Doing Right

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.

Daily Prompt

Daily Prompt: Confidence Game

Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us CONFIDENT.

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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.

Daily Prompt