frail body, needed nothing so much as my focused attention.  I softened my hands and laid them gently on her arms, shoulders, knees.  I held her hands in mine and gently moved her fingers.  I held her head while she breathed and relaxed her arms.  the thought came to me slowly, in the way that you might realize light has come into your bedroom in the morning.  The thought was:  how wonderful it feels to be exactly where I ought to be.

Later in the day, I worked with a few clients at my office, “healthy” clients who did not require the same kinds of adaptations as the morning client.  Even so, some part of the stillness from the morning stayed with me, as did the sense of peaceful presence.  With the people I had worked with before, I noticed a new layer of quiet reverence.  The stillness in me brings forth and honors the stillness in you.

As I am reflecting on this good day, I am remembering something a friend told me.  She came to visit for a weekend, and scheduled a massage with me during her visit.  We used to trade on a regular basis when I lived in Chicago, so she has received numerous massages from me.  After her massage, she hugged me and she said,”Your hands feel different.  It feels like your touch has come into its own here.  This place suits you.”

And she is right.  This place suits me.  Not just this physical place, but the place that holds the kind of work I did yesterday.  The place of calm ease and stillness.  The place where presence is so much more important than pressing.

*–any names and identifying details have been changed

Thoughts on the profession

Play Date

I was sitting in the park yesterday and I saw the cutest thing.  Two little girls, about 6 or 7 years old, were running around playing, all hopped up on the sunshine and the warmth of the day.  The mother of one girl called her because it was time to leave.  They both ran over, got a pen and a piece of paper, and traded phone numbers.  They hugged each other close with big smiles, and ran off to their respective mothers, calling to each other, “We’ll have a play date soon!”  Such effortless, artless happiness.  Such open and free affection.  It was adorable.

This week marks my first anniversary back in my home state of Kentucky.  It has been a beautiful, challenging year.  Every day something happens that reassures me I made the right decision to move here.  And every day I reflect on some ongoing challenge of being here.

I think my number one ongoing challenge may be shared by many adults in the United States: connection.  I am far from isolated, and I would welcome more ways to be connected to people and community.  This is why I prefer walking to work over driving, and working at coffee shops instead of at home.  To move at the pace of people, and among people, and to know I belong to them and they belong to me.

Somewhere between the age of 6 and late teens, many of us lost that ease of affection that I saw in those two little girls.  At some point, it becomes “weird” to say, “Hey.  I like you.  You’re neat.  Let’s be friends.”  Or even to say, “My neighbor, I care about you.”

It may not seem like lack of connection is something a massage therapist would notice in their office, but I see it often in my clients.  It shows up sideways in the way someone talks about the stress in their life.  It sneaks through in folded-up, protective postures that leave necks sore and backs aching.  It leaks out in the facial expressions that ask me to please listen, hear and acknowledge.

So, my clients, my neighbors, I care about you.  I see you, and I want to hear what you have to say.  I hope for you that someone offers you free and open affection, and brings you artless, effortless happiness.

pexels-photo-225017.jpeg  (not the girls from the park, but still adorable.  Thanks, free image library!)