Today, while bitching and moaning about how I had no control over my former massage studio, where I only use it one day a week since I decided to focus more on my writing and raising my little one – which unfortunately means that so many people use it on the other days of the week and break my things that are still in there without any consideration to me* – my client said something to me that made it all worthwhile.
While scheduling his weekly appointment for the rest of the month, he told me that he wasn’t going to make one of those weeks since he’ll be out of town. So I said, “good! Because your slot is highly sought after. Now I can fill that with someone who wants it.”
Then he said, “Well, they’ll have to wait till I die, because I’m not giving it up till then.”
I’ve been seeing this client since 1999, by the way – same time each week. And his words, after so many years of being his massage therapist, truly made everything else seem so mundane.
It even made my day.
* My co-renter rents out the room to whoever bodyworker or energy worker needs to use the room for a few hours, which leaves my poor neighbors so confused. But this was a huge lesson of letting go for me last year. You can’t have everything, after all…
Tell us about something you (or a person close to you) have done recently (or not so recently) that has made you really, unabashedly proud.
Other than my little boy, whose every accomplishment makes me so happy, the one thing that I am probably unabashedly proud of is the vocation that chose me.
I’m a massage therapist – a bodyworker to some people and I specialize in pain relief and relaxation. I entered massage therapy because of two things: the first was that everyone I worked with during my physical therapy days said I had wonderful hands, and that I should be a massage therapist. Having grown up with a dad who did have a massage parlor of sorts as part of the gentleman’s club he owned for a few years, massage for me had the darkened connotations of dim hallways and happy endings. Still I decided to check it out for the second reason: to work out my issues regarding touch.
I have a history of abuse and so touch for me was really an iffy thing. Touch to me equated sex, and nothing else. Which meant, if I wasn’t sleeping with you, or I wasn’t getting paid to touch you (as part of your physical therapy treatment – no happy endings, of course), then I wasn’t touching you. Period.
I was fortunate to have been blessed with two wonderful teachers when I started – Allison and John – and the gift of friendship and touch with Pam, a fellow student and later friend, who passed away three years ago from ovarian cancer, still giving massages, often for free, till three weeks before she died. Together, they taught me the power of touch in a safe and nurturing environment that allowed me to accept new realities and truths, that a simple touch can be as powerful as the intention attached to it, and most of all, that not all touch is created equal.
These days, I don’t work the six or seven days I used to work in my private practice. I work one to two days in my office and though I don’t have the 200 or so private clients that I used to see, I have a handful who refuse to see anyone else. It won’t make me a rich woman working the hours I do (I also teach massage), nor provide me with a cushy retirement, but no one gets rich just giving massage, and I mean really giving massage, not buying some franchise or owning a spa – you’re a businessperson by then.
But for those of us who still do it, and like Pam, will probably keep doing it with or without pay till the day we croak, we do it because we respect and recognize the power of touch. For the lucky few of us – practitioners or clients alike – we know how it feels when someone with the intention of pure compassion touches us. And if I can help just one person recognize that in the way I touch them, then of that, I am unabashedly proud.
It’s that time once to share my world and the questions for this week are quite interesting. Thank you, Cee, for a wonderful challenge! Cee is an amazing photographer and I’ve been learning quite a lot about how to take amazing pictures from her wonderful blog, Cee’s Photography.
If you had to describe your day as a traffic sign, what would it be?
For some time now, this is me. Totally me. I want to do so many things, go so many directions (well, at least 2) but really I can’t. Unlike in the past, when friends had to “pencil in” my address because I moved a lot, now I’ve been in one place for at least 7 years, and that’s saying a lot. But inside my head, this is my sign. Just don’t ask me for directions…
Is your hair short (total neck and ear showing), medium (covering ears and neck), long (below shoulders), extra long (at least halfway down your back) or bald?
My hair is long, growing below my shoulders and people still say it’s quite thick. My hairdresser recently added layers to my hair to make it lighter since it was growing down the small of my back and it was quite heavy, especially when it was in a pony tail. I don’t really wear my hair long unless I’m at home. At work, I always keep it up so many of my clients and students have hardly seen me with my hair down.
When you are with your friends, do your interactions include much touching—for example, hugging, kissing, rough housing, rubbing backs? Would you like to have more of this? (Note: the answers may vary depending on where you live on this wonderful planet.)
I grew up in a non-touchy feelly world. Touching kinda equated with sex so there was NO touching involved, at least none that I saw among my relatives on my mother side (my father side kinda is touchy feely though, but I seldom hung out with them). The cheek to cheek kiss was what we did when we met relatives and friends. There were no hugs either.
When I was 16, my stepfather gave me this huge deep hug when my favorite cat, Robin, died, and that was the first time someone ever hugged me for real. It sort of filled me up inside like nothing I’d ever felt before that I started bawling, both from losing my cat and from what I felt from that embrace. It’s sad when you think about it but at least it started that new realization for me that touch didn’t necessarily equate with sex.
These days, I kinda am touchy feely but I try not to overload the person I’m with, although sometimes I revert to the pre-16 year old and don’t touch my companion at all. Old habits die hard.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable way to spend $100?
As long as Mr. M doesn’t hint that he needs a massage (I know, I know, I should really stop falling for the guilt trips) and gleefully runs to the spa with it, I’d probably get a good Thai Yoga session. He’ll have to pay for his own massage…
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
This week, I’m grateful for slowly getting organized with my novel writing. Writing a historical novel – romance or adventure or whatnot – is no mean feat and I just realized while doing the A to Z Challenge about how disorganized I’ve been, and how my story so far, is a mess at 90K words.
For next week, I’m looking forward to this class I’m teaching coming to an end and I get a month break. “It couldn’t come any quicker,” said one of my students – “jokingly,” he belatedly added – much to his regret for even saying it – but I couldn’t agree with him more. I do love teaching, don’t get me wrong – I just wish the students were more into it despite its intensive schedule (3.5 hours per meeting instead of 1.5 hours per meeting, so after 2 hours, their eyes have glazed over). But most of the class seem interested in it – I just wish they retained it long enough to answer the quizzes right…
You’ve been granted magical engineering skills, but you can only use them to build one gadget or machine. What do you build?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us MACHINES.
There’s a serious flaw in every massage table out there, whether they fold up for travel, are sturdy enough to handle up to 1,000 pounds of working weight, or even go up and down depending on how high or low I want the table via these fancy pneumatic systems. You see, none of them are equipped to assist you in doing something that’s so important to do in the middle of most sessions. And really, when you’re so zonked out receiving your massage, drifting off to la-la land, Narnia, or Middle Earth, the last thing you want to hear is me saying, “Please turn over.”
We say it so much that in Thailand, my teachers have shortened it to simply say, “PTO,” short for – you guessed it – “Please turn over.”
And so you drag yourself out of your meditative-transcendental-amazing-OMG-did-you-have-to-disturb-me state to figure out, “how the hell am I supposed to turn over?” Some therapists even have a system of how their clients are to turn over.
“Turn towards me, please,” they’ll say, which always has the client turning the opposite direction – guaranteed. I mean, you’re just too zonked out to make any sense of what I just asked you to do.
So I’ve always wanted to make this amazing, awesome gadget that will keep you in that delicious state of wherever you might find yourself in while in the middle of the massage – where the request, no, the order to turn over usually happens – so that in lieu of you having to physically maneuver yourself to turn over, whether it’s turning towards me or away from me (I can never remember the ‘right’ way myself anyway), I’d just step on a discreet little button that will – wait for it – flip you.
Yep, flip you.
Like flipping a flapjack over on a pan, only it’s you being flipped (ever so gently – still working on that party) onto whatever side, prone or supine, I didn’t work on during the first half hour. I haven’t figured out what the effects of gravity on such a gadget would be against your body as you’re being flipped over, but I know one day I will.
Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us CONFIDENT.
I never expected to do what I do now – and be confident at it.
When I worked in physical therapy for about eight years, patients kept telling me that I had wonderful hands, and that I should consider taking classes in massage. I still remember how I’d laugh nervously and thank them for such encouraging words, though I cringed inwardly.
I never told them that my first memory of massage involved walking through a darkened corridor reading up the names of each stall on either side of me. One read ‘Tahiti’ and another ‘Hawaii’, and the next one, ‘Thailand’ and so on. It was my father’s ‘gentleman’s club’ and I had strayed away from the main room and found myself in the section of the club that my father probably never wanted any of his children to know about. From that moment on, the word massage always sent me back to that darkened corridor, a child lost in a place she wasn’t supposed to be.
As of today I have been a massage therapist for about fifteen years. Officially. That means I actually went to school to be a massage therapist and began working immediately after I graduated. I’ve worked on men, women, teenagers and even children (my favorite quote from one child is, “I know what heaven smells like,” – though I suspect it was the blend of lavender and orange diffusing from the candle). I’ve worked on the elderly with Alzheimer’s disease where every visit is the first visit, and I’ve worked in many different locations as well – in my office, at doctors’ offices, in homes, universities, at grand parties and even at the Queen Mary. Once I even gave a massage in a crack house. Alright, alright – it was a Hollywood set but it was so convincing, I just had to set up my table there once my client and I found out that the lighting guys would take over an hour to set up the lights and we had all that time to kill.
I specialize in the treatment of chronic pain caused by repetitive strain – injuries like rotator cuff syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome and sciatica pain. After the pain is gone, the clients continue to see me under ‘maintenance’ massage, and some of them have been with me for fifteen years. I guess you could say that I’m pretty confident in what I do as I even teach it, though there are days when I wonder what the hell I’m doing.
I mean, I graduated with a degree in Journalism, and worked in radio and advertising. What the hell, then, am I doing in the field of massage? But each time my confidence wanes, and I’m feeling quite unsure of myself, I tell myself that I’ve come a long way from being that kid standing in that darkened hallway. While I may not be the journalist that I had thought I was going to be, or the writer that I dreamed I would be, I’m doing something I love and I’m actually confident doing. I don’t even see it as work because I just love it – though don’t get me wrong. I also expect to be paid for what I do.
At the very least, I have confidence that what I do is worth paying for, even out of pocket. And you don’t even need to step inside the stall marked ‘Tahiti’ to benefit from it.